Are You Sabotaging Your Professional Image?
Positive or Negative Image
When we interact with clients and coworkers, what is their impression of us? We might like to think that they see us the way that we see ourselves, but often that is simply not the case. From how we dress to little habits that we have that we may not even notice ourselves, we each display aspects that others may read negative things into, whether accurately or not. What kinds of things might we be doing today that could harm our professional image? While the focus of the article below is on issues that we often relate to females, many of them apply to both genders to greater or lesser extent.
Inappropriate or Suggestive Dress
Inappropriate dress is one of the most obvious ways to undermine your credibility with potential clients. While this applies to both sexes, it is especially true for Women. Experts cite inappropriate television role models, fashion designers, and a lack of self-awareness as the causes of poor career-wear choices among women. If the clothes that you wear are suggestive in nature, it cheapens your image, especially to female coworkers or clients. They may see you as not focused on business or that you want to get ahead by appealing to men in a sexual way. If female coworkers sense this in you, it may engender feelings of competition or resentment. Male coworkers or clients may get the wrong idea, that you are interested in them or again, that you are cheap. If they are attracted to you by the things that you wear, you create a distraction to the business that needs to get done. You may then have to deal with unwanted advances or other problems. Simply put, the business that you do for clients is complex enough without adding to it with interpersonal issues and potential conflict.
Speak too softly.
Some women speak but are not heard because they do not speak loudly enough. Speaking softly often conveys a lack of confidence in what you are saying. Your clients need to know that you are secure in your ability to do work for them. Those that are noticed are those that are often outspoken and convey that they have something meaningful to say.
Also, when you speak softly and are not heard, you create a laborsome conversation where a client must continually ask, “What did you say?” Even worse, your clients may misunderstand what it is that you are saying and come to incorrect conclusions. Misunderstandings will make you less effective and will often strain client relations.
Wear their hair too long.
Experts consider long hair too girlish and distracting. Long hair should be pulled back and off the face during the workday. It is said that well over half of the information that is conveyed in a conversation is done non-verbally through facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. If your face is partially hidden by your hairstyle, you reduce your ability to effectively communicate. Some people that are shy by nature wear long hair and let it hang down intentionally to obscure their facial expressions and to “hide”. You do not want any of these connotations to badly affect your professional image with clients.
Smile and giggle too much.
Many women don’t realize they smile and giggle as much as they do. It’s often a nervous habit, but it robs them of their credibility. You want to be seen as mature and businesslike, one who is in control of yourself and your emotions. You may find that others assume less intelligence than you actually posses because of stereotypes that we have all been exposed to.
Smiling too much or giggling may also give the impression to male clients that you are interested in them for more than business, no matter how innocent your motives might be. You may be seen as flirting with them or making advances.
Use nervous gestures.
Hair-twisting and hand wringing, for instance, are annoying to others, and send a negative message. They will be seen for what they are, indications that you are uncomfortable. When clients sense that you are uncomfortable, they will wonder whether you question your own skills and ability to do the work that they are paying you for. When you radiate confidence, it puts your clients at ease as well.
Apologize too much.
It’s important to acknowledge a genuine mistake, but it’s not appropriate to take responsibility for something that is not your fault. People with little confidence tend to apologize for things that are not their doing. You do not want to be associated with people with low self-confidence.
Whether we like to admit it or not, to a greater or lesser extent, we all take visual cues from others and relate them to those that we have worked with in the past. The mind is a giant association machine, so it is impossible to completely disassociate what we see now with what we have seen before. Knowing that others’ minds work in this way can be to our advantage. If we dress and conduct ourselves in a way that clients relate to very professional people that they have known in the past, we will leave a better impression and have a better working relationship.