Whether you are job searching or simply aiming to climb the ladder in your current role, your professional image is important. Statistics show, in business situations, professionally dressed individuals with the ability to easily communicate their ideas are more frequently looked to for promotions, project leadership and increased levels of responsibility. A polished image exhibits organization, an eye for detail and career focus.
Physical appearance has a variety of meanings. When it comes to your professional image though, being conscious of your physical appearance means focusing on how you dress, carry yourself and behave. Basically what message are you exhibiting to the world?
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Dressing professionally doesn’t necessarily mean a suit and tie. You may work in a business casual environment, but you can still dress professionally.
If you struggle with fashion, head to the mall and check out J.Crew, The Loft or Kenneth Cole. These stores can be pricey, but if you shop the sales and pick up basics that can be used for multiple outfits you’ll be ahead of the game.
When shopping basics think pencil skirts, tailored slacks, nice shoes a few blazers, sweaters and dress shirts. Once you have the basics in line, you can accessorize to mix things up. Slowly continue to add to your basic line up and in time you’ll be pressed and dressed!
Keep in mind that just because you are wearing a nice shirt, a sloppy image will still be noticed. Stay straight by paying attention to these details:
- Ironed shirt, slacks, and clothing
- Stain-free clothing
- Ties free of picks or wrinkles
- Polished shoes and a belt that matches your shoes
- Fitted clothing; slouchy or sloppy clothes look messy
- Groomed appearance including facial hair
We often forget about the message we send to the world when we are at work. This includes when you are out of the office at lunch, with a client or walking home. Your demeanor, attitude and personal conduct speak volumes about your approach to business, ethics and your career. Don’t forget these little things that can add up fast:
- Swearing. Some offices support a culture where swearing is okay, that doesn’t mean you have to join in. Swearing can become a habit that may leak into client meetings or external engagements. Keep it clean when you are at work and it will be easier to maintain a professional image at all times.
- Behaving rudely towards others, especially individuals you feel are “beneath” you in career level.
- Shirking responsibility by passing blame on others or not owning your mistakes.
- Taking credit for the work of a peer.
- Gossiping, bullying and generally behaving like a tool.
It is easy to forget that your timeliness to meetings, staff events, and project deadlines is directly connected to your professional image. If you are frequently late, blow off conference calls or are generally unreliable, your professional image will suffer. Leaders are interested in promoting individuals who are dedicated to their work, their clients and their team. Keep an eye on your timeliness and don’t make these mistakes:
- Missing meetings or showing up late consistently.
- Missing deadlines, even if only by a few hours.
- Holding up projects or meetings by arriving unorganized or unprepared.
- Failing to respond to meeting requests in a timely fashion.
- Failing to communicate or reply to emails, voicemails or text messages regardless of how unimportant you feel something is.
All of the items I covered today are not a huge concern on a one-off basis. After all, we all have days that we are late, tired or accidentally throw on mismatched socks. But, if you scan the list and notice you are a frequent offender of several of these career missteps, do yourself and your career a favor. Step up your game and begin focusing on your professional image and brand!