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Appearances matter: Tips for presenting yourself in a professional manner

 
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How much thought do you give each day to how you present yourself at work?

For example, in the morning, when you’re getting dressed, do you put on a pair of jeans and the first t-shirt that catches your eye? Or do you carefully select a suit, shirt, tie, and shoes?

Do you make sure you always have the latest iPhone in a pristine case, or is your phone all scratched and banged up from the hundreds of times you’ve dropped it?

Is your cubicle cluttered but fun, with your daughter’s kindergarten painting pinned to the wall, piles of old sticky notes everywhere, and a stress ball with a smiley face by your computer? Or is it neatly arranged, with files carefully stacked on top of each other and a framed picture of your spouse and children framed on your desk?

The importance of presentation

How you present yourself to your colleagues, supervisor, and clients is crucial to how people perceive you, as well as to your career development.

Obviously, your attire and accessories play an important role. In fact, according to a PR Newswire article titled “Survey Shows How Clothing Affects Promotion Prospects,” in 2013, 80 percent of executives believed that an employee’s style of dress somewhat or significantly affected his or her chances of getting a promotion.

How messy or organized your workspace is also contributes. Jenna Goudreau points out in her Forbes article “The Dangers of a Messy Desk” that 57 percent of U.S. workers judge colleagues by how clean their workspaces are. Moreover, a messy workspace is generally attributed to laziness—and that’s not a quality you want to be known for at work.

Similarly, your attitude and behavior are critical. If you’re always friendly, polite, and enthusiastic, you’ll come across as being more capable and professional than if you complain a lot or are rude to coworkers.

Tips for presenting yourself in a professional manner

To make sure you always present yourself professionally, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Make sure your attire is consistent with the company culture. This will differ from company to company, as well as between industries. If you work in a bank or insurance company, formal attire such as a business suit, shirt, and tie are appropriate. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you work at a design studio or tech start up, casual attire, including jeans and sneakers, is more likely to be acceptable.
  • Make sure you’re well groomed. Your clothes should be clean and wrinkle-free, without holes or missing buttons. Shine scuffed shoes. Regularly get a trim for short hairstyles or bangs, and if you color your hair, make sure to do so regularly to avoid root issues.
  • Accessorize appropriately. Accessories speak volumes about people—both in terms of care and style. Since style is highly personal, the most important thing to bear in mind when accessorizing is that you select pieces that are in good shape and appropriate for the company culture. For example, cufflinks, a tiepin, and a leather briefcase are appropriate for a bank employee or lawyer. If you work at a tech start-up, you should probably have a relatively new smart phone and tablet. Remember: if an accessory is worn or broken, replace it.
  • Dress according to the position you want. If you’re aspiring to a management position and managers at your company dress more formally, follow their lead. This will make you appear more suitable for the role.
  • Be mindful of your workspace. Keep your workspace clean and organized. Again, you can let your work environment guide you as to how much you can personalize it. In some companies, it’s best to keep it to a framed photo of your kids and a nice paperweight, while in other companies, you can decorate your cubicle or office with anything from colored sticky notes potted plants. However, it’s best to stay away from lots of humorous postcards or novelty items, since they can subconsciously convey the impression that you’re not serious about your job.
  • Behave professionally. No matter how casual your work environment, it’s critical that you behave professionally at all times. Consistently deliver good work, meet deadlines, and be on time for meetings. And always be polite and positive—even when others aren’t.

Presenting yourself professionally is all about knowing what the standard is in your company or industry and finding a way to adhere to it without losing your individuality. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll soon learn how to present yourself to your best professional advantage.


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