I CAN Refresh my Professional Image Strategy

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They say it takes less than ten seconds to make a first impression.  Your professional image is critical to your career success as the skills on your résumé. Just as each movement on a chess board requires strategy, each movement in your career development requires a revitalization of your image. With each movement forward in your career, remember that you CAN (Communications, Appearance and Networking) refresh my professional image strategy.

Communications

Communications are integral to success. In each position, there is a level of formality in communications. Often, a hidden curriculum exists when it comes to club communications that is only apparent after evaluating the environment. How do others speak with their peers, with their supervisors, with other members? What words do they use to communicate? What does their body language convey when they are speaking?  Take the time to evaluate the environment in relation to your own communication skills. What parts of communication are you strong in and what could you improve upon? If evaluation is a difficult task, leverage the feedback of other peers, supervisors, and subordinates to help focus on key areas that could be improved. Set a goal in your strategy to work on an aspect of communication each month. For example, if confidence was a goal for one month, ensure you make eye contact with others, give a firm handshake, square yourself directly towards others when engaging in conversation and take compliments gracefully. A book that you could look into for advice on etiquette in all types of communications for both men and women is called The Modern Gentleman, 2nd Edition: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy, and Vice by Jason Tesauro. You could also look at books on body language, such as The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara and Allen Pease or What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins.

Appearance

Your appearance makes a significant impact on others, especially in the club industry. It used to be that appearance referred to the clothes you wore and your overall grooming style. While these facets of appearance still matter, today your online presence (whether on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media platform) impacts your appearance. Creating a strategy that incorporates both an online and offline appearance is necessary. What five words would you use to describe how you want to be perceived? How would you describe the appearance of your mentors in the club industry? Do your descriptions of how you want to be perceived align with the image of the club? How does your online appearance align with your offline appearance? When you look at colleague’s or mentor’s appearances online, what do you notice? Take the time to identify the key words that you want to describe your appearance and spend time looking at resources on the web to guide your strategy. For example, for recent grads, North Dakota State University hosts Dress for Success which documents styles appropriate for different venues. Style and grooming blogs on the Internet cater to both men and women; two style blogs targeted towards men are Ask Andy About Clothes and Ape to Gentleman. For online appearances, there are resources that outline how to optimize your online presence such as Mashable’s The Beginners Guide to Social Media.

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Networking

The last part of creating a professional image strategy is networking. The definition of networking is to build professional, mutually serving relationships for the purpose of helping both parties obtain their goals.  When networking at events, your communication and appearance make a difference. Think about how you reconnect with people that you already know. How can you push yourself to meet new contacts? How can you spark interest in conversation by asking open-ended questions? What type of follow-up do you plan on completing after meeting new contacts—is email appropriate or maybe LinkedIn? Professor Rob Cross from the University of Virginia published a book titled Driving Results Through Social Networks which covers the people and process aspect of networking. Also, Nicholas Christakis talks about the influence of social networks in on Ted.com. 

By taking the time to think through your communications, appearance, and networking styles, you CAN not only identify your current professional image but set yourself up to refresh your professional image strategy as you move forward in your career.

Mona Anita Pix 

Mona Anita Olsen and Brittany Marquez make a difference at the Virginia-based educational non-profit iMADdu (I make a difference, do you?). Olsen founded iMADdu Inc. in 2010 and launched a Student Apprenticeship Program which provides students with hands-on entrepreneurial experience and mentorship over the course of a 12-week program.  Olsen is a 2012-2013 Fulbright Grantee to Norway leveraging her background in hospitality and information technology as she finishes up her Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship Education.  Marquez is an Events Apprentice at iMADdu. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs and aspires to be one someday. Brittany is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Tourism and Events Management at George Mason University. Learn more about iMADdu at www.imakeadifferencedoyou.org.