Projecting excellence as well as elegance where you work isn’t always easy. But there are plenty of ways you can communicate confidence and make a lasting impression.
Whether mastering the skill of speaking up or finding your signature style, we spoke to an array of experts for their advice on how to look and feel smart in the office. Take note…
1. Nurture your courage
Finding the confidence to make your voice heard can be a daunting prospect, but practice makes perfect. “You can grow your confidence muscle in the same way you would your muscles in the gym,” says Ros Toynbee, founder of The Career Coach. “The more practice you have and the more difficult things you do, the easier it becomes.
“We are all work-in-progresses, but neuroscience teaches us that we respond and grow better in the light of praise (our own or others) than in the mud of criticism. Self compassion when we do screw up is a vital skill to learn when building courage. When there is failure, treat yourself in the way that you would treat a friend: with kindness and empathy.”
2. Dress for success
What you wear to work can make a huge difference – not just to how you’re perceived, but to how you feel. The first step is finding pieces that fit well so you can focus on the work at hand.
“You don’t want to be distracted by discomfort,” says Florrie Thomas, Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor. “If you find skirts restricting or hate the thought of tights, build your work wardrobe around well-cut trousers”. BOSS’s wide leg silhouette provides easy elegance, and you can reap the rewards of easy-to-walk in shoes hidden underneath.
Quality over quantity is also key. “Choose classic pieces that make you feel confident, then invest in high-quality versions to form the basis of your signature working wardrobe,” advises Florrie. “You can’t go wrong with a suit. BOSS’s slim-leg design is ultra versatile and works just as well as tailored separates or one full look—layer a silk blouse underneath in spring or a cashmere sweater in winter. It’s so versatile, you can easily take it from day to night too, just slip into heels for after-work drinks”.
3. Up your boardroom beauty
As well as finding the perfect outfit, nailing your signature beauty look can give you a boost. “While we like to think that confidence in the workplace comes down to feeling comfortable in your own skin, studies suggest that a swipe of red lipstick may actually give the appearance that you are more trustworthy and competent,” says Harper’s Bazaar beauty director, Katy Young.
Deal breaking traits indeed. But the boardroom is no place to experiment if you aren’t already well versed in vermillion. “It could pay off to let your hair do all the talking,” says Katy. “Nearly three quarters of us agree that great hair makes us feel more poised. Aveda, DryBy and Selfridges all do a blowout with breakfast in the early hours, so if you have a gruelling working day ahead, at least you can now make it a good hair day too”.
4. Practice and prepare
The average person ranks the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death, but there are clever ways you can transform nerves into the perfect delivery.
“Remind yourself of a time when you were confident, and take a few minutes to replay the scenario in your head,” says Ros. “Bring your body into the position that it was when you were confident, the gestures you used, your direct gaze and rehearse yourself doing well at the upcoming presentation, handling questions with a calm yet warm authority.
“Keep holding that same body language as you walk into the room and give your presentation. Fake it if you need to because you’ll soon see that the more practice you get, the better you’ll become”.
5. Find your power pose
As well as talking yourself into confidence, social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains it’s easier to trick your mind into feeling confident by moving your body into a powerful pose. Her TED Talk on power poses (below) has had 12 million views, and counting.
“Think how Superwoman stands, hands on hips and feet flat on the floor, hip width apart. Her head is up, her gaze direct. She stands – and feels – strong,” says Ros. “Try sitting or standing tall, pull your shoulders back and have your feet flat on the floor so you feel grounded.
“Confident leaders, male or female, walk into a room slowly and they physically take up space. By contrast, if your shoulders are hunched over, your legs are crossed, you are fidgeting with your hands or your hair, these will all undermine your authority”.
6. Work on your voice
Your vocal clarity can also send powerful signals. Just look to Margaret Thatcher who took speech lessons in order to turn her voice into one that was powerful and persuasive.
“Research shows that women, more than men, use apologetic and collaborative language, as well as seeking consensus,” says Liz Barber, Client Director at RADA. “Avoid ‘filler’ language like ‘I would just like to…’ and ‘Does that make sense?’ as these can de-power your point”.
Also be aware of upspeak. “Raising your voice at the end of a sentence can signal doubt when you speak, as if asking a question, instead of making a positive statement. Practice using a stable tone to convey self-assurance. The greater the coherence, the greater your confidence and credibility”.
7. Invest in a statement-making accessory
To add extra clout, there’s nothing like a polished and professional accessory. “Once you’ve created a workwear arsenal of tried-and-true essentials, it’s time to pay attention to the details,” says Florrie. “You can easily inject an on-trend update through your accessories. Add a touch of colour or prints to your outfit with a bag that’s bold, not flashy”.
BOSS’s tartan bag is just the ticket. It’s sure to energise a monochrome outfit and the jolt of red is perfect for the AW17 season, which celebrates the empowering qualities of crimson. A bag with a confidence boost? Sign us up.