A young man came to interview for an internship. When he arrived, the first two things I noticed were that he was wearing his sunglasses casually on top of his head and was chewing gum. Less than two minutes in, I’m thinking: gum + sunglasses = unprofessional. This is just one small example of how you can turn people off before they get to know the real you. I gave Mr. Cool what I hoped was a bit of welcome advice, sending him off for his next career adventure.
Dressing inappropriately for any situation is a quick way to decrease your personal power. The setting does make a difference, because you’d present yourself in a different way at fraternity rush than church, so it’s important to consider the audience. This is true whether you’re seeking a job, climbing the ladder or just want to be a positive influence in civic or volunteer projects. Here are five winning qualities that fit any situation.
1. Smile. Show that you’re positive, open and that others are welcome in your sphere. Make yourself approachable.
2. Make the most of your assets and choose moderation until you know the culture. I know a man with lovely eyebrows like Sean Connery, but with age, his eyebrows have grown longer and become unruly. He was job hunting, and resisted trimming those hedge bushes, insisting they had nothing to do with his skill. That’s fine if you’re starring in “Duck Dynasty,” but not when you’re seeking a more conventional job. Don’t distract people from your accomplishments with flashy attire, bushy brows or pink hair before you’ve checked out the culture.
3. Look people in the eye and ask questions. LISTEN without thinking about what you’re going to say next. Be inclusive. Don’t talk to your gadgets when you should be focused on the conversation. Take a genuine interest in others, and share information about yourself to put them at ease. Let people in.
4. Humility is a very appealing quality. Say thank you and give credit to others.
5. Knowledge is like a magnet, and it gives you the ability to talk intelligently with people about
things that they may find interesting. To gain knowledge, travel, read diverse books and magazines (not just business publications). Learn others’ customs and cultures. The more you know, the greater your power becomes.
Those five rules will build your personal power – and confidence – wherever you go.
Be your best self according to your own rules. Don’t deny who you are; but if small compromises don’t detract from your “selfness,” do them. If the balance is way out of whack, you’re probably not where you belong. Look for a situation that brings out the most important part of personal power: the REAL you.
Susan Drake is a marketing and communications professional. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.