hroughout our careers and the lessons learned along the way, rarely do we stop to actively put time aside to think about how we can refine professional image and look at what we are communicating about ourselves to our clients and colleagues alike. Often we believe the recipe for success is a combination of hard work and unwavering commitment, but as Joanna Gaudoin realised, the niche industry of personal marketing was a service that not many knew about, but one that everyone needed.
Launched in 2011, Inside Out Image focuses on refining, developing and improving a client’s professional image to make them their best self. From looking at how they present and network to creating a customised working wardrobe, every area of your professional image and reputation can be looked at to improve your career success. Contrary to most beliefs, the need to re-evaluate all areas of professional image isn’t exclusively for recent graduates or those returning to work; but something that should be revisited at different points throughout one’s career. Highlighting the value of a positive professional image and developing your body language is all part of essential training that can give someone the boost up to the next rung in the career ladder. Attention to detail is essential in any corporate role and as Joanna’s own career taught her, smoothing out the creases in every aspect of one’s professional image makes a huge difference in how other’s translate your potential.
From her own corporate experience, Joanna argues that the secret to empowering women in corporate environments lies in authenticity. Knowing who you are and what personal attributes you want your reputation to embody is a simple but powerful school of thought. Being the very best version of you is the perfect foundation to smash through the glass ceiling according to Joanna, as confidence in yourself inspires confidence in others – response to an authentic leader is likely to be far more positive. Typically, we put a lot of value in how others see us and within her training, Joanna believes that a strong sense of self is needed to succeed in City life. Nobody is immune to the grips of imposter syndrome but as she reminds her clients, investing time in identifying your personal values and implementing these in your strategy at work is the best fuel for women to move forward and make progress whilst reflecting your personality in an appropriate way in how you dress for work. It’s not about being perfect, but being polished. Read on to learn how you can spruce up your own professional image and manoeuvre it to better your career.
On starting her career
I grew up just outside of London and completed my degree in marketing and management at the University of Bath. My first professional role was at the American consumer good’s company Kimberly Clark, who are responsible for brands such as Kleenex and Andrex; I got to meet the Andrex puppy! I moved into marketing effectiveness consultancy which helps big corporates map out how to spend their marketing budget and followed that with a spell in due diligence, which involved working with private equity, research, employee interviews and customer interaction. It’s interesting how things come full circle as I hated that job, but my experience in that corporate and financial environment has enabled me to better understand some of my clients in the Finance sector and in the areas they want to improve upon.
On changing her career
By the time I had taken on another marketing consultancy role, I needed a change. My then-boyfriend, now husband, suggested I work with a career coach. After a preliminary chemistry session, I fully intended to carry on with my job whilst I did my coaching but within two months, leaving felt like the right thing to do. Fortunately, my manager was supportive of my decision which made it easier. She hinted at the idea of a new potential career-path but refused to tell me any more until I had finished my coaching.
“People don’t realise how important it is to re-train as you climb the career ladder; when you get to a senior level, suits and a domineering attitude are rarely now the answer”
Working with a coach was a fantastic experience. The key points that came to light were that I wanted to help people with their career progression, relationship building needed to be a fundamental part of whatever I did and every day had to be different. The minute I finished my coaching, my old boss appeared with printouts of her research for a new role for me. She had been right all along! Whilst it was a much more restricted version of what I do now, I was hugely grateful for that relationship and advice. I re-trained and had my first client in December 2011; Inside Out Image was born.
On her new role
I help people market themselves. It’s a broad concept but the diversity of my services means clients can refine a huge variety of their professional and personal skills. Each case is tailored to the individual and their needs. If someone wants help regarding their appearance and dressing for work, I invest a lot of time understanding their style and personal preferences in conjunction with the requirements of their job.
In comparison, when training is concerning interactive skills, body language and verbal presentation, the process needs to be far more tailored in terms of how sessions are delivered; focusing on how they form relationships and interact with other people to draw up a plan that is suitable for the corporate environment and their projected career progress. Whether it’s about an upcoming partner application presentation, their networking strategy and skills or a business development presentation, it all matters. After all, office environments now are far more varied than they were 30 years ago, with different expectations, not just regarding dress but skills and behaviours too.
People often come to me after being prompted by a catalyst of some sort. I don’t see any shame in a senior man or woman admitting they need help with something like appearance or body language as it shows a great sense of humility in being open to self-improvement. After all, we can all benefit from learning and support in different areas. A current client of mine is the director of one of the top ten accountancy firms and he is going for partner. Part of the promotion process is to give an executive presentation and he’s receiving training on body language and phrasing to refine his skills in engaging his audience.
People don’t realise how important it is to re-train and enhance your skill-set as you climb the career ladder; when you get to a senior level, suits and a domineering attitude are rarely now the answer. A lot of people consciously dismiss the visual aspect of a professional image either because of factors like time and finance or they don’t want it to matter and they’re scared of the unknown when in reality, it has a lot of value and impact on how your colleagues and clients perceive you. An outside perspective can be incredibly useful and that’s how most of my clients realise their areas of improvement. Raising a client’s awareness of their current state is the first step.
On loving your career
The thing I love most about my job is people’s ‘aha’-moment; the lightbulb of clarity. A workshop I’m currently running is with a group of 30-40 people split into smaller groups, some of whom 8 years of experience and some up-wards of 15 years’ experience. The breadth of topics is what gets their attention and it’s very rewarding to see such a diverse range of roles engage in a universally applicable topic.
“A lot of people consciously dismiss the visual aspect of a professional image either because of factors like time or finance or they don’t want it to matter and they’re scared of the unknown, when in reality, it has a lot of value and impact in how your colleagues perceive you.”
