Last week, we talked about what makes personal branding, well, personal. This week, we’ll dive straight into how to develop an impressionable personal brand. We’ll also discuss how to create a positive first impression, and how to maintain it in the long-term.
Traits and Characteristics You Want To Project
Are you charismatic and friendly, or are you tough and stern? Do you ooze confidence and are always in control, or are you a wall-flower, always waiting for somebody else to initiate anything? Are you the misunderstood genius which nobody knows you exist, or are you just all talk and no action?
You see, we all want to put our best foot forward in any situations. And we all want others to see the best qualities in us, regardless whether we really have all those qualities or not. Especially so in situations when meeting people for the first time. That’s when the fist impression counts the most. Situations like job interviews, first meeting with potential clients, giving a presentation to a large audience, even when standing accused in court, what with dozens of pairs of eyes scrutinising you, studying you intensely.
Regardless of the situation, you’d want to appear likeable. If you’re likeable, you’re trustworthy. And if you’re trustworthy, then people will more likely buy whatever it is that you’re selling.
Never Judge The Book By Its Cover
As unfair as it really is, human beings will form an opinion on how you are based on how they see your outlook, how they hear what and how you say it, and even the body language that you unconsciously portray.
Yes, it really is unfair… But instead of wallowing over how unfair human nature is, why not take advantage of it? Knowing that others will form a preconceived opinion on your character based on whatever unconscious messages that you tell them, learn to take control of them, and play it to your advantage.
In a typical corporate (or similar) environment, here are some of the things that you can consciously control to your advantage :-
The business suit is a modern day warrior’s suit of armour. While it doesn’t stop a slash from a sabre, or a thrust from a spear, it does project an image as it did to the knights of the middle ages.
Back in the middle ages, only nobles got to be knights, riding into battle on their personal steeds, wearing a shining armour. The rest of the men who formed the bulk of the soldiers were nothing more than peasants and farmers, conscripted to serve the masters of their land.
These knights were essentially the leaders of the people, on and off the battlefields. And the armour that they wear reinforced that identity to the people that he crosses path with. They represented an identity, an ideal, and history behind it.
Fast forward to the modern day – the business suit reinforces the identity as an important person, a leader, and a personal character.
Now, a business suit may not be suitable or practical for every occasion, business or not. It really depends on the dress code requested (if available), formality of the occasion, climate, or even the type of industry. Business formal in traditional industries like banking and accounting calls for conservative dark suits, while entertainment or creative industries will make do with sports jacket over brightly patterned shirts, with or without neckwear. And then there’s the climate dilemma for the tropics, where wearing a jacket will make you sweat unless under constant air-conditioning.
The conclusion?… If it’s important to project a likeable, trustworthy image, find out what the others will be wearing, then wear a notch above them. That way, you won’t stand out like a beacon on a buoy out at sea, but still visible enough to project a positive image.
(2) Personal Grooming
If your fingernails are long and dirty, your hair unkempt, (for the men) your facial hair looking real messy, (for the ladies) wearing overly loud make up or none at all, it all boils down to one thing – you don’t take the time nor the pride to take care of your personal grooming. And if you don’t take the pride in your own personal outlook, how can others expect of you to take care of their business?
For the men, choosing to wear facial hair isn’t the issue here, but how neatly you maintain them. That means no overgrown bush for your moustaches, and no overflowing of wiry goatees. If you choose to wear a chinstrap, keep the lines well defined, and and keep them short and neat. The five o’clock shadow look comes and goes with the fashion trend, but I personally vote against it. While it may look good on Hollywood actors on the silver screen, it portrays that you haven’t had a shower since the last working day… And that’s not a good professional image.
And for the ladies, keep the loud make up, bright nail polish and jewellery for your nights out in town. They have no place in the boardroom. Wear heels of moderate height, and in a subdued tone. And most importantly, try not to show off too much skin. While a plunging neckline or a short miniskirt may attract attention, it actually attracts the wrong kind. In a professional environment, it may give out the vibe that you’re tonnes of fun, but not an ounce of professionalism.
(3) Body Language
Whether you notice it or not, how you walk, stand, or even sit actually betrays your true feelings behind that business suit exterior.
Body language is a highly complex topic, and I certainly don’t claim to be an expert in it. But there are several commonly known pointers that can actually help you project the likeable image that you want others to see in you.
Some of the common no-no’s include crossing your arms or legs (when seated). Doing so means you’re shutting the door on what’s being discussed. It also shows that you’re defensive on the topic of discussion.
Another big no-no is hiding your hands, like putting them in your pockets, or hiding behind the sofa or wall from your audience. Showing your hands (particularly your palms) indicates that you have nothing to hide, meaning “honest” when talking to them.
Also, try to adopt the “open stance”, i.e. keeping your head up high, and stretching your arms and legs to take up more room. This is the typical stance of an alpha, a leader, and thus somebody to look up to.
And most importantly, smile… It gives warmth to your character, and shows that you genuinely care about the conversation that you are engaged in.
Developing Your Personal Brand, And Owning It
The overall objective here is to understand what your personal brand says about yourself, and how you can improve on it. Know what message you want to project, and learn what traits will help you project just that.
“The world is never fair, so make it unfair to your advantage.”
~ Author unknown