Written By Monica Page
“Never judge a book by its cover.” That’s a lie. The average person forms an opinion upon first impressions before the other person even opens their mouth. We judge people by their attire, their hair and the general way they carry themselves. It can be a bad way to form opinions, but at the end of the day if someone comes in looking disheveled, you will most likely hold this opinion for quite a while. When going in for an interview or even just presenting yourself to someone for the first time, there are more important factors than the words that come out of your mouth. Using the framework of Mad Men, adopting a ‘60s or more classic style to your demeanor can make you look more professional and memorable outside of your mental script.
Dress yourself like a Pete.
Whether you are going to an interview, a networking function, or just generally introducing yourself to another person, the way you dress is the first on the “non-vocal” checklist of importance. It’s a no brainer that professional dress is the international standard when it comes to what to wear, but it is not just black suits and ties. In a show that takes place in an advertising agency, Pete Campbell is the Account Executive that stands out. It’s not because he says some of the stupidest lines on the show, nor because he is consistently on the verge of being fired. It is because he is the only character in the office to wear a blue suit. In an endless sea of black suits, Pete stands out in scenes without being a main character. Going for a color that is not the traditional black can make you stand out while still being professional. For men, wearing a suit that is a little lighter than black (light grey, blue or slate) can be paired with a white shirt to look better than the average office uniform. For ladies, being creative is easier with the ability to match blouses that feature color, but still maintain the professional standard.
Carry yourself like a Joan.
Just because you may not be the CEO or department executive, does not mean you need to act like a scared lamb whenever you come in contact with the executive team. Joan Harris plays the office manager, keeping the entire agency running. She does not overstep her superiors, but when it comes to handling things in her own department, she is the one everyone goes to. Being a Joan means being confident enough in your abilities without overstepping your place. Don’t slouch your back or look continuously at the floor. Walk with confidence and command an area where you are the leader. Even if you are just interviewing for a position, getting to the interview stage means the company has taken a liking to you. Go into the interview with confidence that you are the best person for this position. Even before you open your mouth, just have the nonverbal command of confidence and intelligence. If someone looks like they know what they are doing and what they are talking about, it is easier to believe they may actually have the skills to accomplish them.
Present yourself like a Peggy.
Even with confidence, you don’t want to overstate your position or act as if you already have the job. You are in your current position for a reason and although you may have dreams of advancement and moving up in the world, you aren’t there yet. Peggy Olson is the current second in command of the creative side of the Sterling Cooper Draper Price advertising agency. In the series premier, Peggy was the new secretary. By season three she had risen in the ranks step by step. To put it lightly, a Peggy is someone who knows when to talk and when to be quiet. Every time someone looks at you does not mean, “talk to me.” Interject when your opinion is warranted and self edit yourself if the situation becomes sticky. If someone is speaking to you, don’t twiddle your thumbs or make shadow puppets in the dark. Stay alert when you are needed, do the appropriate action of the moment, then shut up.
Visually connect yourself like a Roger.
The single most annoying people in the world are those who look at the floor or walls when people are talking to them. Eye contact shows that you are interested and that you are taking in all the information. The idea isn’t to stare holes into the person’s soul, but to convey enough attention to show that you aren’t just waiting for your turn to speak. Roger Sterling is the head of accounts at Sterling Cooper Draper Price and is most known for going out to client meetings, wining and dining human paychecks. Even if you have nothing to say, looking at the person who is speaking is important and can make or break a conversation. If you want to know the easiest sign that you are on someone’s anger list, just wait for the phrase “are you even listening to me?” Staring into someone’s eyes so long that it looks as if you are trying to command their soul from two feet away will freak people out. Looking at the floor and the birds flying outside will make it seem as if you are disinterested. If you are speaking one-on-one with someone stagger your eye contact moments, looking long enough to show you are paying attention, then direct your focus somewhere else for a split second. If you are in a group, make sure you give eye contact to everyone, giving attention to various people.
Vocalize yourself like a Don.
It may kill your self-confidence, but some people have annoying voices and you may be one of them. Some people have high pitched voices, some people stutter, others have voices so deep it sounds like a car engine, while others can’t speak straight to get their point across. The goal isn’t to change your voice, but to work with what you have in the best way to convey your point. Don Draper, the main character of Mad Men, is known for his booming voice and taking command of a room. He speaks artfully and articulates his points in a way that people will remember him. If you can’t control your voice or the way you speak, you add an entirely new roadblock to making a good impression. You can be reciting Shakespeare, but if your voice is equivalent to a wild banshee, people will hear you speak, but not know what you are saying. You don’t want to create some alter ego to present to people in public, rather just work on your entire self-presentation. Read something and take a good listen to how you articulate words, where your intonations are, which words just don’t come out right. Work with what you have and improve step-by-step, not just for when you are in professional settings, but also for life in general.
With e-mails, resumes, cover letters and other forms of non-direct interaction, you have the potential to set-up a sort of wall between yourself and the person you are speaking with. Even if you are not in the field of business, you can’t hide behind paper forever, and you will eventually need to meet people in person. Think of just walking around, not even in a professional setting, taking in the world around you. “That guy’s clothes don’t match,” “that girl slouches,” and “that guy’s voice is horrible.” We make assumptions about various people without knowing their skills or qualifications. No matter how qualified you may be for a position, if you can’t handle basic human interaction, your quest for professional advancement will be difficult. You don’t need to become a Don Draper to be successful; just be the best you can be on the surface when the resume and education aren’t taken into account.