Take my advice – #3

Present like a professional

This advice is for those who have career ambitions. If you’re happy with the status quo, that’s OK too. Sometimes, life’s more important events just get in the way or perhaps a career is not one of your priorities. For those who have set their sights on moving up in the workplace, I have a few words of advice related to personal presentation.

Dress for the job you want, not the one you already have. This may sound like a cliché you’ve heard before, but it is still valid. I once had lunch with a middle manager friend on a casual Friday. She was wearing blue jeans, sneakers and a gray hoodie. As we were discussing Casual fridayworkplace issues, I found myself questioning her presentation and finally said, “How can you expect to be taken seriously as a manager when you’re dressed like a university student?” Depending on your corporate culture, casual Fridays have now grown in some workplaces to include the entire work week. But that does not mean you should ever be anything less than professional. While we no longer have to deck ourselves out in the “Dress For Success” plain suits and silk bow ties, there is still a standard to be observed. Showing too much skin or dressing provocatively is distracting and sends a message that you should be noticed for your sex appeal rather than your professional ability. There’s plenty of help out there in the form of books, websites, personal consultants and even retail sales personnel if you need a bit of guidance.

Personal presentation also includes manners. Working at a construction company, I saw many managers and supervisors in the field with table manners2poor basic manners at business luncheons and other corporate functions, so I organized a day-long business etiquette seminar for anyone who wanted to attend. Some approached the issue with a casual level of disdain while others welcomed the opportunity to improve themselves. The facilitator covered everything from the proper use of fish forks (most attendees had never even seen a fish fork before), to how to dress, body language, entertaining for business, whether to order a drink before your guests arrive or even whether to order a drink at all. It was a very successful day and equipped a lot of people with the confidence they needed to conduct themselves properly at business functions.

Present yourself positively and excel at speaking in public. To some people, this is easy but for most of us it requires time and training to build the public speaking necessary skill set. I cannot say enough good things about Toastmasters International. I spent a winter attending their once-a-week evening sessions learning the basics of public speaking. Toastmasters builds skills by degrees, beginning with simple exercises such as delivering one-minute impromptu speeches from unknown “Table Topics” to more advanced presentations. I found their meetings incredibly helpful in building confidence by practising speaking in a supportive and encouraging environment. Watching my fellow Toastmasters members, commenting on their strengths and having them do the same for me was unbelievably helpful. I guarantee this will turn a dread of speaking in front of people into something to look forward to and actually enjoy. Thanks to Toastmasters, I progressed from being unable to even speak up at a meeting to making a presentation about corporate marketing that captured the front page of The Globe and Mail’s business section.

Never underestimate the impression you make on others – in the way you dress, the way you conduct yourself at corporate events and your ability to project a positive image. After all, you are a representative of your company and you should always put your best foot forward.

To read Advice #2 and Advice #1, see links: http://boomerbroadcast.net/2013/11/23/take-my-advice-and-live-happily-ever-after/  and  http://boomerbroadcast.net/2013/12/17/take-my-advice-2/

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