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Is your image sending out the right message?

By Eve Mosongo | March 10th 2021
Portrait of cheerful, positive, attractive, rich manager in black suit with tie having his arms crossed looking at camera isolated on grey background [Courtesy]

Dress for the job you want and not the one you have. Chances are you have heard these words. And any professional worth their salt knows that how one dresses is an essential part of communication. In fact, research shows that it takes one tenth of a second to make an impression on anyone, and that is largely from your appearance. Your hair, clothes and shoes form part of your identity.

However, there are certain things, by extension, that project your image, your values, style and character to other people. You might be messing up your image unknowingly, by losing sight of these.

1.    Accessories

There are those people who never have a hair out of place. Their clothes are usually crisp and they smell like a million bucks. However, their cell phones, if displayed in public, will have people running for the hills. Their phones will have webbed screens due to several crashes, their cases will have stains from a dinner they had a week ago and, to top it all off, their cases might be unprofessional. This will shatter the illusion that you had of them, I believe. Then there are those who you’ll regret having borrowed a pen from. The pen might have teeth marks and the cap half chewed off! And, half the ink might have bled out, leaving the pen looking like one big stain.

Your accessories - phones and pens - speak a lot about you. Invest in keeping your phone presentable. It might not be the most expensive brand in the market, or the latest model, but keep it presentable. Same goes with your pens. Let them be of good quality and condition. It is the small things that count, so let these convey the style and care that you put in everything.

2.    Your Zoom fund

The coronavirus pandemic led to the rise of use technologies such as Zoom. These days we find ourselves in hours’ long meetings and classes by use of platforms such as Zoom. Panelists on television have debates or discussions via such platforms because they can’t afford to risk their guests’ health. The world of the future is starting to get more connected in this sense, and virtual meetings are here to stay.

So, if zoom is your office, what does your zoom fund say about you?

1.     Let it be a white wall rather than a messy background. The background of your meetings must be orderly, balanced and preferably of neutral colours.

2.    The people you’re in meetings with should not have to suffer the glare coming through your window. It shouldn’t be a distraction.

3.    Have good front lighting, and a camera at face level.

3.    Etiquette

To show appreciation and let your host know you’re enjoying your dish, the Chinese slurp their food. That’s just one setting because the world is full of diverse cultures. Slurping is actually frowned upon in most places across the globe. Lack of etiquette is cause for red flags because bad manners speak of internal values manifested unconsciously.

·       Do you greet and smile at the people who serve you? How do you interact with them?

·       Are you punctual or are you the one who usually holds up meetings with your lateness?

·       Are you respectful of everyone, regardless of age? How you behave speaks a lot more than your most expensive shoes ever could.

·      Do you put your phone away and listen while others are talking? Be friendly, and put others before you.

4.    Social networking

When social media came along, initially, it was all about how many friends you could make on Facebook, how many followers you could get on Twitter, and whose tweet gets retweeted the most. That still is the case, today. However, unlike before, where social media was never aligned to your professional profile, employers these days visit these platforms to see what and how you’re spending your time on.

These platforms are part of your extended image and directly affect the perception of your brand in the environment in which you develop. Cancel Culture in Hollywood began as a result of social media. For example, stand-up comedian and actor Kevin Hart lost the chance to host the OSCARS as a result of a sexist tweet he posted over a decade ago. Your networks must convey your personality and your personal and professional interests. Everything you put out there is public. And, remember, the internet never forgets. Be intentional about how you use social media.

 5.    Cards and contact information

Until recently, the first thing people would ask for is your business card. In professional settings, it’s the first thing we’d hand out as we introduce ourselves. But technology is taking over and young professionals now prefer to exchange cell contacts instead of cards. Whichever way you choose - paper or digital card contact - do it in a way that portrays you in a positive way. If it’s paper, make a good impression with well designed, well printed and up to date cards. If you go the digital way, use complete, updated and easy to transmit cards. Do not “pass your number”, but your card, with your complete information and in a professional way.

6.    Your car

There are instances where you regret having asked for a lift from a colleague because the amount of time it takes for them to clear out a seat for you would have been spent walking to the train or bus station. There are people who treat their cars like bedrooms. Others use them as dining rooms, too. Most people I know name their cars because the vehicles, they say, have personality. Your vehicle is a projection of your values. Those around you see it and associate it with your personality. Don’t go into debt trying to get one, though. However, if you do have a car, keep it flawless.

7.    Your office space

We spend a lot of our time in the office so it’s natural to have that space reflect our personality. Keep it neat; keep it organised. Stop using the “there’s a method to this madness” metaphor when it comes to your office. People don’t want to walk into a room full of stacks of papers, an overflowing trash can, disorganised files and dirty cups that were used to drink coffee a few weeks ago. Your office is the visual metaphor for your brain so keep it organised.


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