Nailing the job

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WHEN it comes to our professional life, we often never give much thought to etiquette and image  as our main priority  when it comes to work  is getting the job done right. 

However, Sheila Wong and Enrique Tsou, founders of image consultancy firm Swet Advancement Centre (Swet) begged to differ, as they said one’s presentation at work plays a bigger role than previously thought.

Swet, housed in a sleek office in Subang Jaya, was set up to help people realise their dreams by honing their elegance, eloquence and confidence. Wong and Tsou provided an insight on dressing to impress, the 3As of image — appearance, aptitude and attitude — and how revamping one’s image can help you progress at work.

“How you present yourself at the workplace says a lot about you as an employee. It also speaks volumes about your company — and I don’t mean appearances only,” Wong, who has more than two decades of image and beauty training under her belt, said. “It’s what you wear, your behaviour and your etiquette.”

Corporate image, she added, is not just restricted to the face of the company — usually seen as the receptionist — but how all the employees present themselves.

As far as first impression at the workplace goes, both Wong and Tsou agreed that it is crucial to be “a little judgmental” of places they visit for business or work.

Granted, many of us unwittingly have not made the best first impressions to colleagues or employers. Is there a way to salvage the situation?

Wong said that while psychologists say it takes 10 months on average to “undo” a bad first impression, there is no telling how much truth there 

is to the statistic.

Tsou advised doing a lot of positive things, no matter if others are still unimpressed, to make a turnaround.

“It’ll take time, but it’s possible,” he added.

The multitalented pair joined forces to form Swet in 2001, and has since conducted various courses certified by the Association of Image Consultants International, and corporate grooming courses to employees from over 100 big and small companies. Swet’s clientele includes EcoWorld, Maybank, Dell and Toyota. 

Wong was previously an image consultant for beauty pageant contestants but after meeting Tsou, a behavioural change consultant with extensive international training experience, the pair decided to start Swet. Now, with seven other fully-certified and trained consultants on board, Swet provides a variety of courses to suit its clients’ needs and interests. 

Wong recently launched her latest book, 21 Days of Etiquette, which she co-authored with Kenneth Shee, one of Swet’s image consultants, to stress the importance of good etiquette at work. 

“It’s fundamental to build any good relationship,” she said.    

The 125-page book provides an easy guide to developing positive body language, personal greetings as well as business and dining etiquette — encompassing things that you should be practising in your life anyway, Wong insisted. 

In Swet’s etiquette class, the first thing you would be taught is having the right “attitude” — what the team calls 3A’s.

“You may have the best appearance and aptitude but if you don’t have the right attitude — it’s pointless.” 

As for appearance, Wong, who also authored, Yes, You Can Look Slimmer, added that it is all about colours and styling. 

“Try not to be a slave to fashion. Instead of being fashionably dressed, aim instead to be appropriately groomed.”    

Wong piqued my interest with her explanation of the “psychology of colours” and impressed me with an accurate description of my personality  based on what I was wearing to the interview.

According to Wong, colours have deep psychological meanings, and what you wear speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. 

“After attending the corporate grooming courses, our clients are very pleased to see their businesses doubled or even tripled,” Wong proudly revealed. “It’s 1% of how you look and carry yourself, and 99% of ‘substance’ — what you know and who you are.”

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 16, 2015.