ABOUT THIS VIDEO
WEEK 9: Professional Behavior and Image Whether you realize it or not, you have a professional trademark or “brand.” That stems from your appearance, actions and speech. Make sure your trademark represents you well. This is a power-packed segment of the series that you won’t want to miss!
Welcome to week nine, Professional Behavior and Image. This is the one I like to call the icing on the cake! If you think about it, if you have great skills, attitude, a team player and been in the field for a long time, as well as another administrative professional, what would set you apart? Well, I’m here to tell you it would be your professional image, how you present yourself, your behavior, actions and your speech.
Interestingly, this was the largest chapter in Become an Inner Circle Assistant; did I plan it that way? Not at all, as I laid out all of the competency areas from my years of teaching administrative staff, this particular area just kept growing and growing. All these different topics in this particular category ended up being those in professional behavior and image. Again, this just demonstrates the importance of how we act, how we present ourselves, and to achieve administrative excellence, this is going to be integral to your success.
Moving forward, today we will discuss a couple of key points. To begin, the way you look, speak, act or present yourself will either detract or enhance your perceived credibility. If we look into those two words, perceived means: How others see you. What the think about you, the impressions they form about you. Now, those perceptions may not be right, but it’s their reality of you. What I perceive, is what I believe. Credibility means: the ability to inspire belief or trust. It is believability, reliability, authority and sincerity. People want to do business with people they perceive to be credible. So if you want to be taken seriously, you have to be perceived as being credible. To be perceived as being credible, that is going to come from how you act and present yourself to the people around you.
Why should you care? Well, I’ve already given you one reason, so people will take you more seriously. But, I’d like to point out some reasons why it’s so important to reflect a professional image. First and foremost, you are a representative of your organization! People are forming impressions of your organization on how you treat them, how you act and how you welcome them. You could be a wonderful role model representing your organization. In my book Become an Inner Circle Assistant, I refer to the statement “While your company may embrace casual dress, there are actually six levels of casual dress.” The ranges are from sporty to business casual; so the question would then be what level does your business want you to follow?
Another reason why you should care about your professional image is because you are your own calling card. According to Susan Bixler, author of The New Professional Image, “It only takes 30 seconds for people to form numerous impressions about you; such as your education level, career competence, personality, level of sophistication, skill, talent, trust worthiness and social heritage. She also talks about the halo effect, that is, people form quick impressions about us. If they see that you’re neat, organized, professional, alert and focused, they assume you’re like that in every aspect of your life. However, if they come in and see you have a mess all over your desk, things all over the place, and appear to be very distracted, they assume you’re like that in every aspect of your life. They will think you are disorganized when it comes to how you accomplish your task and projects, and how well you organize meetings. So the halo effect is really important and should be considered for the representation of your career and you company.
Next, and please highlight this one as one of the most important factors to success in your professional career, is that as an administrative professional, people take you more seriously. The administrative profession has come a long way from 1970 when I started and we still have a long way to go. We NEED to be taken seriously in this profession, and casual dress is actually working against us in the administrative profession. This is so management can view this as a true career, a career of choice and a career that should even have succession planning. In the end, how you perceive your self in your role is how the out come will be determined.
I have yet another great reason why you should care about your professional image, YOU inspire others! From looking your best, act you best, present yourself well, and have a positive attitude, you inspire others to do their best and step up to the plate. To give you an example, back in my career, I worked for a small computer company. I noticed that a lot of the women there would wear blue jeans and a regular blouse or top, well; being the office manager and because I perceived myself as a business women, I would always come dressed in a nice skirt with a sweater or a nice pant suit. After about six months of being there and demonstrating professionalism, do you know that the women began dressing in more business attire, and they where taken more seriously! That’s why it is so important to think about just how you can inspire others. Another, this one was very pleasant for me, I was working for a very large company, a division of Steelcase, and we had about 900 employees and we had a lot of visitors in and out of that facility. While I was sitting at my desk, a visitor came in, and I continued working, I was dressed professional and my things where neat and organized. He comes over to my desk and he says “you know just looking at you and how professional you look and how neat you are, you make me feel good today!” What a compliment! In the end, don’t fall into the ‘well everybody else does this, so I need to do this.’ Maintain your professionalism at all times so you too can stay in line with YOUR career goal(s).
I’d like to share with you the Rule of 12; that is, people begin to form an impression of you 12 feet away. As you’re walking down the hall, entering into a building for the first time, attending a meeting or conference or even passing someone at a desk, from 12 feet away, we are already forming an impression of each other. They’re forming impressions of how smart they think we are, or what level of education we have, even how much money we have or don’t have. After that, they form an impression of the first 12 inches, because of course as a person moves in; they’re focusing on the face. Then they form an impression from the first 12 words you speak to decide if they want to get to know you better or if they want to get away from you as fast as they can. What this ultimately leads to is what I’d like to call, congruency. To elaborate, our outer image should be congruent with our inner image; what we say out of our mouths should reflect our outer professional image.
We live and breathe perception here in the United States of America. I’m often asked why does my dress matter anyways? Isn’t it about my brains? Unfortunately in our country, image does matter and we have to live up to the expectation. That doesn’t mean you can’t be true to yourself, the question is how you can be true to yourself in a professional way in the work place. Your professionalism is everything about you.
To sum it all up, here is a list of what professionalism includes (by my definition):
- Dress Appearance
- Attitude Behavior(s)
- Self confidence
- Body language
Activity for the week: I have three, you can do all three or just one:
- Be objective about yourself and do an analysis from head to toe. The goal is to enhance your natural image with compliments from certain styles, colors, accessories etc…
- Broaden your vision, what do you keep around you? What kind of note pads do you use? What kind of lunch tote do you carry?
- Take your vision further, what does your office say about you? Are you setting a ready to work image, or an I wish I was at home image.