Lisa McLeod: Are your eyebrows ruining your career?  

  • Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013 12:01 a.m.

Can bad facial expressions cost you your job?

Maybe.  And what’s worse, you might not even be aware of it.


“Many people have no idea how sour or unhappy their facial expressions are until they see themselves in a photo or on video,” said image expert Janice Hurley-Trailor. 

I used to furrow my brow when I was concentrating. Then I saw myself do it on television and I realized that it made me look  angry.

I wonder how many people misinterpreted my facial expressions, thinking that I was annoyed when I was actually focused.

“The disconnect comes when we stop noticing how others are reacting to us,” said Hurley-Trailor, who does image workshops and works one-on-one with clients. “Our energy and the way we hold ourselves has a huge impact on how others perceive us.  “We might have developed some poor nervous habits or we might have stopped bothering to make good eye contact or practice good listening skills.”

 Like it or not looks matter.  Your image, wardrobe, facial expressions and body language all contribute to your personal presence.

We’ve all heard a teacher or parent say, “It’s what’s inside that counts.” 

That may be true from a spiritual perspective, but it doesn’t apply to the job market, or dating, or consulting or any other situation where people are making decisions about who gets which opportunities.

“The attitude of ‘people are going to judge me on the quality of my work’ is an easy mistake to make when you’ve held great pride in your academic or professional success,” said Hurley-Trailor, who known as The Image Expert.  “But if you’re in a career that involves others giving you opportunities or taking them away, you have to think about the way you present yourself.”

 Hurley-Trailor cites a Yale University study that determined the top two common denominators for successful people. 

It wasn’t IQ or education. Instead, the top two qualities needed to ensure success were:

• The ability to accurately see how others perceive you.    

• The ability to move or motivate others forward to where you want them to go. 

In a competitive job market, the right image can help you get a job and protect you from losing one.

 Hurley-Trailor remembers a client, an attorney employed with a large law firm that had laid off 85 people. 

He was a Notre Dame grad, bilingual and had gotten good feedback over the last 2 years, but he was still concerned he might be the next casualty. 

So he took more seriously remarks about his “casual Friday” attire and his habit of only wearing a suit when he was going to court. 

“At only 5 feet 6 inches in height, he was lacking in natural strength and presence m so he spent some time with me and really stepped it up,” said Hurley-Trailor.

The response was so positive once he started dressing more professionally on a consistent basis, he not only kept his job but it gave him the confidence to apply for a position with the Justice Department which had been a lifelong dream.  He got the job.

“It’s not self-absorbed or narcissistic to take the time to understand how you are perceived,” Hurley-Trailor said. “When you get good at it, you can forget about it. 

“You don’t have that voice in your head wondering if you look right.  It actually allows you to spend more time focusing on someone else.”

Humans are visual; we can ignore it, or adjust accordingly. 

Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant. Companies like Apple, Kimberly-Clark and Pfizer hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales forces.

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