Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Importance of Image

First impressions are lasting ones! At least that's what my mom always told me. I also heard this quite a bit during my first two years of college. But what does that really mean to a business professional? If I were to walk into a boardroom with top company executives to present them with a proposal to invest in my recruiting business and I was wearing a really nice blazer, a pair of jeans and some really nice Kenneth Cole flats...what message would I convey to the executives that are present? Does my appearance exude confidence and credibility? I would have to say no.

What is their first impression of me? In this example what my appearance indicts is that I am 1)Unaware of my audience, 2)I am taking a casual approach to my business, 3)I am unprepared, 4)I am not ready to be a key player in the game, 5)People in the room will definitely remember "what I was wearing" not "what I had to say/sell."

Image is crucial to self-branding. When people meet me or talk about me to other professionals, they won't necessarily remember what I was wearing, but they will ALWAYS remember that I exude professionalism and confidence by my appearance alone. This doesn't mean that I'm wearing a $2,000 suit but it does mean that I am polished and professional looking. My image says I take care of business.

Equally as important as your visual appearance is your verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, if you see me at a networking function and I am off in a corner by myself with my arms folded looking uninterested and irritated, would you be inspired to approach me and begin dialogue? More than likely you would not. The image that I am projecting is that I am standoffish, I am bored, leave me alone and do not approach me. However, if you see me mixing and mingling with various people, wearing a smile and exuding confidence it would have the opposite effect. You would be thinking "who is that?" she seems important, she seems friendly, I wonder what she does. In essence you are motivated to come and introduce yourself to me.

For the past 10 years I have conducted workshops on Business Etiquette to college students across the United States. I cover the do's and don'ts of professional attire in Corporate America. Having lived abroad for 3 years, I conducted a similar workshop in Asia (specific to etiquette in that region). This is always a eye-opener for students making the transition from college to the professional world. Your visual image and your body language (non-verbal communication) are an indication of how you would represent the company for which you are applying. If you are over-the-top flashy with excessive jewelry and expensive alligator shoes, what image is that projecting? For women, if your make-up is excessive and your blouse is low-cut, what image are you projecting?

Let's take it one step further, from a recruiter's perspective, if I receive a resume with an email address that is, what image does that project? If I call you to schedule an interview after reviewing your resume and your voicemail comes on and the ringback tone is the latest Kanye West song, full of profanity, what image does that project? Let's go even further, as an employer I look you up on Facebook or MySpace by your email address (that is on your resume), and I see images on your page that show you in a bar or showing cleavage or your status update has profanity in it, what image does that project?

Again, your personal image is critical to your personal brand (read "The Brand YU Life" by Hajj E. Flemings). If you have had any of these violations in the past it's not too late to change your personal image. What is the message that you want to convey to others when they meet you for the first time? Once you're able to answer that question, contact me and let's discuss how I can help you enhance your professional presence.

Tammy L. Turner
Kapstone Recruiting & Training Services