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How to cultivate a better professional image for yourself

Like it or not, you do have an image: if you do not develop it by intent, then it will be developed by default. So the answer is to make sure that the image you project is an asset rather than a liability. But knowing what image you present and how to go about improving it is more difficult than it would seem at first glance. The suggestions that follow are listed to help you enhance your personal image and to influence more positively the way others see you.

1)    Know what image you want to project


What kind of personal image do you want to project? Do you want to impress as a creative, energetic, innovative, and enthusiastic leader? Or as a laid-back, let-it-all-happen, efficient manager? Or as a sensitive, caring people? Other people read the signals you project so analyse the image you would like to create and set about communicating the right signals to project that image


2)    Attend to your personal appearance


Dress appropriately and well, as if you have already arrived at the top of your success pyramid. Wear what you consider will meet other people’s expectations of you as a successful manager.


Compile and analyse you own personal dress and grooming checklist – lies, shoes, hair, accessories, pen, briefcase, glasses, cosmetics, fingernails, jewellery… How do you and others rate your appearance?


3)    Be a positive communicator


What you say and how you say it are important factors in image-building. How you ever taped yourself in natural conversation or in reading aloud to consider the loudness, pitch, and tone of your voice; and your articulation and speed? Audio tapes can reveal much: boring monotone, nasality, stridency, gottas, dropped g’s, overuse of ums and ahs, and y’knows… All can contribute to a negative personal image.


Be a good listener while at the same time keeping your employees and colleagues informed about what is going on in your department or organisation. Spend as much time listening as talking, and make oral and written communication as positive as you can.


4)    Check your nonverbal messages


Your body signals could be impeding your chances of success as a manager. If you feel strong and confident you should stand tall and walk with assurance. If you sit with stooped shoulders or walk with a slow, hesitating gait, you will project an image of one overwhelmed by life and low on self-esteem. Posture and bearing disclose a great deal – as any body language book will tell you.


5)    Develop those essential interactive qualities


Here are important aspect to remember in your dealings with others:

  • Always be first to say hello. Offer a firm but not crushing handshake;
  • Never be casual with your greeting. Be sincere and meaningful;
  • A friendly smile projects an image of trust;
  • Use the other person’s name in your conversation.
  • Do your homework when meeting with someone. Work your knowledge of him or her into the conversation;
  • Show that you are interested in what the other people are interested in what the other person is saying;
  • Observe the basic rules of politeness and etiquette;


6)    Think about your work environment


The appearance of your office or workplace says much about you. A cluttered desk, for example, can give others the idea that you are untidy and disorganized. Visitors are most impressed with ‘organised stacks’ setting.


7)    Always project a professional attitude


Make certain your name is always associated with honest, ethical behaviour. Strive to develop good personal relationships. Demonstrate integrity, understanding, sensitivity, trust, respect, and competence. Let colleagues know that you are tastefully ambitious and keen to get ahead; but avoid giving the impression that you are prepared to walk over others to get there.


Tactfully make your skills and accomplishments known. Admit mistakes and never publicly criticise a superior or colleague. Seize every opportunity to prove that you are a good team player.


8)    Be constantly aware of your image


The key to image-building is to start early. You see, it’s easier to build up a positive image before one has been formed in the eyes of others than to change one that is already established. Unfortunately, few of us can begin with a clean slate.

But if you suspect that your present image is not helping you to advance your career, you will need to change it – and this could take some time; well-established behaviours are hard to alter. Be aware always that the way you yourself to others is one of the most important facets of any leader’s makeup. Work at it daily. In a nutshell, act like a professional and always look the part.


Quotable quote


The first impression is usually lasting, largely because people’s perceptions are not easily changed, but also because you are likely to keep projecting the same image.

The way you look and what that conveys are part of our performance. Recognise that the way you look affects the way you work and the way other people perceive your work. Cultivating your image means defining and focusing more sharply on who you really are. But it is of the almost importance that you be authentic and genuine and that you not seek artificially to blot out aspects of who you are and the way you act.


Ask yourself


Look at yourself through the eyes of your staff for a moment. When you walk into the office or factory, imagine that each person is thinking two descriptive adjectives about you – such as “confident”, or “aloof”, or “well dressed”.

What would they be thinking about you? Why? What might you need to do about it?




“My proper-speaking schoolteacher grandmother used to say that the way you dress; to present your image, you use what’s appropriate for the occasion and leave the rest in the closed.” – Clarence Pace (Chicago Tribune)


Don’t forget


Practice what you preach…

If you’re in advocate of teamwork, do you work well with others?

If you ask your staff to take risks, does your behaviour match words?

If you recommend lifelong learning, do you attend seminars to keep up to date in your field?

If you require your staff to keep current by reading the professional literature, do they see evidence that you are a reader?

Managers who don’t put into practice what they preach lack credibility, and others will be reluctant to follow their advice.

Put this reminder on your office wall: “Walk the Talk!”

It’s all about image!


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