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Presenting Yourself For Success

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

One of the more overlooked opportunities to accelerate your career is how you present yourself in the workplace.

There’s no shortage of websites detailing “how to dress for success at work,” but we want to share a few additional tips that will set you up for success. Remember, the work you do does not define who you are as a person, but there are certain standards we should maintain in the workplace as we seek to accelerate our careers.

You can love Metallica and still wear wingtips to work.


Most definitions of mirroring imply that it is unconscious (see Wikipedia’s post on Mirroring). However, you can be intentional about understanding your environment and use that knowledge to your advantage.

When you go into the office, look around and get a sense for what executives or those in leadership roles are wearing, how are they presenting themselves, and how they’re taking notes. They may wear suits or a simple t-shirt. They may use a standard notebook like you used in school or an expensive folio.

The key here is to be intentional about understanding your environment and then using it to your advantage. By taking stock of what the leaders and top performers are doing, and mirroring their look and actions, you can begin to apply what you’ve learned to your personal wardrobe, overall appearance, and office paraphernalia like pens, laptop bags, and notebooks.

Work Bags

You might be tempted to say the bag I use to carry my laptop is just a bag and no one should judge me for what I use to carry my stuff. Let me assure you people notice. A nice laptop bag or work bag can go a long way to saying “I am a professional and I am at the top of my game.”

💡 Pro Tip: For those folks who are new hires and just got a cool backpack with the company logo, leave it at home to use on weekend hikes.

Some may say a good Tumi Bag or Tumi Backpack, which are our favorites here at Accelerating Careers Inc., are just too expensive. While they are not the cheapest options, they give the impression that you care about your appearance. Quality products stand the test of time and suggest you have made an investment in your career.

If cost is really a problem, then check out the list at the bottom of this article for other affordable options.

💡 Pro Tip: When you are going into the office and bring your food do not use a cooler bag or some “hip” lunchbox your kid would bring to school. Find something like a Lululemon bag that is a but nicer and pop it in the refrigerator at work.

Note Taking Tools

This may sound like an old person talking, but find yourself a good pen and notebook. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on notebooks or pens to make a positive impression, but don’t use a yellow flip pad, spiral wire notebook, nor the cheapest pens on Amazon. Look at your note taking materials and ask yourself “would I be impressed if I saw someone else using these tools?”

Additionally, while times are changing and the younger generation use laptops to take notes in meetings, we can assure you the constant click-clack of the keyboard is a distraction to those around you. Pull out the notebook, write down you notes, and stay classy.

💡 Pro Tip: As an added benefit, writing down notes and transcribing them has been shown to improve recall and memorization of the material. If you’re skeptical, check out the Scientific American article here.


We live in an era where everyone is free to express themselves in all aspects of life. While this is a nice sentiment, the workplace will reward those who embrace some level of professional conformity and penalize those who color outside the lines.

· Get a regular haircut, keep a brush or comb at the office, and stay presentable

· Avoid the Axe body wash in favor of a high-quality fragrance, but use it sparingly

· Whether you use the cleaners or iron your own clothes, make sure your clothes are pressed and crisp every time you walk into the office or get onto a video call

· Keep your nails trimmed, have clippers handy, and use them with subtlety at work if necessary

💡 Pro Tip: If you have a habit of biting your nails; STOP. Not only is it bad for you (Mayo Clinic), but those around you will surely see it as unprofessional.

A Note On Remote Meetings

In the era where more and more meetings are occurring on video conference it is important to note some opportunities to improve your look.

Know your industry and make sure you are wearing something that is appropriate yet also slightly more formal than others on the call. This shows you understand your audience but that you are also serious.

· If you are meeting with people in a startup or technology company, you can wear a t-shirt or pullover but make it a monochromatic shirt instead of your awesome Spider-Man hoodie.

· If you are meeting with people at a bank or professional services company, then wear a button-down shirt, but avoid the plain white and go for a nice checkered blue or light bright colored shirt, or something that compliments your complexion.

Be well groomed take a few minutes before the call to brush your hair, check your teeth, and adjust your clothes to make sure they aren’t bunching or baggy in the wrong places.

Also, be sure to check your background and make sure there aren’t any leftover wine glasses or toys in sight. Make your background clean and simple to avoid distractions.


Small things matter when it comes to the perception that others will have about you. Use every trick in the book to help promote your personal brand so that when it comes time for bonuses or promotions you have given yourself the best opportunity for success.

A few products to help you improve your look:

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