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Personal branding for career success
Personal branding for career success

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3 Making a good impression

There are many contexts in which face to face interaction with people will allow you to promote your personal brand.

The key thing to remember is that first impressions count and they are formed even before we start to speak. Business Image Specialist, Jane Chapman explains why the way we present ourselves is so important to our personal brand.

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While you may not think that how we look is as important as the things we do and say, it does play a key part in how our words and behaviours are received by others.

Getting your image right can make it easier to put your personal brand across quickly and effectively. Jane uses the 3 A’s as a good rule of thumb, that is, your image should be authentic, appropriate and attractive. Watch this short video to find out more.

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As Jane suggests – smiling, making eye contact and maintaining an open posture conveys a positive impression to the people you are talking to. These elements are collectively known as non-verbal communication.

Heathfield (2018) describes a number of different workplace cues that can help you to connect non-verbally with your chosen audience. They include:

  • Facial expression– e.g. emotions such as happiness or boredom are easily conveyed facially.
  • Body language – e.g. folded arms might suggest you feel insecure and defensive.
  • Posture – e.g. a slouched posture conveys a lack of interest in the conversation whereas sitting rigidly on the edge of your seat might indicate nerves/anxiety.
  • Eye contact – e.g. appropriate eye contact suggests a confident communicator, while staring fixedly at someone might be thought of as aggressive or confrontational.
  • Gestures – e.g. can convey enthusiasm or passion for your topic, but they can become distracting if overused.
  • Touch – e.g. a strong handshake is perceived much more positively than a limp one.

Activity 3 First impressions

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think of someone who you formed a negative first impression of that turned out to be wrong when you got to know them better. Answer the following questions:

What did you base that first impression on? Clothes, body language, eye contact etc.

What made you change your impression later?

What can you learn from that experience in order to avoid it happening to you?

Make notes in the box below.

If you can’t think of anyone, use this example:

When Sarah started a new job, she was introduced to Malcolm, the person she would be sharing an office with. When she first met him, he was more smartly dressed than her and didn’t smile or say very much. He said hello but didn’t get up from his desk or shake her hand. She immediately assumed he didn’t like her and that he felt superior to her. She thought he was rude and patronising.

After several months of working together, she had discovered that Malcolm had a dry sense of humour and showed his respect for others by listening carefully to what they had to say. He was knowledgeable and kind, but shy and introspective. He didn’t say very much, but was excellent at his job and she found that she really enjoyed working with him. On the day she arrived, it turned out he had just received some bad news about the funding for one of his projects.

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Sarah’s first impression was based mainly on body language, gestures and facial expressions. In this case – the lack of expression or any formal greeting. As it turned out, Malcolm had a good reason for feeling miserable that day, and his shyness meant he was unable to express that clearly to a stranger.

If he had stood up, shaken her hand, smiled and explained that something negative had just happened, perhaps indicating that he would be happy to talk to her later – that would have created a much more positive impression.

Thinking about how you come across to others, either when the interaction is planned or in the heat of the moment, can help you to convey your personal brand more effectively.