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Step 5: How Do People See You…?

Step 1: So, You’re Looking For a Job…
Step 2: What’s Your Plan…?
Step 3: What’s Your Value…?
Step 4: Who Do You Know…?

First impressions are lasting ones. As you make contact with people and expand your network, be very mindful of what impressions you are making. Always remember that people view the world differently, and will have their own pet peeves that give them good or bad impressions.

You have to be aware of your entire professional presence. You’ve worked hard to create your resume, which is initial marketing material and sometimes your very first impression. But how do you come across on the phone? Have you given thought to what you would say on the voicemail in case your contact is not in? Have you thought about the details of how you dress, beyond the business suite or what tie? Do you know the cultural dress code of the company that you’re speaking with? Are your emails treated as “business letters” that are formally drafted and edited? Are you on time? How crisply do you communicate? The devil is always in the details, and these details can make a difference to your success.

One of your goals in the interview process is to ensure that the company culture is one that you would enjoy. So make certain that you don’t have to put on an act; however, remember that you are finding employment not a club house. First contact will probably be a phone call. You should have developed a list of things that you would like to know, based upon your goals for career and lifestyle. Being positive should just be a professional habit, but that doesn’t mean be a parody of Ward or June Cleaver.

If you are calling someone by telephone, look at your notes on what you would like to accomplish from the call and plan your voicemail. You might want to rehearse the message out loud so that you can avoid “um”, and “ahh” sounds that will sometimes fill the pauses. Make sure your message is crisp and communicative.

What you do and say in this phase is giving a future potential employer insight into how you will perform your duties in a job. Be conscious of using proper grammar, don’t use slang, and for goodness sakes, please avoid “Dilbert-esque” buzz words. People don’t trust the “flash”. Speak plainly. Good communicators don’t try to impress, they inform and drive action.

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent article on dress (The dress test). I was interviewing at a company in Silicon Valley one time and drove over to the campus the day before just to see what people wore. Try not to look too much like an outsider. Use the old consultant’s axiom, dress about a half a step up from the norm. If jeans and a button down shirt are the norm, wear slacks and a button down. If slacks are the norm but no coat, wear a casual sport coat. Make sure that your belt buckle doesn’t have chips in it or that your shoes are not scuffed. Visual queues leave lasting impressions. Avoid religious or political pins or tie tacks (unless your business is religious or political). Both men and women should limit wardrobe accessories. Orchestrate the impression that you’re giving.

Your professional presence is your calling card. It should reflect your “brand”, who you are and what people can expect. These practices should become practice in your everyday life, but the stakes are always higher when you’re looking for job. Everything about you defines your brand. Make certain that your personal presence enhances your reputation and not detract from it.

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