Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Key to Success

According to a birthday card I received, the key to being successful is looking like you already are. My initial reaction of coughing and spluttering and my vehement disagreement has subsequently softened significantly.

I have recently emerged from beneath a mop of hair that can only really have been classified as “too long” after a much needed and much delayed hair cut, to discover that we really do send out different messages about ourselves by the way that we look. Whereas having long hair in no way makes you incapable of performing certain jobs and doesn’t affect the person that you are deep down, it can hamper a first impression, or even the way a person that you’ve known for a long time responds to you. When applied to an employment situation, in particular an interview, I can only imagine that the issue is further compounded, leaving you less of an opportunity to get where you want to. Even if you say all the right things and act in just the right way, if you don’t look the part, that’s probably all they’ll need to make their decision. I was recently struck by how un-extraordinary I was compared to other individuals in my field when talking to a fellow class mate at my law school who quite casually said that she too was an ex-UCL student with a 2:1 in History, just like everyone else. It sounds ridiculous (and I must admit a little smug) but those sort of qualifications are fairly standard for a lot of people in my situation, and so if you have four candidates interviewing for a post that are the same in academic and professional expertise, they probably are not going to employ the one that looks like a metal band reject in a bad suit.

Of course, just looking the part isn’t enough. The guy who turns up to the school reunion in the brand new Ferrari definitely loses that initial impression once the first things out of his mouth are details of his repayment plan and how he had to move back in with his parents to afford it. In fact, any good visual impression can be completely thrown out the second that someone starts talking, but regardless, it’s impossible to say the reverse is true; fighting a negative first impression by saying all the right things is still an uphill battle.

All this boils down to that one piece of advice that everyone groans and rolls their eyes at when it’s repeated and that is that you can make a good first impression by being neat, tidy, smart and clean. When it’s brought down to such a fundamental level, I can’t believe I’ve found myself writing about it, but even on a macro level, it appears to have a lot of truth behind it. If I’m being brutally honest with myself, being aware that I look more human and presentable has improved my mood tremendously as well.

I am well aware of the irony of titling an entry “the Key to Success” as the current situation of writer/lawyer/comic book artist extraordinaire David Hing is far from perfect, but I honestly feel that looking the part, even in some small way, is the “Key” to success. As for the actual door, that’s going to take a little longer to find.

Additional Notes:
The only slight quirk with having a fairly dramatic change in hair length is that it’s taken my girlfriend a while to get used to it. Just occasionally she would give me a look that I came to realise meant that she didn’t quite recognise who I was and was probably expecting me to announce that I was in fact my identical twin brother and it was all an elaborate practical joke.

It does seem to be that my tutor group at my law school is made predominantly of 2:1 students in either English Literature, Geography or History that have day jobs in an administration post. I’m hoping that’s just a coincidence, as surely if it were not, then somebody would have mentioned that trend earlier on in my academic career…

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