Taking Care of Your Image
Create the professional image you want to attain and use it to enrich your CV and your list of professional achievements.
There are many reasons why image is so important to career development:
- Your personal style and image influences the decisions influential people make about your career.
- All people, in a way, believe what they see.
- People generally have very little time and often rely on a first impression.
- Everybody is responsible for creating their own success. To do that, one must always try to put their profession or company in the best possible light.
- Your personal style sets you apart from others.
As previously mentioned, personal style and its influence on people is a key factor in your career. The way you get results, how you dress, how you behave with other people and your relationships with colleagues and customers will play a large part in your success inside and outside the company.
- A capable financial director is important for every company. However, if he cannot articulate his ideas and opinions clearly, his contribution to the company is reduced.
- Getting labelled as someone who discriminates against subordinates can slow down a promotion even if your results are fantastic. Managerial positions bring about not only responsibility for results but also for managing people.
- Being a perfect manager or specialist is of little use to you if you don’t care about your appearance, clothes and hygiene. People won’t want to work with you if you can’t take care of yourself.
Doing your job well might ensure a long-term employment (even though it doesn’t guarantee it), but that’s not enough for a promotion. In most professions 75% of your job involves your duties and responsibilities. The other 25% is a question of your personal style. The ability to emphasize this 25% is what it takes to become successful.
Read on to find out how your personal style, self-knowledge and company’s culture can influence your professional conduct and motivation and how it can negatively impact your chances for success.
If you want to be successful, you must have something others don’t: Personal style, image and charisma. You have to show colleagues, customers and competitors who you are, what you aim for, what you respect and what you and your company value. You have to make this impression effectively and continuously every day of your professional career, without compromising your principles, your identity or losing your sense of humour.
Reactions to your image and personal style will vary in different situations and throughout the course of your career. Your personal style should reflect the character of the company where you work as much as possible. A well known accounting company will probably have a conservative style reflecting traditional customers, who are at the core of its client base. This corporate stereotype might be broken by a marketing manager whose creative and extravagant style is eventually accepted thanks to his effectiveness and representative role.
You must achieve harmony between your personal style and the company where you work. There are two sides to every job: A brilliant performance on stage and hidden drudgery behind the curtain. One cannot exist without the other. While research in laboratory represents the latter part of this equation, the presentation of results to internal or external clients is characterizes the former. Which do you prefer? Each part, however different, requires a harmony of personal styles, goals and ambition on the one side and the company’s style, its etiquette and the possibilities it offers on the other.
You will be able to appreciate the importance of personal style most if you realize that every person has a certain image. Personal image is the picture we all have of ourselves. It is impossible not to have it. Whether you are satisfied with it or not, people only see what you decided to show them. It is a combination of static and dynamic factors. While physical features and temper are based in genetics, it is still possible to influence them. The way you dress, for example, is a result of your personal choice.
An accident, injury, illness or the continuous influence of certain factors can, naturally, have an effect on this image. But everybody can decide what he or she will look like within a given situation. What you decide to show reinforces what you consider yourself to be, what you want and what you believe. Because you cannot prevent people from perceiving your image in one way or another, you should try to give them the impression you most desire.
Your personal image is a picture that promotes what is inside of you. You should remember that your image is a promise of what is being advertised. Your skills, talent and values are just part of the package. Therefore, think about what you want to tell others and what you have to offer them. Each person is unique in someway and it’s his personality that makes him different and identifiable. This “something” should be for the essence of your personal style.
If your personal style is not in the harmony with that of your company, it can have a negative influence on your performance and chance for promotion. For example, you don’t feel comfortable wearing the dark conservative suit everyone else in your company wears, you must consider what the price of a possible compromise might be.
Obtained and Requested Image
People often make judgments about others without seeing or meeting them, only upon what they have heard or have learned from other people. This often occurs because of the stereotypes people think about a certain profession, company or department. For example, someone might say “Everyone in the sales department is doing whatever it is they want! There is no order whatsoever and it is impossible to cooperate with them.”
