Growing up with a dad in the Air Force meant living all over the world. It also meant I had to get really good at making first impressions. At a young age, I became aware of my presence and how it affected my ability to connect with people. In my professional life, this has manifested in my physical appearance, presence in meetings, and personal brand. Here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me stay present in my career:
Physical appearance is not about fashion—it's about intentionality.
Enclothed cognition is what happens in our minds when we put our clothes on. Put on a power suit to act more confident. Dress up for the SATs to score higher. Put on workout clothes to tell your body, “let’s work out.” Our clothes impact our performance on a subconscious level. So how can we work that to our advantage?
- Dress for your day. Being in sales, I always consider who I’m meeting with. If a company seems to err on the professional side, I’ll dress to that level. It seems like common sense, but it's always something to have at the top of your mind.
- Reduce Decisions.We make so many decisions every single day, it gets exhausting. We can hack our wardrobe to cut down on the number of decisions we have to make. Put outfits together and wear them multiple times. Michelle Obama repeats. Kate Middleton repeats. We can repeat. And when in doubt—go with a power blazer.
Showing up in a Meeting
Do you ever feel like you’re being watched in a meeting? Well, you probably are (at least at some points). It’s important to think about how we’re presenting ourselves. Here’s how we can gain control and make sure we’re heard:
- Don’t be sorry.More likely than not we’ve all started a sentence with, "I’m sorry I just think we should..." Why are you sorry for contributing? We often discredit our ideas before we even say them. Instead say, "I'd like to add" or "I have an idea" to replace these apologies.
- Handle interruptions. How we handle interruptions sends a message to other females and people in the company. You can be direct and say, "Please let me finish." Or you can be a little softer and say, "I know you have ideas to share, but first I'd like to finish my thoughts." Whatever your style, have a plan so that interruptions don’t throw you off track.
- Intentional placement. Where we sit can impact how we perform in a meeting. Are you drawn to other people? Are you okay sitting by yourself? Do you want to sit in the back? Intentionally place yourself where you can grow and contribute well.
- Strong opening. Be prepared. Showing up late, frazzled, without an agenda or proper tech screams, “I’m sloppy.” Subscribe to the 1:1:1 rule. For a 30-minute meeting, spend 30 minutes preparing for the meeting, and spend 30 minutes afterward reflecting and making sure the best outcomes are carried forward.
- Upfront contracts. An upfront contract gives a roadmap for a meeting including the time frame, and the hopeful outcome. Imagine starting every meeting with this. It’s powerful and can help diminish the likelihood of people getting lost or interrupting.
It’s 2019—we’re all leaving a digital footprint. People are bound to find information about us, so we might as well guide them right to the stuff we want them to know. (Psst, this is also good encouragement for some intentional growth.)
- Keep track of your accomplishments. Keeping track of what we’ve accomplished can help us find the whitespace—things that are missing or areas we want to grow in. It can also give us a tremendous amount of confidence and self-worth. Think about how helpful this will be the next time you go to ask for a raise.
- Social footprint. Almost any company I've worked for at least glances at a potential employee’s social media to see what kind of person they are outside of work. Sure, if you're not comfortable with people seeing this, you can set it to private. But it’s a great opportunity to curate something that tells a story.
The main theme here is intentionality. Knowing who you are and how you want to be perceived will give you control over those perceptions. Start by picking one thing in each category and making a positive change. Your presence is your power—own it.