Communication and Professional Image in Networking

4 Areas Most Enhance Your Professional Image

Business team looking at adhesive notes in board room during meeting
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Successful people believe their success is attributable to a pattern of mutually beneficial interpersonal relationships, as much as it is due to technical skills or business knowledge. Your communication and the image you present create the first impression—often the lasting impression—on the people you meet.

Want o to develop a more professional image? How you present, yourself is the first step in building that mutually beneficial network of contacts.

Studies about people meeting reveal that most people make decisions about a new acquaintance within the first thirty seconds to two minutes of interaction. One study identified that this decision occurred in a tenth of a second.

This does not give you much time to make a good impression.

In a phone interview, Dr. Albert Mehrabian at UCLA said that his study revealed that when people try to convey meaning through their communication with others, the majority of your message is communicated nonverbally and through voice and facial expression.

His studies revealed that up to 37% of a first impression is based upon the speaker's tone of voice. On the telephone, that number rises to 80% or higher, according to other communication consultants.

These are the four areas that have a huge impact on your image and how you present yourself professionally:

  • appearance,
  • interpersonal interaction,
  • written interaction, and
  • networking.

Professional Appearance Counts

The standard advice given by mentors and managers to people who want to advance their careers has always been to dress for the job you want, not the job you have currently.

Even in this day of more casual dressing for work, your professional image will serve you well when promotions, lateral moves, choice assignments, and departmental visibility are available. Think about the last time you admired a colleague. Their professional image likely played a role.

A professional appearance sets you apart from coworkers who are less concerned about projecting a successful, professional image. Here are guidelines for business casual dress and business casual dress in a manufacturing work environment. These dress code guidelines will serve you well in any workplace that espouses today's casual environment.

Speak to Groups to Enhance Your Professional Image

Do you know that studies have shown how serious the fear of public speaking is for many people? This study found that "public speaking was selected more often as a common fear than any other fear, including death. However, when students were asked to select a top fear, students selected death most often. These findings help authors and instructors aptly quote the 1973 Bruskin Associate's findings, which were confirmed by this study." 

Public speaking, presentations at meetings, and speaking eloquently in small groups can do more for your career visibility than almost any other opportunity. Promotions also come more frequently to employees who can communicate effectively in person.

Project a Professional Image in Writing

Your self-presentation via written reports, email, correspondence, and all other forms of written communication are the face you most frequently present in your workplace or professional community. With email correspondence, IMs, texting, and posting to social networks, informality usually rules. That’s a mistake for your professional image.

These communication tools at work are formal and professional communication tools and should look like formal communication. In an email, for example, begin with a greeting (Dear Mary), a closing (Regards), and a signature file that tells who you are, your title, department, work address, and telephone number.

For general instruction in writing, check out Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab. It’s a great reference. For general information about professional and business writing, Purdue comes through once again. Their index will lead you to topics such as General business writing issues, Letters, memos and reports, and Samples and Models. They are all worth your time.

Trusting that the advice in these four areas will help you project the professional image you want others to notice about you, use these tips to enhance your career.

Your successful professional image, projected through your speaking, face-to-face meetings, written communication, and appearance, will result in more opportunities for networking.

Networking is building professional, mutually serving relationships for the purpose of helping both parties obtain goals. The term originates in a dictionary definition: “a system of elements (as lines or channels) that cross in the manner of the threads in a net.” (Merriam-Webster) Your image and communication are critical to advancing your networking success.

People have always built professional networks informally, but attention in recent years has focused on systematically building relationships with professional friends and friends of friends.

In his book, "The Tipping Point," Malcolm Gladwell describes a person who knows many other people as a connector, and he credits connectors with facilitating much of the interaction people have with each other.

Whether it's a business associate’s knowledge, a job, a restaurant recommendation, or a good book to read, connectors help others get what they need by connecting people who don’t know each other. It is also how you build a professional network.

The Bottom Line

If you've successfully developed a professional image through your face-to-face, written, and spoken communication; your appearance, and your presence, your career will soar.