Learn to take advantage of your reputation, regardless of whether or not it’s true. Imagine that others consider you to be someone who is extremely strict about the quality of information provided. The documents that you receive will likely be better prepared than if you had a reputation for being careless. A consultant with the reputation as an expensive but excellent specialist can expect the clients who approach him are willing and prepared to pay premium rate for his services.
Some professions and specializations require a stereotype. A nuclear scientist must wear a special protective suit whereas a policeman has his own blue uniform. Bankers, on the other hand, must make a sober and serious impression on their clients and therefore wear a conservative suit. What image to people at your company expected? In your profession? What image is expected by people outside your company, by your customers, partners and competitors?
Not all organizations have a clearly defined image. In many companies there is no stated dress code for employees. Even where no formal dress code exists it is often possible to see what is acceptable within the company and what is not. If you want to avoid making a mistake, try to identify as carefully as possible the image that successful and respected people in the company or profession have. Can you can achieve this style or will you have to compromise in some way? In companies where image is not as important, some employees feel frustrated and out of place; this may force them to look for work at a company that has clearly defined image they can identify with.
Parts of the Personal Image
Throughout your career you are expected to use all your professional skills in order to achieve the best results. This is what you are paid for. On your way to the better position or your dream job, you must demonstrate that you are the best and most suitable candidate. To have the necessary skills is not enough. From the point of view of your career, your image and the skills people think you have are often more important than the skills you actually possess. All your personal qualities contributing to your image are the basis of your success.
At work you surround yourself with necessary tools, without which you would not be able to carry out your job, and with replaceable accessories and other items, which help strengthen your position within the company, your status and your own self-confidence. Your habits, whether it is your telephone manners or writing style, help create your personal image. How and where you travel, who you socialize with are also factors influencing your reputation and personal image. Whether you are conscious of it or not, they become the part of your personal style and you may not be able to influence them in any way.
Accessories. The accessories of a successful businessman or manager, such as a car, mobile phone or a notebook, are symbolic of a lack of time, importance of tasks, material success or a certain level of healthy confidence. The successful professional should know what he really needs for his job and what positively influences his image and should only use those accessories that fulfil both requirements.
Other items. Companies that aim to support their identity and differentiate themselves from the others use their own branded pens, notepads, diaries, clipboards and other stationary. If they are not quality items, they can destroy a company’s image. Watches, handbags, business bags and pens should always be a classical type of the best quality that can be afforded. Your choice will, naturally, be influenced by your taste, but it still should reflect your goals rather than your current status.
Speaking on the telephone. The impression someone gets when speaking to you on the telephone temporarily supplements a visual image they have of you. You will get respect if you talk clearly, understandably and with confidence. Call only if you have a good reason. Write down the core of the phone call in a few clear points and do not prolong the call. Eliminate background noise and do not talk to other people during the phone call. If somebody calls you do not let the phone ring for too long. End each phone call in a positive and pleasant manner, even if it was heated or tense.
Etiquette. Good manners may go unnoticed but everyone remembers bad ones. Good etiquette can be defined as sensible behaviour respecting the interests and needs of others while satisfying one’s own. You will achieve an image of good manners by:
- Respect the time, space, privacy and priorities of your colleagues and business partners.
- Respect the rule of the same chances for all.
- Deal in an assertive, but not aggressive way.
- Avoiding gossip.
- Act with general politeness and fairness.
Documents. Create an image of someone (if you do not have it already), who prepares clear, exact and truthful documents. Any information or document you produce, represents you.
Travelling. Maintain your professional image when travelling. You never know who you will meet. Moreover, the better dresses you are, the better service you’ll receive. Also try to:
- Book a place whenever possible.
- Travel first class (you will have secure and calm journey and a chance to work or to prepare for an upcoming meeting).
- Invest in comfort, which will allow you to perform professionally.
- If necessary, pay for status and safety.
Places. Your image and ambitions are represented also represented by your office, the places you dine, how and where you travel, the clubs and associations you belong to, etc. All of these factors influence the perception other people have of your professional status. However, the office is usually not the best place to express your personality and make your preferences known to others. Most people appreciate a comfortable approach and a light touch when giving your personal opinion, rather than an extravagant declaration or assertion.
People. Who you know. Who you are seen with. Who you employ. These are other factors that strengthen your image.