Chapter President, Carol Parker Walsh, AICI CIC, answers a few questions so we can get to know her better.
Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m originally a California native and will always be a California girl at heart. I grew up, however in Chicago and it was there that I finished high school, received my BA in Organizational Communication from Loyola University and my law degree in Employment & Labor Law at Chicago-Kent Law School. Later I received my PhD in Human Development and Social Systems. I’m married to another California native who ended up in the Pacific Northwest as well. We have two gorgeous kiddos, our son Nick a 20 year old college student and our daughter a 17 year old college bound high school senior. When I was younger, I wanted to sing on Broadway or in the Opera and I actually studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music for 2 years. I’m also soon to be 53 years old, which I’m rather proud of!
Q2. What made you become an image consultant ?
I’ve always loved fashion, shopping, and clothes. After a career in law, I experienced a bit of burnout and wanted my work to be fun. I started building a retail jewelry business and this served as the jumping off point into becoming an Image Consultant. So I searched training programs, became a certified image consultant and most recently an AICI Certified Image Consultant.
I absolutely LOVE the versatility of this industry, the work you can do and the clients and corporations you can work with. It’s like being a holistic practitioner because you have the ability to work with individuals and businesses in such diverse ways.
Q3. What is the biggest challenge you find in being successful in this profession and how do you tackle it ?
I’ve found 3 key areas of challenge and I don’t believe I’m alone in this, having spoken to other image consultants. First, the public have no clear understanding of the profession. There’s no real industry standard for being an image consultant and anyone can really call themselves an image consultant whether they have any formal training or not. In addition, most individuals don’t know the difference between a stylist, image consultant, fashion blogger, or style influencer and many of use the terms synonymously which fuels the confusion.
This leads to my second point which the varied nature and capacity of the work image consultants can do. Because we’re trained in appearance, behavior, and communication, any image consultant can specialize in one, two or all of these areas. When I started, I was focused on the appearance aspect ignoring all of my previous education and training in the other two. Now, after 2 years in this industry I’m gaining clarity on the work I want to do, but the breadth of the field and possibilities was a bit overwhelming and I struggled with trying to be all things to all people.
Finally, there’s no clear path for building an image business, which I believe has something to do with the two issues I’ve outlined above. Other industries are more forthcoming with what they did to find success, I know because I’ve been in a few careers over my life.
As a result the profession is very good at educating and preparing you for the myriad of ways you can work with clients but once you reach the end of this you’re kind of dropped off cliff and expected to build your wings are you’re falling.
Those who do learn how to do that succeed and for that reason may be less than forthcoming on how they did that, and for the others…well you get the picture. So I’ve had to get some coaching and mentoring and recall what I did when I build my last 6-figure consulting practice and put all that to work for me.
Q4. Who is your inspiration ?
In life, my late Aunt Mary! She was an innovator and survivor. I learned so much about how to live my life and achieve my goals. From afar, I look to so many powerful women who have blazed a trail for me and walked a path of authenticity and truth. From Harriet Tubman to India.Aire and Helen Keller to Marianne Williamson.
Q5. What are you doing when you are not working ?
My two favorite activities (outside of traveling) is reading and watching movies!
Q6. What is the one style advice you would give to everyone ?
Take the time to get to know yourself, what you love, and what reflects and fuels who you are! From there your style will emerge and when it does embrace it and your significance.
Q7. What is your advice to future image consultants ?
Take the time to figure out what you want to do with your image business, who you want to work with and the type of work you want to do. Be open to the possibility that your interest and focus may change but try to don’t to do everything all the time, it will drive you crazy. This business is beautifully and surprising creatively complex so the sky is the limit as an image consultant.