Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do your Looks Matter?

Looks, Looks and looks, or appearance is the foremost tool by which another human being judge us or vice-versa of how the person is? In the category of life's ineradicable unfairness, few things rank higher than the privileges normally accorded to those who are beautiful (or, in the case of men, handsome). We are all told especially in childhood, that looks don't matter," you can not judge a book by its cover" but by the age of 5 or 6, most of us have already learned this is merely Parent-speak, and demonstrably false. Children don't believe this, their parents don't believe this; what's more, it doesn't take long before they know their parents don't believe it. Whether it pays to be good looking is not the question. The big issue today is  whether good looks or good appearance in general really do pay off in the workplace as much as talent, experience, hard work and smarts-- especially for women. The answer to that is more ambiguous.

Where men are concerned, appearance is seldom a major issue. The last president of the United States who could lay any real claim to good looks was John.F.Kennedy, and while a certain amount of presence is desirable in a candidate, nobody seriously judges a president on looks. If Americans did, they would certainly not have elected Richard Nixon, nor Jimmy Carter, surely one of the least prepossessing political figures since Calvin Coolidge, Senators, Supreme Court Justices and governors come in all shapes and sizes.
When men are concerned, looks are secondary--which is not to say that men are not aware of them in other men. On the contrary, some short, ugly executives will surround themselves with tall, good-looking male subordinates, just for the pleasure of showing them who the actual "Boss" is, and some chief executives prefer to be represented by men whose appearance "does credit to the company," at least in positions that may involve some contact with clients, the general public or the press. But on the whole, the issue is a non-issue, if only because even thinking about whether another male executive is or is not good-looking seems to most men a slightly homosexual thought and dangerous to admit.

When it's a question of looks in the workplace, alas, we are still talking about women, as every woman knows--or fears. Women are judged by very different standards from men. When a men talk about a man's "appearance" what they really mean is how he dresses, i.e., his grooming, but when they talk about a woman's "appearance", they mean her.

In the end, in business as in the rest of life, what really matters is making the most of what we have got. Getting ahead in business ahead does not require looking like Miss Universe , but it does require an appearance of neatness, positive energy, optimism, and positive approach to work that is reflected in the way you present yourself.


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