Every professional relationship begins with a first impression, and it sets the tone for everything that follows. Perceptions are formed quickly and aren’t easily adjusted. Research shows that it only takes seven seconds for people to start forming solid opinions on characteristics like trustworthiness, competence, and intelligence. So, whether it’s a potential client, job interview, or any other career move, your first professional checkmark should be ensuring you have the ingredients to make a stellar first impression.
What Goes Into A First Impression?
Your image is the basis for all first impressions. This is how you present yourself to others and how they perceive and interpret both the whole of your image and each facet that goes into it.
It’s important to understand that image is a cumulative representation of yourself, or rather the traits and mindset that make you unforgettable. It’s your body language and non-verbal communication, look choices and fits, and behaviors all melding together to speak for you and about you! What’s observed of your image is what onlookers will infer and believe is your consistent truth.
Let’s say you’ve just met a client. You pack into a packed elevator versus taking the stairs because you wore shoes that looked good versus being practical for the occasion, and you’re already crunching the clock to be on time. That client is collecting impressions of professional truths about your energy, decision-making skills, dedication, time management, and so forth from how this first impression is playing out.
Never underestimate the influence that perceived truths about your person have upon your professional success. More potent than any professional accolade and achievement on your resume is how others read your image to calculate your professional worth and merit. In other words, your Performance earns you a knock on the door. Your image gets you inside the door. And your Exposures keep you there. It’s part of a big PIE, and if the Image slice is terrible, the entire pie goes sour.
So, the question is whether or not you are portraying the right image to make the right impression?
What Is The Right Image For Career Success?
Authenticity is the critical ingredient to mixing up your image recipe. Every facet must be true to who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you’ve already achieved if you want your image message to work for, not against, you. The goal is to have the perceived truths that others gain about you match the absolute facts.
That takes honesty in knowing who you are and being confident that you are the person you’re portraying yourself to be. After all, how can you expect anyone else to a) know who you are and b) believe in who you are if you don’t do it for yourself first?
That self-assurance and self-confidence come from asking yourself some tough questions and being of the mindset to fulfill the answers:
• What do I want to achieve long-term?
• Are my short-term goals working toward that big picture?
• What’s my life’s purpose?
• What gives me true joy and fulfills my deepest desires?
If you match every action with the answers, you’ll discover your true sense of self and gain an internal compass to guide your image from the inside out. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received about finding myself was to release all of what I thought should’ve, could’ve, would’ve been so that what can be.
Are You Ready To Check Image Off Your To-Do List?
In closing, your image is the hinge that success swings upon. It can be fine-tuned and finessed to be circumstance-appropriate, but it can never be created out of thin air. Your image’s exterior must match the interior to serve your career truly. That’s a match that only comes when you know and is confident in yourself.