Regardless of whether you abhor or adore Sarah Palin's politics, you can learn valuable job-seeking lessons from her. Palin (and by "Palin" I mean her staff of professional styling and image experts) has crafted a well-defined personal brand, and every aspect of her look is calculated to contribute to it.
Job seekers of both genders (and all political proclivities) should take a lesson from the way she and other politicians use a variety of means to convey a focused message to their target audiences.
Every detail of a high-level politician's appearance and speech is carefully scripted to contribute to the message and image they want to convey to their prospective employers, that is, you and me, the voting public.
When Palin defined herself as a "pitbull in lipstick," she was doing what all job seekers should do: defining a personal value proposition, and crafting an elevator speech to support it. By making the lipstick analogy, Palin told us a lot about what she wants us to believe about her. At the same time, a lot of non-verbal factors were telling us the same thing.
Here are a few of those message-enhancing factors…
The Lipstick, Itself
Palin wants us to see her as someone who is hard, yet soft; serious, but stylish. Conservative, but ya know, kinda cute. Traditional, but young and hip (like perhaps John McCain and Barack Obama, respectively?) Her high-gloss lips, in a not-too-noticeable color, back that up.
The Hair, etc.
Palin's hairstyle, necklines, skirt length, jewelry, and shoes are all carefully selected to fit the desired image. Basically, it's Barbara Bush's wardrobe, retooled for a killer body.
At the same time, her coordinated jacket and skirt outfits differentiate her from the well-tailored pantsuits we've come to associate with Hillary Clinton. In fact, an ABC News article asks, "Are … Sarah Palin's rimless eyeglasses the new Hillary Clinton pantsuit?"
Which brings me to my next point …
Ah Yes, the Glasses
Not since the Elton John of the '70s has anyone become so known for their distinctive eyeglasses. Apparently rimless "Sarah Palin" glasses are flying off opticians' shelves across the country. (I admit it, I like those glasses.) Days before Tina Fey mocked Palin on Saturday Night Live, the CelebrityStyle blog gushed that "… her glasses totally add to her hot librarian/ Tina Fey appeal."
(Speaking of Tina Fey, if you haven’t yet seen the SNL sketch of her and Amy Poehler as Sarah and Hillary, run, don't walk, to see it on NBC.com! It's Hillary-ous. Sarah-iously.) OK, shoot me now for writing that.
Am I suggesting that all female job seekers should buy rimless glasses, pin their hair up, and start dressing and talking like Sarah Palin? Hell no. Nor should male job seekers over 50 feel the need for hair plugs. (You might, however, pay attention to the male candidates' shirt and tie colors.)
Projecting a clear, consistent image is exponentially more critical to a presidential-level candidate than to a regular job seeker. Campaigns (which are basically extended job interviews) last for months. The candidates' every move is televised and scrutinized. They have to pass muster with millions of hiring authorities.
But there are real-world lessons we can take from the candidates' exaggerated image-management practices. As you decide on your own brand, carefully consider:
- The image you want to project;
- The needs and expectations of the people you want to impress;
- The nature of the position you're seeking; and
- The standards of your industry.
You can learn a lot from all the candidates about how to present yourself as a job seeker. Just don't lose your authentic, honest self in all of that. And whatever you do, DON'T bring your spouse and family with you on your job interviews!
Have you noticed other things political candidates have done (or purposely not done) to enhance or manage their public images?
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