By Heléne Kass, Career Coach
“The first thing I do when I get home from work or job searching is take off my tight [pants, skirt, tie] … and put on my old comfortable clothes. I’m finally home and now I can relax. I don’t care what I look like after my work day is over!” Does this sound like you?
Sure, we have to change gears and unwind after work or a day of job networking. Every stress management expert would say how important that is. So, when we go to the grocery store, pick up the children, or attend a community meeting, is it important what we are wearing and how we are behaving? Yes, when we’re out in the community, people’s impressions of us still matter.
Can we ever take off our professional “hat” and leave it behind? Suppose you see your dentist, your rabbi, or the principal of your child’s school dressed in street clothes or cut-off jeans at the grocery store. There may be an initial disconnect. We are caught off guard between what we think about the person in his or her professional role and what we are seeing outside of that role. On the one hand, we see that this is a whole person who has a different life outside of work. On the other hand, do we expect people to represent their business or organization wherever they go? And more seriously, how does your impression of a public figure or professional change if you see him or her getting drunk at an event?
Our professional image is more than physical appearance, grooming, or appropriate dress. It is also our values. Do people see you showing respect by holding the door open for the person behind you or greeting the receptionist? When you tell an associate you will call tomorrow, do you follow through, conveying dependability? Do you show a lack of self-control by talking too loudly, getting easily irritated, or publicly arguing?
In an article called “Does What I Appear to Be Doing Matter?” Aron Moss says, “We cannot be invisible. Our actions impact others whether we like it or not. We are responsible not only for our actions, but also for the impression they make. It isn’t about my reputation as much as it is about my influence. When I do something that looks wrong, even if I have a perfectly good and innocent explanation, the damage is done.” http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1454116/jewish/Does-What-I-Appear-to-Be-Doing-Matter.htm
Where to draw the line between one’s private persona and one’s public image is a choice each person makes. Keep in mind that others’ impressions of us may change based on what they are seeing, and can affect our relationships and dealings in the work world. Often we can control the image we choose to project; often we can manage how we look, what we say and do.
How we manage ourselves and how others perceive us are important factors in creating a professional image. Don’t let your image become a V.I.C.E. Pay attention to the Values you convey, the Image you project, the Character traits you exhibit, and the Energy people experience when they are around you. With this in mind, you are on your way to achieving professional image success!
By Heléne Kass, Career Coach, JCS Career Center
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about the JCS Career Center click here or call 410-466-9200.