Several years ago (OK it was more like a decade) an older gentleman stopped into the clinic where I worked at the time to pick up prescription food for his daughter’s cat. Although I can still see his face, I can’t quite remember his name. But I’ll never forget what he said to me that day – “You know, you’d look a lot prettier if you wore lipstick once in a while.” Of course I took offense. What does lipstick have to do with anything?
There are gals who wear a full face of makeup and others who go au naturel. This gal is somewhere in between – I dabble. I enjoy reading fashion magazines and follow beauty blogs (one of which I also edit). I know Bobbi Brown from Bobby Brown – it’s my prerogative, right? I purchase products that work for me, my skin and hair type, and my budget. But I never really got on board with the lipstick scene. No matter what color or finish, it always made me look and feel like a clown.
Despite my lack of lipstick, I have always tried to present myself in a professional manner. During my 19 years in veterinary medicine I worked with and met many team members who fall into the low, or unfortunately, the no maintenance category. You know who I mean – those who show up in yesterday’s scrubs, have poor hygiene, or leave the house in such a rush they forgot to spend a little quality time with their hairbrush. Although some team members may just really be low-maintenance individuals, others may think Why should I bother to look nice when I’m wrestling with dogs all day and getting sprayed with anal glands? No one notices what I look like, they only care if I’m doing my job. But it is important that all team members make an effort to look professional and well groomed. Why? Because no matter what your training and skill set, some people will still judge you and your ability to perform duties and provide services based solely on your appearance. The way you present yourself directly affects the relationships you create with both team members and clients. A professional appearance shows everyone that you are organized and prepared. Regardless of your experience level, a sloppy, unkempt appearance communicates volumes to team members and clients, who may assume you are unskilled, unprepared, and uncaring. If you don’t care enough to take care of yourself, why should clients trust you to take care of their pets? Why should employers trust you to care about your job?
Take the time and make the extra effort to look like a professional:
Scrubs and other work wear should fit your size and shape and be comfortable and durable enough to endure your daily duties. Ill-fitting scrubs, visible panty lines or the lack of… aren’t cool.
If required by your employer, tattoos and piercings should be covered.
Hair should be neat (that means combed) and clean, preferably pulled away from your face, especially if you are directly involved in patient care. Long, loose beachy waves may look great but are a safety hazard and potentially unsanitary. Blowouts are OK, bedhead is not.
Dudes: Facial hair is OK if it’s groomed, back or chest hair creeping out of your shirt is not.
Shoes should be comfortable, practical and in good condition. If they have holes, excessive dirt, or hurt your feet, do yourself a favor…invest in a good pair of medical or running shoes. Your feet will thank you!
Nails should be clean and groomed. Short is preferred but long and stylish is OK if is tasteful and doesn’t affect your ability to do your job.
Be scent-sible. Lots of folks, myself included, like to wear perfume. But take note – if your perfume follows you around like Pig-Pen’s dust cloud, you’re wearing too much. Because team members are often working in close quarters (exam rooms, surgery, xray, etc), breathing in someone’s toxic scent can be torturous, especially if you have asthma or allergies. Sometimes it is best not to wear perfume or cologne at all. That way you won’t offend team mates, clients, or pets – they have sensitive snoots too!
Presenting yourself in a professional way builds your self-confidence and helps boost your productivity. When you feel good about your appearance, you feel good about yourself. When you feel good about yourself, you feel better about and are more productive at work (and beyond!). Whether you’re an entry level team member looking to make a good first impression, a seasoned staff wanting to be considered for a promotion, or just an average Jane wanting to get through the day, looking your best is the first step towards your goal. If you want to be treated like a professional, put forth the effort to look like one. You don’t need a fancy wardrobe or an arsenal full of beauty products to do so. If you’re clean, pressed, and professional, it shows everyone that you are prepared for whatever the day may bring. I may not be a fresh faced CoverGirl or a MAC maven, but I do attempt to wear lipstick once in a while. I still don’t particularly like it, I prefer balm or gloss. But that little extra effort helps me feel pulled together, polished, and ready for anything.