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3 Inexpensive Ways to Instantly Look More Professional

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Joanne Poh

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Beauty comes at a price, so says everyone who’s gone for botox injections or redone their face with the help of plastic surgery. Looks matter at the workplace if you work in a corporate setting, because no matter how good you are at what you do, you can be sure your boss is going to unconsciously judge you if you look like a slob.

Many people in Singapore spend thousands of dollars on perfect coiffures and expensive bags, shoes and watches, but if you’re not willing to shell out huge amounts, here are 4 ways you can improve your appearance significantly without spending much.

 

1. Improve Your Posture

You’ve probably heard this one before and scoffed. But guess what, posture does actually make a huge difference to the way you appear to others, though it’s hard to tell if you’re just looking at yourself in the mirror. For someone intent on climbing the corporate ladder, good posture is imperative. You have no idea how bad a weak spine or hunched shoulders look in a business setting.

The tricky thing is that poor posture isn’t really that easy to correct as you’re not conscious of it most of the time. A lot of people have poor posture because of a weak lower back or core, so doing yoga or pilates can help tremendously. If you don’t want to invest in classes watch YouTube videos or join a free group in Singapore. Do these exercises regularly and half the battle is won. The other half is to find out just what is wrong with your current posture. Walk backwards into a wall. Your shoulder blades and butt should touch the wall at exactly the same time. If one touches the wall before the other, you’re not standing up straight, so try to remember how the “correct” posture feels.

These tricks might not yield immediate results, but in a few weeks or months you’ll be carrying yourself much more attractively than before. Your boss might not notice the difference immediately, but you’ll find over time that people tend to perceive you as being more confident and put together.

 

2. Get Your Hair In Order

If you’re the kind of person with stick straight hair that’s totally obedient, good on you. But for the rest of us, getting a good haircut can make a world of difference when it comes to looking presentable at work. And those of you with disobedient hair will know that there is a difference between going to a higher end salon and an HDB one. At higher end salons, instead of just giving everyone a standard cut, stylists are trained to deal with different kinds of hair, so you can talk them through your problems (flyaway hair, kinks) and they can then recommend a low-maintenance cut that won’t need hours of styling before you rush to catch the MRT for work.

But of course, a good haircut in Singapore doesn’t come cheap, and you can expect to spend over $80 at a salon like Toni and Guy. The solution is to go to a hairdressing school like Toni and Guy Academy. Sure, you’ll be sitting in the hot seat for a longer time as the students will most definitely take more time over your hair. But at the end of the session the trainer will look at what has been done and salvage any mistakes.

Finally, if you suffer from flyaway hair, invest in a lightweight styling product. Some people even use olive oil, while others prefer styling milk. It makes you look a lot tidier without making you feel like you’re wearing a helmet.

 

3. Buy five professional outfits from fast fashion brands

When it comes to office attire, unless you’re ready to invest in a massive wardrobe, the less variation the better. When you’re just starting out, get five shirts or tops and five pairs of pants or skirts that are interchangeable. But before you head to the first G2000, it’s worth nothing that shops dedicated to selling office wear are more expensive than average. Because broke and jobless people on a budget are unlikely to be amongst their clientele….

Instead, look to fast fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21 and even Cotton On, which often carry pencil skirts and black pants. Ladies, don’t bother with business shirts, instead stock up on blouses which any high fashion brands will carry in abundant supply. For men’s shirts, hit up H&M or Uniqlo. A simple collared shirt at H&M can go for as cheap as $18, so you really have no excuse.

If you buy 5 outfits and then rotate them from Monday to Friday, you’re guaranteed a professional outfit every day of the week. This makes more sense than trying to wear a brand new outfit every day for fear of being seen in the same thing twice. When that becomes your goal, you start trying to repurpose some of your regular clothes to be office-ready, which usually results in your looking less professional, unless you dress like a corporate drone on weekends too.

Do you have any tips for looking presentable at work? Share them with us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.