How do you get hired, considered for a promotion or increase your professional visibility? Statistics show that the competition today is stiff.

  • According to a recent study conducted by The National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of jobs held in a lifetime can range anywhere from seven to over 11 jobs.
  • Information compiled by StatsticBrain.com, shows that more than 50 percent of start-up companies fail within the first five years.
  • And in an article published on April 30, 2013, The New York Daily News reported that 40 percent of college graduates are unemployed.

It’s not all bad news though. For every negative statistic, there is an opposite positive statistic. Many people choose strategic job change versus having it forced on them.

  • An average of 45 percent of new business start-ups do succeed past five years.
  • 60 percent of college graduates are getting hired.

You have a unique opportunity to position yourself to be a part of the positive statistic.

The first critical step to succeeding in this competitive market is to create a winning professional image. Time is short. People in a position to influence your career have to make split-second assessments and decisions. You have a brief moment in time with which to convey that you’re worth their investment of time. A polished professional image will buy you that invaluable few minutes to convey that you’re the right choice.

What is a professional image? Your professional image is the overall impression you convey from which others gather cues and make assessments about your character, competence and commitment. These assessments are being made all of the time. If you have professional goals and aspirations, you cannot afford to slack on your professional image.

The components of a professional image:

Physical Presentation – This is what people experience when they have contact with you. This could be in person or through social media. It could be at work or in the grocery store. Anytime people come in contact with you or something that represents you (any social media profiles), this is your physical presentation.

 

 

  • ATTIRE – This is a major component in your physical presentation. It is what you are wearing at any given point in time but especially when you’re at work or being photographed. Keep this in mind when posting pictures for your social media networks.
  • NEATNESS – You don’t have to break the bank to dress professionally. You do have to look like you put a little care into getting yourself together for the day. It shows respect for your audience, and they in turn will show you the same respect.
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Verbal Presentation – How you communicate your message of who you are and why you’re worth the investment of time and money.

  •   WORD CHOICE – Your word choice should demonstrate your intelligence, not your street savvy. Consider your audience when speaking and choosing your words. Make sure you use the same care in all written communication as well.
  •   ARTICULATION – Speak clearly so the listener can hear what you are saying. Look the listener in the eye. Mumbling, “um’s” and “uh’s” and lack of eye contact make your message less credible.
  • PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE BASE – Know what you are talking about and do your research. This is your opportunity to communicate competence. Unless you are adding value from a solid professional knowledge base, what you say will be discounted and considered unimportant.

Presence – Your presence is the combination of your physical appearance, your verbal presentation and your attitude. Even if you dress the part and speak the part, people get a sense of whether you are fully engaged and committed through your attitude. Attitude is communicated in part through body language. You communicate in the way you walk, stand, sit and talk. Your online presence is important as well. Always assume that someone in your network knows someone who can influence your career. A person can lose a job opportunity by posting something online that is better kept private.

Create a winning professional image:

Dress for Success – The term first originated when John T. Molloy wrote a bestselling book called Dress for Success in 1975. The book describes the effect of a person’s clothing on their personal and professional success. While clothing trends have changed, the underlying message has not. What you wear impacts how you are perceived. Today’s definition of acceptable attire has expanded. Terms like Business Attire, Casual Friday and Business Casual all have significant meaning in clothing choices. It is sometimes challenging to decide what is okay and what is not. A few rules of thumb:

  • The first place to start is to consult your company’s dress code and make sure you comply with the minimum requirements. However, if you are interested in obtaining more than the minimum job, then dress for the title you want. If you want to be promoted, dress one level up. If you want respect, dress in a manner that earns respect.
 
  • If you are a business owner, dress in accordance with your industry, but a step better. Set yourself apart from the competition. An additional level of confidence is placed in the individual that has a successful appearance. It gives the impression that your business is good and it would be profitable to work with you.
  • Dress better than you need to – always. You never know when opportunity will knock.
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Speak for Success – Practice your conversational style. A lot of business is done in more casual settings such as passing in the hallway or running into someone at lunch. Always be prepared and ready. Some options for improving if you struggle with this:

  •   Join a local public speaking group like Toastmasters.
  •   Enroll in a public speaking class at a local college.

 

  • Hire a coach to help and provide constructive feedback.

 

Tweet, Post, Pin and Blog for Success – Influential people are watching your online activity. Social media is just one more way for potential employers and clients to gather more data points about your character and professionalism. Your online presence can propel you forward or take you out of the game. Take the time to complete your LinkedIn profile and learn the benefits. Be smart about what you share. Take care in what you write.

Your professional image is critical to your success. Take some time and determine your professional goals. Then, assess what your image is today and what it needs to be for you to achieve your goals. Make and implement a plan that will close the gap between the two and move forward. Begin today!

 

About the author: Kaylene Mathews is the President and owner of KSMLifeCoaching LLC. She offers both personal and group coaching services. For more information visit ksmlifecoaching.com.