By Stacie Kitts, CPA
I like to think of myself as a recovering recovered bubblehead. You might know the type, she was portrayed by Calista Flockhart in the late 90’s as Ally McBeal. The character was described as “annoying and demeaning to women (specially professional women) because of her perceived flightiness, lack of [knowledge], short skirts“, and….. well you get the point.
As ridiculous as it sounds, there was a time – a long time ago in a galaxy far far away – when I thought I had found the right combo. Often sporting an outfit that only Ally McBeal (an imaginary made up TV person, so like no real person should have tried to pull this off) would wear, I was, sadly, the “sexy” CPA.
Ludicrous, I know!
This style choice did not endear me to my female colleagues. And had you met me in those days, you might not have noticed that I had a brain at all. This, of course, is not the impression you want to make when your brain is what you are selling.
Flash forward ……. now we are visiting my solo “stay home” tax practice period. This quarter decade represented my relaxed period, where comfort was my style of choice. My old warn out sweats and stylish jammie sets worn around the home office probably earned me the label of “comfy” accountant. Also, NOT the serious accountant image you want to project, particularly when you are trying to convince a person who has amassed a considerable amount of wealth that you are the advisor who is going to help them keep it.
Interestingly, of these two periods, the comfy accountant was/is the hardest to overcome – a few enlightening moments, and some mentored wisdom eradicated the “sexy” CPA fairly quickly. But taking the comfy out of accounting was like a slow excruciating death.
Even so, it’s done. These days I work in an office building and I look forward to casual Fridays where I can throw on some jeans with my conservative cardigan. I might even spice it up with some colorful shoes or fun jewelry. But for the most part, first impressions are my main concern and my style choices scream I’m confident, educated, serious and professional.
Your fashion choices actually play a large part in selling you and my own fashion history is testament to this.
Being a recovered fashion bubble head probably explains why I recently had a slight meltdown when my assistant commented on how cute my suit was but added, “Your top makes you look like a big orange pumpkin.”
Let me explain.
That morning I had arrived at work wearing a conservative black suit over a cute orange top with cute orange shoes carrying my cute salmon colored purse. Just the right >pop< of color. I felt completely prepared for my big pitch to a large potential client. I was clear on the tax issues and confident in my ability to sell it. But that was before I realized that my clothing choice looked like a Halloween inspired disaster.
I hurried to the bathroom where I stood in front of the full-length mirror and thought, Oh-My-God, she’s right. Why did I pick orange and black? I look ridiculous.
Now my confidence is waning. I can’t get the pumpkin image out of my head. How was I going to sell ME and MY skills when I looked like “that” lady. You know, the one that can’t possibly own a mirror because if she did she wouldn’t be wearing that!!!!!!
My head starts to fill with possible solutions: go home and change – nope not enough time, swap blouses with a co-worker, nope not an option, run to the mall – yes there might be enough time for that there’s one right across the street. I gathered all the paraphernalia I needed for the meeting, business cards, portfolio, flyer about the company etc. and head out.
I found parking rather quickly and felt the relief flooding through my system. I ran toward the door and pull on the handle. Locked!!! It’s locked. I look at the hours – “OPEN 10am”
10AM, what? …..Shut down by my lack of knowledge about mall hours.
I pulled out my cell phone and click a button so I could see the time. 9:30 – No time to wait until it opens, find an appropriate blouse and still get to the meeting on time.
I’m screwed, I’m screwed, I’m screwed.
Despondent, I slowly slink back to my car and try to convince myself that, it’s no big deal, you can still sell it, it’s not that bad, forget it. Ya right, I was a wreck. So as I headed toward certain rejection, I resolved myself to make my pitch just the same.
But miracle of miracles, not only did I arrive early to the meeting, but by some grace of god, the meeting was across the street from a mall. A mall that was open!
It wasn’t too late, I might pull it off. I am elated, rather giddy in fact. I top the escalator and see just the perfect thing. How wonderful. I try it on and it looks great. Stepping out of the dressing room, I spot a manned sales register.
Hello, I’m in a hurry can you ring this up for me really fast?
I am sorry dear, but we just opened and it will take some time to get the registers up.
HUH, really, what? There’s noo time? NooooTime!
At this point, I’m thinking run, run with the cute blouse, go ahead make a dash for it…..it’s your only hope….It was amazing the amount of thoughts that flowed through my mind in those few seconds. Could I get away with it, I would come back later and pay, maybe she would hold onto my wedding ring for collateral.
She must have read the desperation in my expression because she says, “Wait, I think the register over here is up. Let’s see.” And glorious day, it was.
Sporting my new blouse with renewed confidence and relieved that I wasn’t a fugitive from justice, I arrived in time, made my pitch and yes, landed the client.
Hurray, disaster averted- thanks to the right first impression and my cute new blouse!