Image is everything, at least at first. Right or wrong, that first impression goes a long way in shaping how people feel about you until you impress them to think otherwise. You can feel successful people when they walk into a room. Attention goes their way in an instant. Everyone wants to be like them or near them. It doesn't matter if they are CEOs, salespersons or carpenters. Some people are naturally blessed with a successful aura, but most have to find their inner confidence and learn to polish at least some aspects of their image.
If you project a loser image, people will treat you like a loser right from the start. You want people to think you are a winner from Day One. Winners get hired. Winners get funding. Winners get promotions. Winners attract top talent. Winners invite opportunity.
Here are seven tips to improve your image, so people will recognize you as a winner right off the bat.
1. Look Good for Any Occasion
You don't have to be rich to look good. Acceptable business attire today is relative. A suit is as much out of place at Zappos as sweats and flip-flops are on Wall Street. Just pay attention to detail and dress appropriately. Want to upgrade your image? Always dress one notch higher than what's expected. If dress is business casual, put on a suit. If it's khakis and polo shirts, bring out the sport jacket. Dress it up and accessorize tastefully. Hire a style expert if you're tasteless.
And, yes, shoes matter. In a room full of suits and khakis, your shoes say a ton about your personality, so keep them stylish and nice. Lastly, don't forget grooming. Interesting hair and nails are fine as long as they intentionally communicate the image you wish to project. Unfinished or unkempt says you can't take care of yourself. Keep healthy, and have good posture. Don't project yourself as a hot mess.
2. Write and Speak Correctly
Do you answer, "I'm doing good" when asked "How are you today?" Using the proper grammatical answer, "I'm doing well," may seem minor, but small infractions are big to those who judge you. People do notice. Improve your grammar, spelling, and especially, your diction. If English is your second language, you'll need to work harder. It may not be politically correct, but sadly many Americans still believe, if only subconsciously, that people who don't speak and write English well are less intelligent than those who do. Don't let them dismiss you because of the way you speak and write.
3. Master the Art of Intelligent Conversation
If all you talk about is your company, your job, your family, or the Kardashians, you won't be considered at the top of your or anyone else's game. Be up on current events. Be a lifelong learner. Take courses, read books, listen to interesting podcasts. Travel and learn about different cultures, even if they are only a few miles away. Then find a way to relate these lessons in interesting and valuable ways to people around you. Make it so people look forward to hearing what's next. And most important, know when to shut up. Make sure the conversation is reciprocal, or it's not a conversation; it's a lecture.
4. Be Charitable
People are impressed by selfless givers. Granted, these are tight times, and not everyone has extra money. But you can be charitable in many ways. Give your time, energy, and wisdom to people around you as well as those in dire need. Help the person flailing in the office, or the friend hurting, or the disaster victim, or anyone trying to build a better life. Just find a cause and give. People will notice and respect you for it. Including the most important person...you.
5. Be Organized
Regardless of net worth or position, when you're unorganized, it shows and irritates those around you. People may still accept your importance, but they'll also believe you're out of control. You are judged on little things like timely response to messages and email. Showing up late disrespects others and makes you look careless or worse, indifferent. There are plenty of tools in your smartphone. Use them. Get an assistant if you have to. And quit dragging all your stuff around. Travel light. If you look organized and efficient, people will think you've got it together.
6. Make People Feel Important
Successful people know how to make it all about the other person. When face to face, have a firm handshake, make eye contact, and show respect by being present. Help people feel that what they have to say is important and worth your time. Understand and use the power of gratitude, be it with small gifts, time, or a simple thank-you. These are powerful tools that used authentically will elevate your image.
7. Spend Time With Successful People
You are always judged on the company you keep. Build a circle of people you respect and admire, and you, too, will be respected and admired by the people important to you. No one else matters.
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