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No matter who you are or what you do, the way you dress and present yourself has a major impact on your success. In fact, when you walk into a room, it only takes 60 seconds for someone to form an impression of you based on your clothing, your mannerisms, and your manners.

A great professional image not only gives you more confidence, but also helps you present yourself more competently and promotes your effectiveness and credibility with other people. Also, a great professional image is absolutely critical to the longterm, sustainable business growth of your company.

Using the 4 Steps to Propel Your Professional Image, evaluate yourself. For added perspective, have several confidants give you their candid assessment. Then take the steps necessary to make the changes and improvements.

4 Steps to Propel Your Professional Image

1. Dress for Success. 

  • Consider what you’ve been wearing to work. Does it communicate your personal and professional best? Has your business casual become too casual?
  • In the business arena, the “Wall Street” look is always fashionable when meeting with prospects and clients. Having several quality, well-fitting suits in subtle, conservative colors is better than a closet full of inferior, ill-fitting ones.
  • Find apparel brands that fit well. Then buy multiple pieces, such as dress shirts or dress slacks, in several colors.
  • Avoid neckties with flashy prints; subtle pin dots and stripes are fine.
  • Discard knits that are “pilled” and shirts with worn cuffs and collars. Update with the new “wrinkle-free” 100 percent cotton shirts and blouses for an all day-fresh look.
  • Make a trip to the tailor with items needing repair—remember those slacks you rehemmed with duct tape?
  • What about eyeglass frames and your hairstyle? Do they need updating?
  • Shoes matter, too. Think quality—think polished—think worn heels replaced, even those tiny ones on your favorite stilettos.
  • Wear quality accessories that speak of sophistication, not cuteness.
  • Invest in a nice leather portfolio and business card case.

2. Enhance Nonverbal Communication

  • Good nonverbal communication is essential for a lasting good impression and shows you are a consummate professional.
  • Look at your posture in the mirror. Good posture not only makes you look competent, but it can make you look 10 pounds lighter!
  • How is your business handshake? Is it just the right firmness? Are you aware of the right times to give a handshake?
  • How is your eye contact when shaking hands and during introductions and conversations?
  • Avoid chewing on gum or sucking on a piece of hard candy. This can damage initial impressions very quickly.
  • Cover body art. A recent survey by Vault.com found that 85 percent of employers say having a tattoo will hurt an applicant’s chances of getting a job.

3. Maximize Your Organizational Image

  • Are you on time for work and meetings, or do you consistently run late? You show respect to others by showing up on time or even early.
  • Are you prepared for meetings you attend? If you facilitate, do you help keep the group’s energy focused in positive, productive ways?
  • Do you let others finish speaking before sharing your thoughts?
  • Do you complete work projects and tasks on time?
  • Does your workspace denote organization and efficiency?
  • Do you return phone calls and e-mails in a timely fashion?

4. Utilize Essential Business Etiquette and Protocol

  • Do you handle business social events with savvy? Can you converse with charm and ease at networking events?
  • Do you introduce yourself and others with confidence and with correct protocol?
  • Do you remember people’s names and use them in conversation?
  • Do you use proper protocol for giving and receiving business cards rather than coming across like someone on Time’s Square passing out flyers?
  • Are you aware of business dining protocol—from choosing the restaurant, to issuing the invitation, to seating your guest in the proper place, to who orders first, to paying the bill discreetly?
  • Do you know napkin etiquette and how to navigate the place setting?
  • Do you use proper manners for eating various foods, including soup?
  • Do you know how to give a toast, if you’re the host, or respond to a toast if you’re the guest of honor?
  • Is your electronic etiquette first class? Is your cell phone on vibrate during meetings and your e-mails free of grammatical and punctuation errors?
  • Do you greet guests to your office with a friendly welcome?
  • Do you refrain from gossip and inappropriate jokes?
  • Do you support your coworkers by providing help when needed and thank those who help you?

Clearly, having a great professional image can help you stand out in the crowd and “outclass the competition” at your next corporate outing, business meal, interview, or networking event. You’ll be able to walk into any room or event and concentrate on the people and business at hand.