How To Make Better Impressions: Personally and Professionally

Everyone dreams of the next step in their career or their next big raise, but how do we make those opportunities happen? What can we do to position ourselves more effectively for success – personally or professionally?

1. How making the right impressions can help you

Remarkably, what might be as important if not more important than actually having the appropriate skills and competencies that our professional positions require is the perception of the competency and success that we radiate to others. A recent study published in the St. Louis Fed’s publication, The Regional Economist, suggests that beautiful people are paid on average 5% more than their average-looking counterparts. Those with below-average looks suffer a “plainness penalty,” earning an average of 9% less than the average.

The question is, why are these so-called “beautiful people” being paid more for the same quality of work, and how can we use this information to advance ourselves personally and professionally?

2. Learn how others immediately perceive you

Because of the barrage of information we have to process, rarely do we have the luxury of analyzing and re-analyzing all information available before making a decision. We often come to immediate conclusions based on what we see or perceive; and once we have made a first impression, it usually sticks. Why? We have been socialized to make a conclusion about someone or something first, and then to look for evidence to support our conclusion later.

3. Every interaction matters

In helping organizations find the best speakers or consultants that can help them reach their objectives, I work with managers at every level of an organization. I’ve recognized that hiring managers often have to make swift judgments on a prospective job applicant’s abilities based on a cursory scan of the candidate’s resume, looking for the skills and competencies they need. Take care to make great first impressions, being conscious of how you or the message you are communicating will be perceived. This is an appropriate framework for every professional interaction.

4. How to give the impression of “promote-ability”

Remarkably, executives and business owners note that 80% of the workforce falls into the category of average or below average, while only 20% of the employees are above average and hence “promote-able” in the eyes of upper-management.

5. Why individuals get stuck professionally

One of the main reasons that individuals at every level of employment are not promoted is simply that the person they report to does not think the candidate is qualified for the next job. Sometimes the most obvious solutions are the most effective. Simply ask the individual you report to what skills and abilities will be required of you before you can move up to the next position. Then, start asking for new responsibilities in those areas where you need to expand your scope of competence.

6. Improve the image you radiate to others

Try checking out these resources at your local library:

Make it So You Don’t Have to Fake it, by Patricia Fripp
Life is a Series of Presentations, by Tony Jeary
You’ve Only Got Three Seconds, by Camille Lavington
The Fine Art of Small Talk, by Debra Fine

7. The Solution: Communicate your successes!

When I worked with clients as a career-coach, I recommended that they communicate their weekly accomplishments to the individual they report to, in a summary e-mail, at the end of the week. They would quickly delineate their most significant accomplishments for the week and explain where they are at on other critical projects. You could even take this opportunity to ask for more responsibility in some of the areas where you need to expand your skills. In an age of decreasing supervision, with employees often reporting to managers in different physical locations, it has become increasingly important to communicate your accomplishments with those individuals that have influence over your career advancement. The old bromide remains true: If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will.

Copyright 2005 Koby Fleck. All rights reserved.

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