By Miranda Lindsey, Volunteer.
Despite the misleading name, a professional image is more than just a picture.
Your professional image includes the characteristics that you present to others that allows them to make determinations about the type of person you are and your ability to successfully complete your duties.
To succeed in your position and your career, you will need to develop a positive professional image that demonstrates that you are a hard-working, competent, and qualified person.
Your professional image is made up of two foundational principles: the actions you take and the attitude you have that leads to certain behaviors.
The Actions You Take
One of the actions that you will take that contributes to your professional image is building your outward appearance. At work, you need to look like you belong because you are representing the organization. A clean, organized appearance can demonstrate to others that you care about yourself, your role, and your environment. The organization you work for may help guide your decisions on your appearance in the workplace by requiring a uniform or establishing a dress code. You also need to appear ready for work in your body language as well as your dress so that customers and colleagues know that you are engaged, attentive, and ready.
Another action that will help build your professional image is managing your time effectively. Time is important to most work environments, as you need to be on time to work, meet deadlines, and take lunch and work breaks on time. Arriving to work on time demonstrates that you are organized, reliable and that you respect your colleagues and their time. When you are late, it may come off as unprofessional and disrespectful. Time management includes prioritizing your work during working hours. Do your best to ensure that personal things such as personal phone calls or messages are reserved for personal time, like on breaks or outside of your working hours.
Being present at work is another action that contributes to your professional image.
Being present involves more than just physically being at work, it includes giving 100% of your focus and full attention to the task or conversation at hand. Try to avoid distraction and multitasking. Your active presence, energy, and commitment to your work demonstrate a great work ethic, which is extremely valuable to employers and vital to getting hired or promoted in your career.
Reliability and trustworthiness are also important to your professional image.
You must do what you say you will do and do it in a reasonable amount of time to demonstrate that you can be trusted. People will not trust you with bigger, more important tasks and more responsibility until they know they can trust you with the tasks they have already assigned to you.
Effective communication is also key to building a professional image.
Communicating effectively can be challenging, as you will work with different types of people in different situations throughout your career. No matter your style, try to be clear and professional in what you are saying in all situations.
The Attitude You Have
Your attitude is your feeling or way of thinking that affects your behavior, and it involves the facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language that you have when you are doing something. Your customers, clients, colleagues, and supervisors will prefer to work with you and be around you when you have a positive attitude as opposed to a negative attitude. Negative things will happen in your personal and your work life. Acknowledge your feelings and give yourself time to process them. It’s okay to be upset, but you shouldn’t let a negative incident develop into a permanent, negative attitude. Your attitude is your choice; even when negative things happen, you are the one who decides how to react. As a professional, you cannot let your frustration control how you react to a situation.
Always striving towards honesty and accountability also builds a positive professional image. It is often easy to be honest when things are going well, but it is much harder to be honest when things do not turn out the way you planned, like when you make a mistake. Always stay calm, be honest, and own up to your actions when you make a mistake. The goal in difficult situations such as these is to learn from them and improve how you handle them in the future.
Throughout your career, you will be constantly building your professional image. In order to construct a positive one, you need to be sure that you are being positive and professional in the actions you take and the attitude you have. Building your professional image will take time, patience, and hard work. Don’t allow any mistakes, setbacks, or negative beliefs about yourself hold you back from becoming the amazing professional that you can be.
The information in this blog post is sourced from the Developing a Professional Image course available to all Suited for Change clients through SFC’s partnership with Edge.
Did you know that clients of Suited for Change are able to access the Edge platform and its various courses in Leadership and Professional Development (including this one) at no cost?
Following completion of each module, clients are provided a professional certificate of completion which they can share with companies on their resume to demonstrate their knowledge of these skills and techniques.
About Miranda Lindsey:
Miranda Lindsey is a SFC volunteer and a recent graduate of the Master of International Affairs program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. She is passionate about service, and excited about the positive impact she can make in her community through her work with SFC.
Stay connected with us by following us on social media @suitedforchange, and signing up for our Monthly Newsletter for additional updates.