MARIE WOODARD | Creating a Positive Professional Image
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Creating a Positive Professional Image

Creating a Positive Professional Image

In today’s diverse workplace, your actions and knowledge are constantly under scrutiny. Be sure to manage your own professional image before others do it for you. You are an extension of your company’s brand.

People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated throughout your workplace. It is only wise to add your voice in framing others’ theories about who you are and what you can accomplish.

Your professional image is the set of qualities and characteristics that represent perceptions of your competence and character as judged by your key constituents
(clients, competitors, colleagues).

What is the difference between “desired professional image”
and “perceived professional image?”

Ask yourself the question: What do I want my key constituents to say about me when I’m not in the room? This description is your desired professional image. Likewise, you might ask yourself the question: What am I concerned that my key constituents might say about me when I’m not in the room? The answer to this question represents your undesired professional image.

People manage impressions through their non-verbal behavior (appearance, demeanor), verbal cues (vocal pitch, tone, and rate of speech, grammar, and diction,
disclosures), and demonstrative acts (kindness, job performance). When you present yourself in a manner that is both true to yourself and valued and believed by others, your professional image can yield a host of favorable outcomes for you, your team, and your organization.

Your “true self,” or authentic self-portrayal, will not always be
consistent with your key constituents’ expectations for
professional competence and character.

First, you must realize that if you aren’t managing your own professional image, someone else is.  People are constantly observing your visual image and behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment. It is only wise to add your voice in framing others’ theories about who you are and what you can accomplish. Be the author of your own identity. Take a strategic, proactive approach to manage your image:

Assess your current image and audience.

  • What are the expectations for your profession?
  • How do others currently perceive you?
  • Does your current image support your knowledge?

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis of
an image change.

  • Do you care about others’ perceptions of you?
  • Are you capable of changing your image?
  • Are the benefits worth the costs? (Cognitive, psychological, emotional, physical

Use strategic self-presentation to manage impressions and change your image.

  • Do you “look the part” your profession is accustomed too?
  • Assess every visual advantage you have, hair, clothing, proper grooming and
    accessorizing – do you look the part before you get to introduce yourself. If not, your
    constituents have to work extra hard to see you as right for them.
  • Do you visually convey that your skills are up-to-date within your profession?
  • Do your mannerisms, communication style and habits convey the best of skill and
    knowledge within your profession?
  • Pay attention to the balancing act—build credibility while maintaining authenticity.
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