The dynamic of working with clients on a one-to-one basis is vastly different however as very specific concerns emerge such as a junior employee wanting to project credibility or dealing with a difficult manager. The best combination is to get people involved in a workshop, then to do some one-to-one work to embed and personalise the learning. In my area, people often don’t want to ask the questions in front of others. My corporate career has been very helpful in empathising with issues as I can speak from experience on the improvements they want to make, from working in different sectors with different clients.
On the importance of personal image
This doesn’t always go down well but particularly as a woman, personal image has immense value. It’s not fair but it’s real. On a private basis, I have more women than men coming to me for one-to-one sessions when discussing personal image and how they want to use it to their advantage in their career. In comparison, I work with men almost always in group settings in terms of appearance. Women are more likely to be interested in their image and how styling and body language can better their career whilst men tend to have more of a polarised perception of the topic; if they are interested, then they love it, but if they aren’t, it’s hard to change that.
A lot of the mistakes that are made in regards to personal appearance are easily avoidable. A lack of attention to detail is very common; mishaps like chipped nail-polish, ripped tights or scruffy shoes. It’s frustrating to see these standards going into the workplace. The worst thing you can do is to wear something that doesn’t fit you well and wear the wrong shape.
My own personal image is essential as it reflects the standard of my work. I secured a project with a big company in the insurance sector off the back of a five-minute meeting with one woman at a networking event. She called me in for another meeting and after giving them a proposal, I was asked to deliver workshops and over 100 one-to-one training sessions over a few months. She trusted me enough in what she saw in a small time-frame to handle this responsibility.
On building a working wardrobe
My working wardrobe is something I’ve refined as part of developing my brand. I now own 30% of the clothes I used to own. Some days I may build an outfit through a necklace or around a pair of shoes and some days, I may build something from a single jacket as I’ll want to have more impact with how I look.
“If we’re trying to highlight how women need to be alongside men in leadership roles, we need to establish the fact that the differences between the genders are a positive thing and not try to mimic men’s behaviour.”
Every woman should have a capsule wardrobe for work. A few neutral colours and accents is the best starting point. It’s also important to include pieces that are appropriate for different aspects of your day, which can go from your desk to a meeting or a presentation. The abundance of choice is a problem however and I’ve angled my work to cut through this. The styling and wardrobe analysis I do with a client filters through their preferences for style, their wardrobe personality, cuts, colours, patterns and shapes to create a clear guideline of what works for who they are and their physical features. After all, working women are often very busy with a lack of time and lots of demands placed upon them. Looking at wardrobe personalities isn’t about putting people in a box but rather being able to differentiate what works for them. It’s not an obvious point but in reality, a Fat Face shopper will be very different from a Phase Eight shopper, beyond what is appropriate for different work situations.
On workplace fashion
There is a big correlation between being well-dressed and feeling confident. My obsession is being well-coordinated. I only really like to wear two colours and typically, one shouldn’t wear more than three. Practicality is also a problem. I hear from women who now have children that it’s enough of a challenge to get outside the door without being covered in some sort of baby sick and struggle with finding clothes that balance the demands of work with motherhood. For more formal workwear, women have LK Bennet and Hobbs on the high-street but that’s almost it; it’s no secret that finding great workwear options remains tricky sometimes. However, there are lots of smaller brands now appearing on the internet which is great news.
On empowering women
The best way to empower women is to know who you are and to always be authentic. A lot of women suffer from imposter syndrome. It’s less of a problem now than it used to be but women trying to mimic the habits of men in being too aggressive or trying to blend in too much is definitely a problem.
If we’re trying to highlight how women need to be alongside men in leadership roles, we need to establish the fact that the differences between the genders is a positive thing and not try to mimic men’s behaviour. The generation just below me is more aware of this and I see a difference with clients now but people can still fall into this trap. Women have a lot of skills that are often but not always different from men, that are very valuable; especially in leadership roles. We need to find a way to make the best of both genders in corporate life.
On her biggest challenges
My biggest challenge is to avoid being categorised as a stylist. That’s a great role for some environments but it’s not what I do. I focus on a long-term approach of developing someone’s image as my work covers both appearance (typically associated with a stylist) and other areas of body language and voice, as well as skills and confidence for specific business scenarios, such as networking, presentation and online image.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in this role is to be flexible, especially as a speaker. You never know what the audience will throw at you and that unpredictability forces to you be adaptable but also to have faith in what you are saying and in the advice you are outlining to others.
My husband always buys me an experience for my birthday so I’ve done a lot of crazy things; I’ve driven a bus, I’ve driven a steam train and I’m due to fly a helicopter soon! I’ve even ridden with Huskies before which was great fun. I also have a real fascination with the London Underground; I’d love to explore the abandoned tube stations one day. My husband once bought me an old Northern line map as a joke but I insisted we frame it and it now hangs in our home.
I do believe things happen for a reason which is based in my personal Christian faith; when I left one job, another came along. The best advice for work is not to burn any bridges as you never know when someone who is a subordinate to you now will end up as your boss or a potential client. Don’t light that match.
If I were Queen for a day, I’d want to meet the Queen! She’s a prime example I use of consistent branding which I mention in my workshops and talks.
Joanna Gaudoin runs Inside Out Image which helps professionals communicate themselves positively and engage effectively with others, to achieve greater professional success. Her image training and expertise is complimented by her previous career in marketing and consultancy. Joanna works with clients from a range of sectors - private clients, as well as running workshops for organisations, working with their people one-to-one and speaking at events. Her areas of expertise include appearance, body language and voice as well as business scenario skills such as networking and presenting. Clients include Hays, Mazars, Willis Towers Watson and HSBC. If you'd like to receive more tips, click here to receive Joanna's free 6-part 'Boost Your Personal Impact' guide and a monthly article on an image related topic.