Redefining Professional Image for the Canadian Workplace
- January 05, 2023
Imagine this scenario: Scott and John both have the same skill set, the same knowledge base, and the same work experience. Essentially, their resumes look identical. Both apply for the same job at a Fortune 500 company in downtown Toronto, and both are invited to do an interview for the same position.
Scott shows up to the interview wearing a suit and greets the interviewer with a handshake and a smile. John wears torn jeans and makes no eye contact throughout the entire interview.
Regardless, after the interview, both candidates leave the room feeling confident.
The next day, John receives an email from the company that says, “Thank you for your time, but we decided to go with another candidate.”
Scott, on the other hand, gets a phone call from the CEO, who says, “Congratulations. When can you start?”
Can you guess why Scott got a job offer?
What is a professional image?
A professional image is how others perceive you, whether at work or in other professional settings. While many may associate a professional image with dressing in business attire, it’s also about effective communication and maintaining a solid work ethic.
Imagine you’re in a meeting, and the person presenting is dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Perhaps they lack confidence and struggle to convey their pitch convincingly. Or maybe they’re unprepared for the presentation. Would you be impressed?
Leaving a positive, lasting impression on your colleagues, clients, and superiors is crucial. By doing so, you’re reflecting your commitment to being competent and reliable in a professional setting.
Why do you need to have a professional image?
A professional image conveys that you are serious about your job and care about creating a positive work environment.
Simply put, if you maintain a professional image, a company will be more willing to hire you, and coworkers will enjoy working with you more.
In the story above, Scott presented a professional image, which helped him land a great job.
But what exactly is a professional image?
A professional image is made of many facets: the way you dress, your mannerisms, the way you communicate, your listening skills, and more.
All these features come together to create not just a good first impression but a long-lasting reputation.
How do you build and maintain a professional image?
Attire & Grooming: No one wants to admit it, but the way you dress and groom yourself has a major impact on the professionalism that you convey. If you show up to an interview with messy hair, torn jeans, and an old t-shirt, your chances of getting hired will plummet, even if you’re an experienced expert in your field.
Professionalism doesn’t have to be expensive though. A haircut and some affordable dress clothes can really impact your professional image. What’s more, being professional doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. Colours and accessories such as ties and earrings can add some flare to your formal wear.
Communication: Being a good communicator is largely about empathizing with others. Communications and marketing professionals often call this “knowing your audience.” If you have an idea of your audience’s interests and dislikes, you can use this information to better communicate with them.
Knowing your audience will help you decide how formal to be and what kind of language is considered appropriate in your workplace. It can take time to learn the communication style of your company, so it is always best to play it safe by starting out with a high degree of formality and politeness.
Nonverbal communication: Non-verbal communication comes from posture, body language, and general demeanour. Even if you have formal clothes and speak with a polite tone, others might think you’re rude if you slouch or scratch yourself during a conversation.
Listening Skills: A big part of being a good communicator and maintaining professionalism is being a good listener. Being attentive to what others are saying shows that you care about your coworkers and your job. If you struggle with listening carefully, try these techniques:
- When someone is talking to you, repeat the last thing they said. This will help you remember and understand what they are trying to convey.
- Ask more questions than you need to. Even if you understand everything that is being said, asking questions or for clarification can help you stay focused.
- Pay attention not only to the words, but to non-verbal cues like eye contact, nodding, and posture. This will give you deeper insight into the meaning the speaker is trying to convey.
What are the 4 A’s of professionalism?
The four common A’s of professionalism are attendance, appearance, adaptability and accountability.
How can leaders encourage professionalism in the workplace?
Leaders can encourage professionalism by modelling positive behaviour, creating an inclusive culture, and communicating clearly.
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