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Your Image Is You

Communication and Appearance in Networking


Business people having lunch meeting
Klaus Vedfelt/ Riser/ Getty Images

Successful people believe their success is attributable to a pattern of mutually beneficial interpersonal relationships, as much as it is due to technical skills or business knowledge. Your communication and the image you present create the first impression - often the lasting impression - on the people you meet.

Want a more professional image? How you present yourself is the first step in building that mutually beneficial network of contacts.

Studies about people meeting reveal that most people make decisions about a new acquaintance within the first thirty seconds to two minutes of interaction. This does not give you much time to make a good impression.

A study by Dr. Albert Mehrabian at UCLA revealed that when we try to convey meaning through our communication with others, the majority of our message is communicated nonverbally and through voice and facial expression.

His studies revealed that up to 37% of a first impression is based upon the speaker's tone of voice. On the telephone, that number rises to 80% or higher, according to many communication consultants.

Let's look at four areas that have a huge impact on your image and how you present yourself professionally:

  • appearance,
  • interpersonal interaction,
  • written interaction, and
  • networking.

Professional Appearance Counts

The standard advice given by mentors and managers to people who want to advance their career has always been to dress for the job you want, not the job you have currently. Even in this day of more casual dressing for work, your professional image will serve you well when promotions, lateral moves, choice assignments and departmental visibility are available.

A professional appearance sets you apart from coworkers who are less concerned about projecting a successful, professional image. Here are Guidelines for Business Casual Dress and for Business Casual Dress in a Manufacturing Work Environment. These dress code guidelines will serve you well in any workplace that espouses today's casual environment.


Speaking to Groups to Enhance Your Image

Do you know that studies have demonstrated that more people claim to be afraid of public speaking than they are of dying? Yet, public speaking, presentations at meetings, and speaking eloquently in small groups can do more for your career visibility than almost any other opportunity. Promotions also come more frequently to employees who are able to communicate effectively in person.


Project a Professional Image in Writing

Your self-presentation via written reports, email, correspondence, and all other forms of written communication is the face you most frequently present to your workplace or professional community. With email correspondence, IMs, texting, and posting to social networks, informality usually rules. That’s a mistake for your professional image.

These communication tools at work are formal and professional communication tools and should look like formal communication. In email, for example, begin with a greeting (Dear Mary), a closing (Regards), and a signature file that tells who you are, your title, department, work address and telephone number. These articles provide more details.

For general instruction in writing, check out Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab. It’s a great reference. For general information about professional and business writing, Purdue comes through once again. This index will lead you to topics such as: General business writing issues, Letters, memos and reports, and Samples and Models. They are all worth your time.

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