Last week, my boss and I headed out of town for a regional networking event. We rented a car, but we needed to travel from the building our office is located in, across campus, to the lot where the rental cars are picked up. Lucky me, I got to drive us over there.
Unfortunately, my car was a mess (for my standards, anyway). Several months of random papers littered the console between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. The back was full of childhood stuff from my mom’s house that just didn’t get unloaded into the house. And since I hadn’t vacuumed the car since winter ended, there was an accumulation of pebbles and salt remnants all over the floor. I’ve always kept my vehicle exceptionally clean, but that was pre-job, pre-marriage, pre-grown-up responsibilities. I was embarrassed by how bad it looked.
It got me thinking. Even though it’s “home” (or home turf, like a car) and not work, how does the way we live reflect on our brands?
Some people might consider it vain to care about the image their home/apartment, car, clothes, etc. conveys. I don’t think it’s vain to care; I think it’s smart.
Whether you’re a current student intern living in a basic “student” apartment or a recent grad moving on into your first job, your living conditions say something about how you, your values, and your basic life skills.
- Order vs Chaos. Even for a messy person, keeping a solitary desk, cubicle, or small office neat and tidy might not be that difficult. Especially when people see your workspace everyday, you might be more motivated to keep things organized. However if your apartment looks like it’s from an episode of Hoarders or if your vehicle is your personal dumping ground, it probably speaks more to who you really are than your clean workspace does. It begs the question: What else lies hidden behind a facade?
- Quality vs Low Standards. At the same networking event I referenced above, a newcomer to the city was discussing her apartment hunt. She got assistance from a co-worker who told her which neighborhoods were “good” and which were not so good. For better or worse, where you live says something about you. While sometimes living in a better environment costs more, it does speak to what you value in terms of quality. As a student or recent grad, you are likely on a limited budget. Make the best choice you can within your means. It’s not that you need to live in a mansion, but you probably want to avoid cockroaches for roommates.
- Positive Self-Esteem vs Poor Self-Image. How you take care of yourself speaks to your level of self-worth. If you dress like you don’t care or pay little attention to basic grooming, people are lead to believe you don’t love or even like yourself. If you don’t like you, why would I like you? Confidence is a great brand booster, so build yours up and convey it to the masses.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend a lot to live someplace nice and keep yourself looking good. Don’t let finances be your excuse for living in chaos, having low standards, or maintaining a poor self-image. Kick your motivation into high gear and expand your brand to all areas of your life.
I cleaned my car out this weekend. It now looks much more “me.”
Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development. In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships. She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media. Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater. To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.