Regardless of your vocation, level of education or employment background the need to present yourself professionally is important. The ability to make a positive lasting impression on someone may just be the thing that gets you the job you’re interviewing for or gets you’re the promotion you’ve been vying for. Don’t get me wrong, image isn’t everything and it will never be a substitute for good, honest hard work, however it does give you the leg up. I have had so many clients who think they need lots of money for expensive suits, shoes, and other things and that is just not the case. They think that it’s impossible to improve their image because they don’t have 20+ years of experience or an advanced degree. While these things are great, there are things you can do to change your image for the better while continuing your education and/or building your experience and the best thing about them all is that they’re EASY!
These 5 things won’t require you to make any drastic changes or break the bank on a new wardrobe and you can start using any or all of them immediately.
1. Make sure your clothes fit YOU
You don’t need a $1,000 suit, $500 shoes or a $50 tie to present professionally. What you will need is a mirror, a good tailor (some department stores offer tailoring and even the dry cleaners can even help you out here), a good iron (or steamer), and a good lint roller.
2. Be on time
I’ve always said “It’s better to be 30 minutes early than 5 minutes late.” Most interviews start off by having you fill out paperwork which can take roughly 15-20 minutes. Some interviewers make time for that, some don’t. You don’t want to keep your interviewer waiting if you don’t have to. Show up a bit early so you can wrap up the paperwork or at least have some extra time to check yourself out in the mirror before you go into that meeting.
3. Look good “on paper”
We all know that resumes are important and that will never change. A resume is basically a summation of who you are professionally. The form of a resume may change from traditional printed out sheets of paper to LinkedIn profiles however being able to give someone a quick snapshot of who you are is key. Often this is the very first impression someone gets of you so you’d better make it a good one! Have a pro look it over and make sure it’s what it needs to be. You can even use an online service to grade your resume and give you some tips on improving it. You don’t need to spend boat loads of cash; however you do need to make sure you’re presenting yourself well on paper.
4. Introduce yourself properly
Another keep ingredient in making a good first impression is the introduction. Make good eye contact (without staring of course!), develop a firm handshake. It’s the little things that leave the lasting impression. Introduce yourself using your first and last name initially. If you have a nickname that you’d prefer the other person to use (provided it isn’t one of those nicknames that should never be repeated in civilized conversation), you can introduce yourself with that. Keep it short, keep it professional, and smile! A smile goes a long way in making the other person feeling at ease and really helps to break the ice.
5. Follow-up after meetings (Leave a voicemail…. a good one)
Professionals are always meeting new people. They’re always exchanging contact information and it can be difficult to remember every single name you hear or hand you shake. This is why the follow up is crucial. Among other things, it helps you to be remembered. Send a short follow up email or leave a quick voicemail. Invite the other party out for lunch. Stand out from the rest and really take steps to build that relationship. If you’re going to reach out, make sure you do so properly. After all, you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons. Make sure you state your name clearly in voicemails. If you have a long name that’s difficult to pronounce, spell it! Remind them of where you met and be sure to leave your contact information. Mention your number in the beginning and end of your voicemail. People tend to listen to voicemails quickly so if they miss it in the beginning, they’ll definitely get it at the end. Follow up emails should be no longer than 1 paragraph and should include the same information as the voicemail. Needless to say, you don’t need to mention your contact info 2-3 times in the email.
All of the expensive, well tailored suits in the world will never replace punctuality, a solid resume, and good communication. Seek out a career coach if you need one but make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. The first impression may be the only impression you get to make.