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Creating a Professional Image: Look and Sound the Part to Get Ahead

Tags:  Reputation, Communication style, Professional appearance

A lion proudly strolls to the edge of the jungle, lifts his head and roars. All the other animals take notice of the king of the beasts and bow in deference. How do they know he is king? He looks and sounds the part.


The same concept is valid for anyone who wants to advance their career. They have to look and sound the part of a business professional if they expect to be taken seriously in the world of business. 


Creating a professional image is more than just about wearing a navy pin-striped business suit and a red Donald Trump power tie. It is about how an individual presents himself visually as well as in his ability to communicate thoughts and ideas.


Creating the Right Visual Image


Back in the 1980s and 1990s the workplace trend of business casual Fridays became popular. Eventually, business casual Fridays flowed over into the other days of the week and soon the once-a-week morale-boosting workplace trend became the norm.


Unfortunately, too many employees have taken the meaning of business casual to the next level – just plain casual – as showing up in cutoffs and flip-flops during the hot summer months has resulted in a new workplace trend: sloppy chic. Unfortunately, it's just sloppy, not chic.


What employees who want to advance their career need to keep in mind is that people constantly observe and make assessments about their character, ability and competence based on their appearance and behavior, and that's why getting ahead requires projecting a professional image that reflects a sense of credibility and authority.


The old adage, ""dress for success,"" is alive and well. Individuals seeking career success must project an image of self confidence, attention to detail, and control, whether that means wearing a business suit or slacks with a polo shirt. An outfit that looks pulled together makes the person wearing it appear pulled together.


As one recent website blogger wrote about appropriate dress, ""…always dress up one level because you may meet someone more senior than you had expected to meet. It's easier to talk amicably to engineers in your jacket and tie and win them over, rather than trying to convince a VP that your Black-Sabbath T-Shirt is no reflection of your business acumen.""


Creating the Right Sounding Image


According to well-known management expert, Peter Drucker, ""Knowledge is the only meaningful resource,"" and knowledge belongs to each of us. It's mobile and it's for sale. 


Anyone with their sight on career advancement needs to develop their business and financial acumen while gaining an understanding of the industry, the market and their customers.

To do this, career-minded employees should:
  • Read and understand their department budget, company financial statements and the annual report;
  • Learn about other departments and their goals by sitting in on department meetings and networking with their staff members;
  • Study industry reports and trade publications;
  • Learn the organization's culture, mission, values, and vision;
  • Ask questions like: who is the competition and what differentiates this organization from others?

Having gained this knowledge, employees are now better equipped to discuss issues, offer suggestions on ways to improve processes and procedures and take an active role in the business operations.


So next time casual Friday rolls around, think about the message you want to send. Creating a professional business image is all about looking and sounding the part.

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