Professional Image

Jan 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Career advice, career challenges, personality

Professional image is how we are perceived in the workplace.  Most jobs require interaction with customers, management, and coworkers. Every interaction leaves an impression, and collectively these impressions make up our professional image.  A good professional image is important in advancing your career.  There are several strategies in developing a professional image.  In most cases our professional image is an extension of our personality.  We act the same way at work as we do in other social settings.  In observing those on the fast track to promotion, most of them place extra efforts on their professional image.  By observing and analyzing the behavior of those who excel, you can adjust your professional image to achieve your career goals.

Shakespeare’s quote “All the world’s a stage,
 and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.” (As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143) is as true today as when those lines were first penned.  Thinking more of how our actions are perceived and choosing our words and expressions to fit the circumstances is a life long pursuit.  If you want proof just look at some of the careers that have been ruined by an ill time slip of the tongue.  Training ourselves to be professional is a life’s work in progress. The basics started with our parents teaching us the basic social skills to get along with others.  In my observations, this early training forms the basis of how we act as we continue to grow.  That does not mean that we cannot change our behavior to be more conducive to our careers.

Dale Carnegie is famous for his teachings of interpersonal skills and the development of professional image.  Among his published books How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the first bestselling self-help books ever published. Written by Dale Carnegie and first published in 1936, it has sold 15 million copies globally. The book has six major sections. The core principles of each section are quoted below.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. Avoid arguments.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions the other person will answer yes to.
  6. Let the other person do the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Sympathize with the other person.
  10. Appeal to noble motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to other people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes first.
  4. Ask questions instead of directly giving orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give them a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

The last two sections were included in the original 1936 edition but omitted from the revised 1981 edition. (

I have read this book several times, and each time had a deeper appreciation for Dale Carnegie.  The concepts presented in this book are applicable to all social interactions, but I find them especially helpful in professional dealings. Achieving your career goals depends on other people, and your professional image is how people perceive you.

People skills are a major building block to improve your professional image, but there are other factors to consider.  Such as how you want your skill set to be viewed.  Some take a focused approach and dedicate all their efforts to developing knowledge and competence in that area.  Others take a more general approach and develop skill sets that enable them to work on a variety of projects.  There are pros and cons to each approach.  Technologies and trends change rapidly and in the general workforce career paths open and close, but there are specialties that remain in demand no matter what happens in the general market.  There is no one answer and each individual must set his or her own career goals.

There are also a variety of tactics that are employed to project a professional image.  Pay attention at work and observe how others project their professional image.  Once you decide on the image you would like to project, we can discuss methods and tactics to help achieve your professional image.

Please leave me a comment.

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The PracticaL Mentor

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