You’ve heard it said that you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and this is especially true in job search activities – networking and interviews. Most job searchers spend the majority of their time focusing on the nuts and bolts of putting a resume together, applying to jobs, reaching out to contacts for assistance. It’s important not to neglect what might be considered the “intangibles” – developing those qualities that will make a positive first impression, and lead you to more interviews and the job you seek.
What I’m referring to specifically is your professional presence, and in creating a strong and credible presence, you will establish trust in your product – yourself – and will be able to effectively initiate and build relationships. Professional presence is your complete package. This includes your image; your dress, style and attention to detail. You don’t have to spend a fortune or wear the fashion of the moment, but should be in line with the professional dress for your industry or field. This may mean toning down your dress if you’re a recent graduate, or updating your wardrobe if you’ve been out of the job seeking mode for a while. Body language is also important; you can tell the difference between a confident person – head held high, hand outstretched for a firm shake, smiling, leaning forward with interest to hear what’s being said – and someone who’s unsure of themselves – head down, shuffling feet, no eye contact. Ask people who know you how you come across and work on building confidence with your body, if necessary.
Another key element of professional presence is your approach; when you meet someone, are you confident in what you say and how you say it? You’ve heard of course that you should have an elevator speech prepared, in which you summarize your brand and goals. Have several versions of different lengths prepared for different situations, and practice repeatedly, so that you incorporate the information and it doesn’t sound rehearsed. You may have a more technically detailed speech for a professional association meeting than for a general networking event, for example. Confidence is key to powerful professional presence – you have to live your brand, every day in every way.
Many situations call for polished presentation skills, from an individual interview to a networking event, to a formal presentation to a group. The following helpful tips come from Donna Rawady, an experienced career coach (http://www.donnarawady.com/).
A strong imagination may help public speaking jitters.
I’ve been presenting in front of audiences, small and large, for 25 years. And although I enjoy it, it’s not unusual for my breath to shorten and my palms to get sweaty, in those few minutes before stepping on stage or in front of a room full of people. I realize that for some, public speaking is much more stressful. For others, it may be paralyzing.
For those of you who either choose to present, or are in professional roles that call for public speaking, using your imagination may help.
In the days prior to your presentation, try visualizing regularly, a perfect presentation and audience response.
Imagine that you’re completely relaxed, in control and feeling great. Visualize right down to the details of what you’ll be wearing (which should be something you feel great in).
At first, simply visualize yourself comfortably calm, and imagine your audience approaching you afterwards to thank you for a great presentation.
While you’re visualizing, make an effort to relax your hands and fingers. You’ll be amazed at how this small action will help your entire body relax. (If you find yourself tensing during your presentation, consciously relax your hands and fingers. It may help you mentally tap into the relaxed state of mind you experienced during your visualization.)
In addition to conditioning your mental state, be sure to be well prepared. Once you’ve memorized the flow of your presentation, you can incorporate the overall flow of the presentation into your visualization.
So before your next presentation, give it a try—sit back, close your eyes, relax, and imagine the best.