How do personal habits, connections, communication skills, social media commentary, and follow-up with a personalized direct mail postcard combine to help fuel career success? All of these factors — and more — will prove critical when you begin building your own brand. Creating a personal brand means helping the world see you the way you wish to be seen.
And, because it’s personal, your professional image should be unique enough to make you stand out from everyone else.
Individual business owners usually improve their brand by sharing personal information that may help to create a professional image that appeals to their target market. However, developing a professional image is a bit more constrained and, unfortunately, not many people truly understand how a professional image works, nor how it’s built.
Does it have to do with how you dress? Will your mannerisms affect your professional image? Is personality a part of the formula? What does it really take to create a strong, professional image?
These are just a few questions you’ll likely come up with in the process of building your professional image. Listed below are six strategies that should help you improve your professional image, whether it’s for your business, brand, or personal career.
1. Involve your business, if you have one.
People often assume that their professional image only affects themselves, but it actually extends toward their business too.
If you run a business that has successfully established itself as a unique brand in the market, people will naturally assume that the owner has as much credibility as the company. Simply put, your professional image and your company’s reputation are directly connected to each other. This means that improving one will benefit the other.
There are several strategies you can implement to help establish your company’s uniqueness in your target market group. For instance, instead of using a generic marketing strategy, choose a non-traditional approach, such as sending a personalized direct mail postcard. Unique materials are far easier to remember than generic ones. Use that to your advantage when building an image.
2. Work on your appearance.
When you first meet people, they will initially judge you based on your physical appearance. Once you start interacting, they might take more notice of your personality and ability to connect.
If you want to build a better professional image from the get-go, one effective strategy is to create an appearance based on what you want people’s first impression to be. There are several ways to work toward that goal, including:
- avoiding clothes that are crumpled, too loose, or too tight;
- exercising proper hygiene for your teeth, nails, and hair;
- practicing proper posture; and
- following the company’s dress code.
While one might argue that individuality is important, there are ways to showcase your eccentricity without looking like you just got out of bed.
Of course, your appearance is just one facet of your professional image. Habits, in particular, can also serve as a deciding factor when people make judgments. It’s essential to work on that aspect as well.
3. Manage your habits.
Everyone has bad habits. Some people tend to procrastinate. Others are just habitually tardy to everything. Increasingly, some spend an obscene amount of time on social media. If you know someone with these habits, chances are you think of them as anything but professional.
The same will be the case for you if your bad habits come out in the open during the interview process. While it’s difficult to get rid of unwanted habits, you can at least prevent them from being too obvious when you’re out in public. You should also be watchful of often unnoticeable habits, the ticks you’re probably unaware of because they seem trivial. Examples include:
- texting while conversing;
- fidgeting while talking;
- complaining and whining; and
- avoiding eye contact.
These are just a few common — but nevertheless unprofessional — habits you’d want to avoid or fix. As insignificant as they may seem to you, they can serve as a compelling sign for eagle-eyed people that you’re not as professional as they’d prefer.
4. Regulate your social media accounts.
If you have social media accounts, don’t forget to modify (or delete) them to better suit your desired image. When working toward this goal, a good rule of thumb is to keep your personal life separate from your professional life. This means you should delete or at least hide inappropriate posts, personal experiences, and the like.
Use your social media life to post industry-related news and articles that support your brand philosophy. You could also post materials that give you a chance to display your expertise. More importantly, if you haven’t already, change your account photos to something more professional. Hire a professional photographer and put on suitable business attire.
Adding a professional bio to your profile will also go a long way toward establishing your image. However, when making changes to your social media accounts, be careful not to make yourself look too generic or too formal. You don’t want your profile to look the same as everyone else’s. You’re not trying to be too serious such that it looks boring and stiff. For example, you might consider adding some interesting content such as a meaningful but funny quote.
5. Improve your communication skills.
Communication will always be a crucial skill wherever you are, whoever you work for. That’s precisely why people with excellent communication skills are often sought after in the business world. This is a powerful image to convey to others — a sociable person who can engage people and converse at all levels. In short, you may need to improve your communication skills.
You can start by becoming a good listener.
As for your speaking skills, practice delivering prepared speeches in an empty room every now and then. Record your sessions each time so you can review it later and improve your performance.
Of course, that’s not to say that you should only focus on your verbal skills. Remember that in this increasingly digital world, communication is no longer limited to face-to-face interactions.
You should also work on writing click-worthy emails and sending concise, literate text messages. By enhancing your communication skills, people will naturally be drawn to your presence. This will help make forming connections a lot easier. This takes us to the next strategy.
6. Connect with the right people.
Appearance, attitude, skills, and connections are four of the main components of a professional image. After you’ve sorted your appearance, attitude, and skills, how do you go about making connections?
This is where you put the improved version of yourself to good use. If you can make a good first impression with your appearance and hold all the attention you garnered using your newfound communication skills, establishing connections will be smoother. As mentioned above, a direct mail postcard might not seem like a big deal, but something like that will set you apart from the pack, make a deeper impression, and facilitate faster connection with others.
The only thing you’ll need to consider at this point is who you want to be associated with. Choose wisely. If you want to establish a professionally credible image, connect with people that can complement your image. Ideally, these would be people with the same goal and philosophy.
While improving your professional image can be a long, challenging process, the rewards have the potential to be massive. Greet others warmly and appropriately. Dress for the occasion, smile, refrain from fidgeting, and listen well. Communicate well, in every venue, during the process. Invest in a personalized direct mail postcard you can send to prospects and potential employers after your initial meeting. Thank everyone for their time and attention, regardless of outcome.
If you’re looking for a high-level job, a quality professional image will help you attract recruiters. If you plan to run a business, converting prospects into loyal customers will be a lot easier. Simply put, your efforts will bear fruit, one way or another, and following this guide should give you a good head start.