The Strat: Professional Presence: How Do You Show Up?

The Strat
By Valerie Sokolosky

A Reach-certified Personal Brand Strategist offers tips and advice on our favorite topic – personal branding!

Professional Presence: How Do You Show Up?

You say so much before you open your mouth!

Your image – your professional presence – is the outward manifestation of a strong personal brand. Whether we like it or not, research concludes that people DO judge you by how you look, act, and communicate. And it all starts with the infamous First Impression.

Here’s something to consider. If you walked into a heart surgeon’s office and saw a man wearing a plaid, short sleeved shirt and jeans, what would you think? Likely you would be saying to yourself, “He doesn’t look like a heart surgeon!” Never doubt that people DO make judgments about you based on how you look.

The way a person dresses has social significance, and clothing can send messages about a person’s personal brand in less than one minute! Ask yourself if your appearance is aligned with who you are and what you want to be known for.

Looking like a successful professional – no matter what the profession – can enhance the impression that coworkers, supervisors and clients have of you. It can also impact your career path, advancement opportunities and certainly your career search.

As I’ve consulted with Fortune 500 companies on all aspects of professionalism, the topic of appearance seems to be a consistent theme when investing in someone’s career development. My client Mary (of course the name is fictitious) is an example of someone having great technical skills, but lacking the polish to be considered for advancement. We identified the core brand image she wanted to project and how she could use her appearance to make a strong and lasting impression in the hearts and minds of others.

By updating her clothing, hair and makeup, it gave the impression of being a woman on the move. She was more readily accepted by her peers and certainly her management. Within seven years, Mary progressed from a mid-level manager position to the president of one of the company’s divisions.

Lesson learned?
Paying attention to how you dress is important in projecting a strong personal brand. It reflects how confident you are, how well you take care of yourself, and it can lead others to take you more seriously.

So unless you are eccentric like Richard Branson or Lady Gaga, take note. Most of us must rely on the tried and true “make that first impression count.”

Valerie Sokolosky is an author of 8 books, a speaker and the owner of Valerie and Company, a firm that focuses on people skills through training programs and executive coaching. She contributes regularly to Success Magazine, SW Airlines Spirit Magazine and Dallas Business Journal.


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