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1/27 Presenting a Perfectly Polished Professional Image

Posted on January 26, 2010 at 6:41 PM

Here’s a great question from one of my readers:


I’m a recent college graduate, and I just got my first “real job”. I want to look polished and professional at work, but for the past 4 years the only 2 looks I’ve had have been bummy sweats, pony tail, and no make-up for class or dressed up with full make-up for going out at night. I don’t think either of these looks are appropriate for work, so what is?


 This is a great question! I think we all go through this “how to be a grown-up” dilemma when we go from student to professional in a flash. So in this blog, I’m going to give you wardrobe, hair, and makeup tips to help you present a polished, professional look with a minimal student-sized effort.



 I think being a young professional woman in today’s workforce is extremely difficult. You have to overcome the stereotypes of the“got-her-job-because she’s-pretty” girls who are there for all the wrong reasons and the “overbearing bitches” who can be pretty intimidating as well as the “obviously-oogling-you” dirty old men down the hall. You want to be taken seriously, but you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard.

 In my opinion, there are two looks you want to avoid at ALL costs:

 -the floosy look – I know it’s tempting, and you think it may win you a few battles, but I promise it will loose you the war. Short skirts, too-tight sweaters, and low cut blouses are going to cause your co-workers (male and female) to loose respect for you.

- the rigid look – You don’t want to look too stuffy or cold. You want people to perceive you as warm and approachable, yet assertive and reasonable. Obviously, you can’t rely on your clothes to completely shape your image, but people see you long before they ever hear you speak, so shouldn’t your clothes be saying the right thing?

 I always like to pair something structured and professional with something pretty and soft. I think this gives interest and style to your look. For example, a pinstriped pant or a pencil skirt in a neutral color with a silk blouse in a jewel tone. This lookis mature without being old, which is ideal for a young professional woman. If your office requires business attire, meaning full suits, try to find some with feminine accents. Ruffles around the bottom of the skirt, or colored pinstripes are a good start. Try to wear satin or silk tops underneath as much as possible, and create interest with shoes and jewelry! Last but not least, no masculine boxy suits or tops; there's no reason you have to look like a man to be as successful as one!


Professional Make-up should be clean fresh, and polished. Wearing too much make-up will actually make you look less mature. How do you know if you're wearing too much make-up? If you look the same at work as you would for a night out, it's to much. Your daytime make-up should take no more than 5 or 10 minutes.

Here are the essentials:

- light daily moisturizer

- foundation or matte powder to even out your conplextion

- eyeshadow in a neutral or soft shade

- If you must, smudge eyeliner into your top lash line, but leave the bottom liner for evening

- mascara on curled lashes

- blush on the apples of your cheeks, or bronzer all over in the summer (corrective make-up can also be used to camouflage problem areas. See my "corrective Make-up" blog for instructions)

- sheer or neutral lipgloss or lipstick


The days of long all-one-length unkept hair are over. Leave that look to the younger ladies. You're a grown up now, you need some style!

- You can have long hair, but make sure it has some long layers around your face, maybe even some bangs to add style and interest.

- If you're willing to go short, an inverted bob is a great look that transfers well from professional to personal life. It's polished and grownup while still being fun and playful

- For those of you who have been "blessed" with curls, like me, try to tame them for work. While the "Big Sexy Hair" look is great for drinks with the girls, that wild look can be a bit much for the office, especially at first. I've actually read a study about this where the same woman went to a job interview with straight hair and then curly hair and they actually perceived her a less professional and less responsible with the that discrimination or what? I know it's not fair, but it is what it least you're informed. 

You don't necessarily have to straighten your curls everyday, just take a few steps to tame them a bit. Try washing them at night, adding texture cream, and allowing them to dry naturally instead of blow drying. I also find that pinning the very top back gives my curls a more "in-control" look even on it's wildest days without giving me the severe pulled-back look

Another little tip: On days when you're running late, throw hair back into a low ponytail and wrap a piece of hair around your hair tie (For more detailed instructions see my "2010 hair trends blog"). This classic look is always office-appropriate.

I hope this helps you get started on Presenting your Perfect Professional Image!

Send your beauty questions to [email protected] and I'll answer them in my next blog.



Categories: Fashion, Make-up, Hair Care

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