So, what tools could be put into that toolbox?
Let's start with looking the part. I heard someone say of a colleague: 'oh look, Wendy is dressing for her next job.' Despite having the requisite professional abilities and skills, looking the part made it easier for those with the power to promote, to see her as part of the promoted team because she already looks like them. So, take a look at the world you want to be in - be that professonal or social - and observe how people dress. You don't have to be a clone, in fact if you can find a way to incorporate your own style while "looking like you fit", so much the better. Wendy did it all quietly. Previously a wearer of the skirt, blouse, cardigan combo, she first exchanged the cardigan for a blazer. Next in the stealth re-modelling, came replacing the patterned blouses for a classic business shirt with collar. The simple accessories were eased in - exemplified by the supermarket long-life carrier bags now replaced by a classy tote. The final step to the sharp suit finished it off - and all without frightening the natives! Wendy was the soul of discretion who preferred to fly under the radar. But a different personality could have done the same transformation whilst injecting their own style. Suits come in many colours and styles, with accessories leaving enormous room for the quirky or trendy.
When trying to fit in socially to a jeans 'n T-shirt wearing crowd, you can either dress as they do or go your own way. I don't look good in jeans and so don't feel confident in them. Instead I wear long denim skirts with casual, biker-style boots. No-one found that particularly noteworthy, rather what everyone remembers me for is the big baskets I carry everywhere for the layers I take on and off as we move indoors and out at the pub!
But what about some actual practical tools. One tip courtesy of Gok Wan's book How to Look Good Naked for when you need your confidence given a little boost is to wear nice (matching) underwear. I wear them (most of the time) for myself. I've been told that I carry myself differently, that I ooze confidence. All because of a matching set ... Nicky Hambleton-Jones has written numerous books that are well worth a read. But if you want to save your limited budget for spending elsewhere, there are free options around. You can have your colours done via the free app from Colour Me Beautiful. There are blogs where you can find inspiration on fashion or style without having to spend a fortune - see Six Stylish Girls to follow on Instagram. There's been a boom online in make-up vlogs (video logs for the uninitiated). Here is just one example but there appear to be examples covering all age ranges and styles. As in all things, google is your friend.
So, there's a whole range of tools for looking the part in your toolbox, but we know that without the right body language, it can all come crashing down. So, let me introduce you to Amy Cuddy. Please do take a minute, click on the link and listen to the talk. Amy is a Social Psychologist who has successfully demonstrated that body language can not only effect how others see us, but how we see ourselves. How? Even when you're not feeling confident, simply standing in a posture of confidence (or power posing as she laughingly calls it) can alter the teststerone and cortisol levels in the brain. Both of these hormones will boost your self-belief, so you don't just look confident, you'll be confident.
Take your time, do your homework, use your selected tools and you'll soon be on your way. When you're done, you may find there's very little faking going on.