If you’re looking for a new opportunity – perhaps a job, or new clients for your business – there are many ways to project a more polished and professional image without blowing your budget. These are simple and affordable steps you can take in person and online that will help you impress prospective connections – no matter what your goal.
Projecting A Professional Image In Person
1. Dress conservatively, add your personality. For most industries, dressing conservatively is safe choice, but don’t let that leave you thinking “boring”. Have at least two well-tailored interview / business suits that you keep pristine for important occasions. Polish your shoes, and make sure any scuffs are taken care of. Limit yourself to one or two attractive accessories that reflect your personality and unique appeal, which will help make you more memorable.
2. Practice your handshake. Extend your hand and briefly grasp the other person’s palm without squeezing. Say your name clearly, with a good pace (not too fast or slow). Smile and make eye contact with the person your speaking to. Keep your hands clean and dry, and carry a lightweight powder if your palms tend to sweat.
3. Invite contacts out for coffee. Show your network contacts you appreciate them even before you ask for their help. Ask them out for coffee to be gracious on a low budget, and be respectful of their time and yours.
4. Send thank you letters. Remember your thank you letters for those who have helped you or made connections for you. It’s okay to use email if your handwriting looks messy, but consider taking some time to work on your handwriting, because that will make you stand out in a good way. Send letters promptly and mention something specific and sincere for which you are grateful.
5. Remove body piercings. Piercings are becoming more common, and while they are a part of your individuality, you should still err on the side of caution. Take them out for interviews and initial meetings with potential clients.
6. Cover up tattoos. Your new boss or that prospective business partner may have multiple tattoos of their own, but it’s wise to keep them under wraps until you solidify the business relationship.
Projecting A Professional Image Online
1. Google yourself. Google your name to see what comes up – especially on the first couple of pages. If you have a common name you may need to add a location, profession or other details to help refine your results. If possible, ask others to delete non-factual content that may reflect negatively on you. If that’s not possible, generate some posts of your own on several different sites and in different high-traffic networks with positive information to help push the negatives off of the first few pages.
2. Set up Google alerts. Stay on top of your online presence by setting up a Google alert with your name. You can set up a schedule that enables you see any new content without getting overwhelmed.
3. Optimize and update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is one of the most important social media tools for job hunters, entrepreneurs, and business people. Get the most out of it by adding related connections in your field of expertise, your industry, and by asking others to give you recommendations.
4. Check and update your Facebook privacy settings. You can still have a private life. Just be vigilant about who you share personal information with, and think twice before sharing extremely controversial information.
5. Consider creating a website or blog. High quality websites and blogs cost little or nothing now, and don’t have to take up hundreds of hours of your time. Showcase your achievements and set up a reasonable update schedule so your site stays fresh.
6. Use your real name for email. Make it easy for people to stay in touch regarding business and serious subjects by using your real name as your email. If your current email is a zany nickname, you may want to get a new one, and reserve it for business email if that fits into your communication goals.
7. Promote yourself with your email signature. Your email signature is like free advertising, and it can work for you in so many ways. Come up with a tagline that will make people want to know more about you, install it on your main email address and use it consistently.
8. Set up a professional voicemail greeting. Keep it simple and straightforward. Speak clearly and give your full name, so callers will know they’ve reached the right person.
9. Edit your ringtones. Even if you turn your phone off during interviews or business meetings (and you should, to avoid interruptions), select your ringtones to convey a positive message about you. Avoid anything controversial, salty language, or excessive volume.
10. Post a professional photo. Work with a professional photographer to get the best results for an important image like the one you use on your website or business cards. If you’re doing it yourself, aim for a cropped photo that shows your head and shoulders only, and be particularly careful about even lighting to avoid harsh shadows.
Put your best foot forward with a professional image that tells employers you’ll be a valuable addition to their team. It’s easy to spruce up your presence in both the offline and digital worlds without spending a fortune.