First Impressions

Photo credit Dalaganyc via Tumblr
Photo credit Dalaganyc via Tumblr

I love watching What Not to Wear. Stacy and Clinton, show after show, teach clients the importance of dressing appropriately for the situation, while still reflecting their unique personalities. It is obvious at the end of each episode that the client’s restyle has given her the confidence needed to go after new jobs and social situations.

There are many parallels of Stacy and Clinton’s philosophies to an ‘online look’. Yes, you should still be you – in fact part of a great look is when your sense of style and uniqueness shines through.  No, it’s not vain to care what you look like because people are making judgements that could help or hinder your life and career.

Check Your Reflection. Photo credit courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Check Your Reflection. Photo credit courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In our physical and virtual lives, (No… one is not more real than the other) what you do, what you say, and how you look help people understand you. The Science of First Impressions explains that humans are genetically hard wired to make quick decisions. In the first few moments that we meet someone in person or online, what do we have to go on? Nothing but their looks. We naturally make sense of what we see by categorizing them with other people who we know, that look the same way.

Physical and virtual first impressions will get you nowhere or everywhere. Jason Cass tells the story of how his online presence and well groomed personal brand got him a job in several times of need. On the other side of this coin – how about Trevor Noah taking over for John Stewart? Not many knew who Trevor was, but after a few unfavorable Tweets resurfaced, not many are in favor of the replacement. Unfair? Probably, but that’s the way it is as Arthur Chu explains:

All it takes is one of your old tweets going viral for Twitter to transform from a real-time conversation into a courtroom dissection, where a dialogue, a defense, or even a wholesale apology comes to seem pointless because the real-time conversation is gone—no one’s even listening to you anymore, they’re just linking the old tweet and adding their pile-on comments to it again and again and again. 

While many adults would read the warnings and choose not to join Twitter and social media just in case, our students probably won’t. They will be on social media regardless. That’s why I love the idea of telling students how social media and the internet can get them a step ahead, similar to the lesson plan “Would You Hire You?” Students are very used to the “DO NOTs,” and the warnings of the destructive potential of the internet. Think of their surprise if you flipped the message into a constructive one. Building a personal learning network and positive personal brand can link you to people and opportunities all over the world. This type of online look takes thought, planning, caution, creativity and restraint – just like your physical look.



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