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Not hot? No worries: 10 tips to help average-looking people get ahead in business

Ian Whitworth /

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Scene Change co-founder and Motivation for Sceptics blogger Ian Whitworth. Source: Supplied.

You and I have a problem in our quest for success in 2019. It’s much harder for us to attract any interest from the general public, because we don’t have any kind of beach body.

Nobody wants to follow people with pasty white thighs, one ear lower than the other, or more than 25% body fat. As someone who ticks all those boxes, it’s something I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about.

As a teenager, I used to read my sisters’ Cosmo magazines to help me understand women. Endless articles reassured me they didn’t actually care about looks, because they were really looking for someone with a sense of humour.

That wasn’t true, because I lived on Queensland’s fabulous Gold Coast, a place where humour carried less currency than pizza coupons, and all the women wanted blond surfers named Shane. So I’m watching the rise of Insta and thinking: we’re all back in long-ago Coolangatta.

All you need to know about the Gold Coast in one photo.

Because deep in their animal brains, the public believes what good-looking people say. Pete Evans is a guy with a golden tan, gleaming teeth and a superstitious grab-bag of medieval beliefs. He’s singlehandedly done more to set back public health in the last five years than Dr Google. But hey, look how healthy he looks, let’s feed the baby ‘bone broth’ and avoid sunscreen.

Side-note: reverse-snobbery aimed at good looking people is also wrong. There’s a cliché that models and TV presenters are stupid. My experience on endless advertising shoots is they inhabit the full bell curve of intelligence, like any other random group. Expecting someone to be Zoolander-thick just because they have a pleasingly-shaped head is basically phrenology, which has been well out of favour in the criminal justice world since the late-1800s.

Anyway, you have to get people to remember you, and there’s no avoiding the socials.

So, a few tips on getting ahead in business, in person or online, if you’re less chiselled and more roughly moulded, and your follower numbers don’t end with a ‘k’.

(Obviously, you’ll also have to work harder than hot people, but you knew that already.)

1. Be more interesting

Your business contacts go straight to your personal life to find out what you’re hiding on LinkedIn. Face it, being at the beach (‘today’s office’) is not interesting. Drinks by the pool is not interesting. Nobody will remember you because those things are what everyone does.

Find yourself a more original side project. Raise llamas. Paint abstract nudes. Start a weird political party. Many of the greats in those fields were heaps ugly and people flocked to them.

2. Buy decent shoes

This is mainly a guy problem: not noticing that people notice your shoes. Look down the aisle on any weekday flight in Australia or the US and it’s a horror show of cheap-ass, worn out business footwear. Ask your Italian friend to help sort your shoe life out.

3. Practice being charming

We’ve discussed this before, but to reiterate, be interested in other people. Hot people are used to people fawning all over them. They just click their fingers and free drinks and clothes appear, so they’ve never had to learn the skill of drawing a conversation out of other people.

It’s a long game.

Hotness fades, but charm skills improve through your whole life.

4. Get glasses

If you can’t be hot, try to look intelligent. It is hilarious that people can be tricked into thinking you’re smart because you’re short-sighted, but it is 100% effective. In fact, if you’re short-sighted, you may actually be more intelligent. A 2018 University of Edinburgh study of 300,000 subjects concluded: “Specifically, people who were more intelligent were almost 30% more likely to have genes which might indicate they’d need to wear glasses.”

Just as an experiment, I dropped some frames on Post Malone and I think you’ll agree, while you still wouldn’t let him do your income tax, you might give ‘Bespectacled Post’ a shot at being your social media intern.

5. No car videos please

LinkedIn car videos (‘Yo whassup! I’m just gonna go into a real important meeting, but before I do, let’s talk sales funnel secrets’) are the business version of the dating profile pic of a shirtless guy in servo sunnies holding up a large fish. Be classier than this.

6. Learn some photography

Phone flash photography makes even the hottest influencer look like some pallid ocean-trench toadfish. Direct sunlight gives you raccoon-mask shadows. Instead, try facing a window and let the soft, diffused light make you look a better person.

Photography isn’t about equipment, it’s about being able to see light. If you can’t afford a photographer, take some photography lessons. It’s an essential skill in 2019, and it will help you get your business to the point where you can afford a photographer because they really can take you to the next level.

7. Learn to be photographed

Everyone hates being photographed so just harden up and work at getting better at it. It’s amazing how many people just get a friend to take one shot and assume that’s going to be a winner.

Annie Liebowitz herself could take that one shot and you would still look terrible. On any given shoot, it takes about 50 shots for the subject to relax into looking okay. Take a tonne of photos, move your head around and try different expressions. Learn what’s a nice angle of your head.

8. About the grey suit jacket and jeans

I don’t want to be only picking on guys, but, anyone who spends a lot of time in airports sees a lot of this terrible creative-business-dad look.

It is easy to buy nice non-suit jackets, please do that.

9. Learn to present

Sure, it’s hard work, and you find it terrifying, but it’s a scientific fact that someone holding a crowd in the palm of their hand looks twice as attractive as the same person sitting in an office cubicle.

10. Don’t be a mean grumpy pig

I used to do a lot of annual reports and websites for law firms. There’s a tool in Photoshop for lifting jowls, and my photographer and I had to dial it up to 10 on certain senior execs and counsel, taking the edge off their bad-tempered bulldog grimace.

It was a grim lesson that past 50, people grow into the face they deserve. Your inner-self will set like cement for all the world to see. (Though you might not care if you’re protected from the public gaze on the deck of your enormous yacht. The choice is yours.)

I could say there will come a time when your perceived hotness will be judged by your inner character and your achievements. But that’s the sort of thing your mother would say to console you after you realised those Cosmo writers were just makin’ stuff up. Do your best, fellow average-lookers.

This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics. Read the original article.

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Ian Whitworth

Ian Whitworth is a reformed branding and advertising creative director turned entrepreneur, who co-founded corporate audiovisual company Scene Change.

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