There are countless reasons why you may be missing the mark on job interviews, or being passed up for more visible positions within your current workplace. You may be lacking credentials, experience, people skills, or “professional maturity.” It can take you months or even years to overcome such objections, but HYGIENE—the silent career killer—is one obstacle you can overcome in as little time as it takes to brush your teeth. Yet so many people would sooner get a PhD than address their VbBO (Very bad Body Odor). While travelling into Manhattan today in a not-so-well air-conditioned train, with 100 degree weather outside, a wretched human stench brought Phoebe Buffay’s (played by Lisa Kudrow on NBC’s ‘Friends’) rendition of ‘Smelly Cat’ to mind. If you don’t know who you are (you never do), the safest bet to avoid being crowned “Mr./Ms. Stinky” is to take a preventive approach. Unpredictably, seemingly innocent odors or flakes are liable to turn into near-suffocating and stomach-turning obstacles in your career. Following are three of the most common hygiene offenders and ways to dramatically improve your hygiene scorecard in business and beyond.
As our body temperature rises, our sweat glands come to rescue by secreting fluid, known as perspiration, to cool us down. It’s our built-in sprinkler system, if you will. Yet, if you are someone who tends to perspire a great deal it does not automatically mean you should not smell fresh. Surprisingly, the clear secretion produced by our glands is actually odorless. It’s only when the bacteria found in our skin and hair takes over the secretion that odor is emitted.
Combat body odor by bathing once or twice a day with an antibacterial soap rather than a lavender or musk scented bath gel that will only disguise your smelly syndrome. Pay close attention to areas like your neck, underarms, groin, feet, toes, and just about everywhere there is a crease or a skin fold for bacteria to linger. If you like particular floral or woodsy scents feel free to apply them after the use of antibacterial soap. You may also consider hair removal options to deter bacteria from finding a cozy home.
Nicotine breath, empty stomach breath, sick breath, tuna fish sandwich breath, or poor oral hygiene breath will surely keep you at more than an arm’s length from a potential employer, co-worker, or client. Avoid thinking that chomping on a stick of gum will fix oral smells. It will only temporarily mask the problem and create bigger issues down the road (i.e. cavities and TMJ or lock jaw). Also, as far as business etiquette faux pas go, gum chewing is at the top of the list.
Combat offensive breath by flossing and brushing after every meal. Arrange visits to your hygienist every six months, even if your insurance only covers going once a year. You, your breath, and your teeth will be rewarded tenfold for doing so. Examine food choices that may be the cause of gastric issues which permeate through your breath. A tasty and practical solution if you’re rushing between interviews, appointments, or meetings is to eat a whole apple on the go. It will not only satisfy your appetite; it will also act as a natural flossing agent to dislodge food particles from your teeth.
Aesthetically unpleasing and embarrassing, dandruff is an uncomfortable condition that is often exacerbated by weather changes (cold to hot or hot to cold) and high-pressure situations like interviewing, or dealing with stressful deadlines. Poor food choices, lack of sleep, bowel dysfunction, and excessive use of hair products may also be responsible for aggravating dandruff.
Combat dandruff by choosing shampoos meant for dislodging the dry skin cells from your scalp. Maintain a balanced diet and choose high-fiber foods that help cleanse your system. Experiment with home remedies such as adding cider vinegar to your shampoo for cell removal, or massaging mineral oil into your scalp before washing your hair to help restore moisture. Regularly brushing your scalp also helps stimulate it and removes flakes. A combination of shampooing, conditioning, and eating right will alleviate this ever-frustrating challenge that may be branding you as the office outcast.