An image consultant for scientists? I only recently got into the habit of tying my shoes and combing my hair in the morning. But some scientists clearly do know how to look sharp—especially when they are giving talks, running meetings, and so on. And from a marketing perspective, the way you look becomes part of your personal brand, which bears on whether people seek to hire you, collaborate with you and so on. So I asked image consultant Kasey Smith for some basic advice about how scientists can present themselves better.
I met Kasey at a meeting of the National Speakers Association. She took one look at me and told me (gently) that my sport jacket was too big. So I knew she would be the right person to ask for advice. Her consultancy is called ArtistryofImage.com
MK: What is an image consultant?
KS: An image consultant works with people to help them create a wardrobe that works for them rather than against them. Everything mixes and matches built on the anchor of one or two sports coats and several different pants and shirts and accessories. It just saves time and money and you don’t have to think about what you want to wear, you just grab things and they’re going to look beautiful together. Then, you can focus on the things that are important, which is your work and the people that you work with and their needs.
MK: Do you work with people on all aspects of image?
KS: Yes. I focus mostly on the appearance piece, which is color, style, fit to create the wardrobe that works best for the client, the individual. I also have a lot of information on behavior and communication skills. Behavior would be like the proper way to shake hands, the different cultural etiquette. Then the communication would be non?verbal as well as verbal communication.
MK: Fantastic. How does one get to be an image consultant?
KS: By many different routes. We have image consultants all over the world and they all have their specialty and their expertise. I happen to have a background in fashion merchandising and a degree in apparel design and pattern drafting. I’ve always been interested in clothing. I came into image consulting to add that extra piece to my education level, so that I could do one?on?one consults. Other image consultants specialize in the etiquette piece, the behavior piece, speaking about the four generations of the marketplace, couture designing, making clothes for clients.
MK: You were telling me about these various professional organizations that image consultants belong to, and degrees of certification and things like that. Could you explain that to me?
KS: Yes, I belong to the Association of Image Consultants International. We have three levels of certification. The first one is called FLC [First Level Certification]. The second one is CIP, which stands for Certified Image Professional. You have to be an image consultant for at least five years to get that. The next one is Certified Image Master. That, there’s only seven or eight of those in the world, because you’ve been in it so long you’re a master at it. There’s lots of criteria that you have to pass to get to that level, and image consultants are working towards all those levels all the time.
We also have to maintain our level. We have to get CEs [Continuing Education credits], so many CEs every year to maintain our status.
MK: What would you say is the image of scientists in general?
KS: In general, everybody has their reputation. I would think that scientists are so in their head that they don’t really care about their image. I think, as a general rule, they might come off a little frumpy or techie, or nerdy, or whatever.
I think that could change. I think that when people consider their branding of how they look, and they have a consistency with that, their self?image and their self?confidence rises. They are seen as more successful, more effective, more responsible.
The attention is taken away from their appearance and then it’s on what’s important, the present moment, whatever that entails. It’s all about being present. When you don’t feel comfortable your attention is on the uncomfortableness that you feel, rather than being in the moment.
MK: Interesting. You’re saying that part of image is taking people’s minds off of your image?
KS: Right, because just like the cell phone ringing in the meeting, people’s appearance sometimes can be very distracting. If you’re trying to get a message across and all people in your audience can think about is, “Well, that outfit doesn’t look good” or whatever the judgment is. We all judge because it’s hardwired into us to judge. It’s the bite, the fight or flight mentality. In our subconscious mind, it’s the friend or foe. Or which one are you, can I trust you, should I not trust you? Those are all immediate, intuitive, under the radar judgments that we don’t even realize we’re making, but we are making them.
When things are off, people can tell. They don’t know that they can tell, but they can tell.
Tune in next time for part 2 of the interview to hear Kasey’s specific tips for us scientists about clothing color, style and fit. I can’t believe I’m actually writing about this!
- Marketing for Scientists is a blog, a Facebook group, a series of workshops, and a book published by Island Press, meant to help scientists build the careers they want and shape the public debate. Because sometimes, unlocking the mysteries of the universe just isn't enough.
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