The job market is a competitive place right now. The numbers of well-paid and interesting jobs are few and far between, while competition for these jobs is growing yearly. This has led to recruiters having the pick of the crop when it comes to filling vacancies, and candidates needing to have the full package of qualifications, experience, skills, the right attitude and image if they want to even compete.
Of all these things, image is perhaps the easiest to get right, but also the one that so many people get wrong.
The basics are easy – making sure you turn up to a job interview dressed professionally, but a professional image goes beyond the job interview. It is a combination of your appearance, your social media profiles and how you conduct yourself within the office.
Often ‘self-branding’ refers to the same thing, which basically comes down to investing in yourself and creating a professional image that makes you an appealing employee and someone people want to work with.
To help you create a well-rounded professional image here are some tips:
First impressions count and people will judge you by what you wear. If you work in a very corporate environment, finance for example, suits are still the norm for men while women also tend to dress formally. Those in more creative industries, however, often wear more relaxed clothes and even jeans can be regularly seen in some offices.
If you look at your industry you will soon start to see a sort of dress code, whether it is relaxed, smart, or fashionable, so in order to show you will fit in well with your peers it is a good idea to modify your style to match. This doesn’t mean you have to copy everyone else, as if you are more comfortable in formal clothes but work in the media, perhaps swap your trousers for a pair of well-cut jeans.
Although many people often overlook their grooming, it is also another important aspect of your image. Making sure you have clean nails and hair, no body odour and, if you are a woman, wear natural, subtle make-up. You might think it won’t make a difference, but people do make judgements based on appearances and if you constantly look scruffy it will give off the impression that you are disorganised and unable to cope with a hectic schedule. However, if you look like you take care of yourself, you look organised and in control.
Our body language is often out of our control, after all we all have our own unique mannerisms. Saying this, however, there are parts of our body language that can be trained to make ourselves look more open, alert and professional. Making eye-contact, for example, when talking to someone makes you seem more trustworthy. Leaning towards someone talking in a meeting makes you appear interested in what they are saying. Alternatively, crossing your arms can make you look defensive and looking at your mobile when someone is talking can make it look like you don’t care about what they are saying.
You might think that your social media is separate from your professional image, but social media profiles are becoming increasingly important. Workers have been reportedly fired from jobs because of status updates they have put on Twitter and Facebook, while many employers will look at a candidate’s social media profiles before making job offers. As well as this, customers and clients are increasingly using social media as a method of researching people within businesses they are working with. This shouldn’t make you paranoid, just remember what you put online, even on private profiles, is in the public realm and can reflect positively or negatively on you.
Written by Derin Clark, a writer, editor and blogger who has many years’ experience writing on business topics.