Making the Connection
I’m not really a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.
Those that know me, know that I willingly spend most days in dresses and heels.
However, I do also love nature, so mother nature does dictate my wardrobe when I’m in her domain or whatever the weather necessitates and alas sneakers are employed for their utilitarian aspect.
Dresses just happen to be what I feel the most comfortable in and I find it just as easy (perhaps even easier) to put on a dress or skirt and blouse than I do jeans and t-shirts. I’ll still wear jeans/dress pants and t-shirts every now and then. My personal style has little to do with the opinions or expectations of others or in trying to seem attractive to anyone. If I wanted that kind of attention, I’d be posting what I wear every day just like everyone else on Instagram. Take 2020 for instance, aside from virtual conferences I’ve hardly seen anyone in person and I still dress the same for the most part.
You’ll probably never really catch me running errands in sweatpants, etc. unless I’m coming from a workout or something. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with others who do, “athleisure wear” is a look for sure and whatever you feel comfortable in is what you should stick to. I have a friend who used to apologize about what she was wearing anytime that I’d pick her up to go have dinner or some other outing and I would always tell her that she could and should wear whatever she feels comfortable in, she knew where we were going and if she felt comfortable in her outfit, then perfect. Everyone should have their own style. If you know half of what I manage or what I take on, you’ll know that my mind is typically preoccupied by things other than what people’s fashion choices are. and I will always likely gravitate towards intelligence and competence versus a person’s appearance. I happen to like fashion, but in all honesty I don’t follow trends and for a few years now in trying to be more green I don’t subscribe to any fashion magazines or periodicals. I just wear what I want, it’s what I’ve always done.
Another common assumption based on the way I dress sometimes could be that I’m high-maintenance, but I’m actually far from that and because this is my go-to style it usually only takes me about 10-15 minutes to get ready (If I don’t have to blow dry my hair—my least favorite thing to do as I have so much hair). My friend circles are comprised of people from all walks of life, so I’m actually fine in either an upscale lounge or a dive bar. I do know that at times I may seem hard to approach as I’ve been told this multiple times before, but in all honesty any air of aloofness really just goes back to me working in my head half of the time and being more focused on that than my surroundings at times. The other half of the time, I know it’s because I’m already immersed in conversations with others that people are afraid to interrupt. Another friend used to always joke about how hard it is to get my attention if I’m having a conversation with people.
Why do I share all of this?
I recently had a laugh with that aforementioned friend/ex-colleague, when he complained that while he loves being able to work from home, he complained that, in his words, “Meetings with clients aren’t the same on Zoom.” I expected him to complain of spotty wi-fi or technical issues, but instead burst out laughing when he continued on to say that, “I don’t think they always get how charming and good-looking I am via Zoom. That’s part of what helps me close deals!” I honestly couldn’t stop laughing at this statement and the fact that he sounded so serious and frustrated by this first-world problem, that apparently even HD settings couldn’t help him with.
However, I do have to admit that I have to give him some credit. Not only in the entertainment industry but in many industries, people are dropped into roles not only because of their skill-set, but also because of how they appear when they do it and it is true a charming person likely would do better in sales or other public-facing roles than someone who does not have the same people skills--sincere or not. It’s not quite fair, but I also doubt that most introverts likely would not enjoy a job where a high percentage of it entailed engaging with others. An old boss (yes, male) once told me that the reason he included me in so many meetings, was because “people responded better to me than to others”, but then had the nerve to also say, “plus, you always look great and that helps. There are plenty of attractive people in the world and there are plenty of intelligent people in the world, but if you find the intelligent and attractive, that’s who you want in the room with you”. He wasn’t hitting on me, it was super matter-of-fact, but as much of a compliment as it was it did also irritate me at the time. Funny enough, I had brunch with him late last year after not seeing him in years to discuss another project I was working on and the second line in his follow-up email was still the same, “You sounded and looked great.” Again, not hitting on me, as to him people being polished and smart was important-even all of these years later.
Also, primarily working in entertainment meant being put into a lot of social situations, a never-ending flow of events, dinners, and new people constantly, etc. so being able to navigate those with ease was also helpful. Especially this year as I pay more attention to my own actions and how to better empower those who may not have as much opportunity, I recognized, that I myself hold that sort of same mentality at times and for certain things I might gravitate more towards someone who is more professionally-dressed as it instills a little more trust that they know what they are doing. However, is this really true? Over the years, I’ve found that it’s not always the case.
So, again, why do I share all of this?
Well as our physical board and conference rooms sit empty and we find ourselves in a fully virtual and digital world, I am excited to see a little bit of a shift in those whose voices are also getting heard and noticed. When meetings are shorter and the in-person effect is taken out of the equation, I hope the knowledgable and diverse minds get more of the spotlight.
My friend who complained about his charm and looks not working as well for him in this virtual space is fine and we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him as he is also quick-witted (sometimes too quick-witted as his wife will tell you) and smart. However, I am really glad to hear from intelligent voices and to see those with the true industry insights getting more opportunity in this present-day which has served to level the playing field a little. Sure, there will still be some of those who stick to superficial mentalities, like the CEO of another company in the public policy space that I recently met with who tried to turn our intro call/Zoom into a date of sorts (please note that if I agree to a meeting with you/anyone that is in fact that for me, a meeting not a coffee date).
Lastly, what I also appreciate about the virtual space is that what used to sometimes take place as a two hour or more dinner with new potential partners, clients, investors, etc. can now be succinct and instead be 30 min. meetings with less small talk and schmoozing.
However, as many pros as the virtual space has I definitely get what my friend was saying . There is something to the in-person dynamics and chemistry (professional compatibility—chemistry is chemistry even in the business sense) that can’t be replicated in the virtual space as easily. That gut-instinct about other people that we all get tends to be a little stronger when in person than the virtual space. It will be interesting to see once we can all reconvene again on a regular basis, how much of the virtual elements of our current lives we carry over in our daily interactions and engagements and which meetings we continue to take in person.