Guest Post: Do You Have a Winning Professional Image?

Guest post by Kaylene Mathews (

How do you get hired, considered for a promotion or increase your professional visibility? Statistics show that the competition today is stiff.

  • According to a recent study conducted by The National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of jobs held in a lifetime can range anywhere from 7 to over 11 jobs.
  • Information compiled by StatisticBrain, shows that more than 50% of start-up companies fail within the first five years.
  • And in an article published on April 30, 2013, The NY Daily News reported that forty percent of college grads are unemployed.

The first critical step to succeeding in this competitive market is to create a winning professional image. Time is short. People in a position to influence your career, have to make split second assessments and decisions. You have a brief moment in time with which to convey that you’re worth their investment of time. A polished professional image will buy you that invaluable few minutes to convey that you’re the right choice.

What is a professional image?

Your professional image is the overall impression you convey from which others gather cues and make assessments about your character, competence and commitment. These assessments are being made all the time. If you have professional goals and aspirations, you cannot afford to slack on your professional image.


Physical Presentation – This is what people experience when they have contact with you. This could be in person or through social media. It could be at work or in the grocery. Anytime people come into contact with you or something that represents you (any social media profiles), this is your physical presentation.

  • Attire – This is a major component in your physical presentation. It’s what you’re wearing at any given point in time but especially when you’re at work or being photographed. Keep this in mind when posting pictures for your social media networks.
  • Neatness – You don’t have to break the bank to dress professionally. You do have to look like you put a little care into getting yourself together for the day. It shows respect for your audience, and they in turn will show you the same respect.

Verbal Presentation – How you communicate your message of who you are and why you’re worth the investment of time and money.

  • Word Choice – Your word choice should demonstrate your intelligence, not your street savvy. Consider your audience when speaking and choosing your words. Make sure you use the same care in all your written communications as well.
  • Articulation – Speak clearly so the listener can hear what you’re saying. Look the listener in the eye. Mumbling, “um’s and uh’s,” and lack of eye contact make your message less credible.
  • Professional Knowledge Base – Know what you’re talking about! This is your opportunity to communicate competence. Unless you’re adding value from a solid professional knowledge base, what you say will be discounted and considered unimportant.

Presence – Your presence is the combination of your physical appearance, your verbal presentation and your attitude. Even if you dress the part and speak the part, people get a sense of whether you are fully engaged and committed through your attitude. Attitude is communicated in part, through your body language. You communicate in the way you walk, stand, sit, and talk. Your on-line presence is important as well. Always assume that someone in your network knows someone who can influence your career. A person can lose a job opportunity by posting something on-line that is better kept private.


Dress for Success – The term first originated when John T. Molloy wrote a best-selling book called Dress for Success in 1975. The book describes the effect of a person’s clothing on their personal and professional success. While clothing trends have changed, the underlying message hasn’t. What you wear impacts how you’re perceived. Today’s definition of acceptable attire has expanded. Terms like Business Attire, Casual Friday, and Business Casual all have significant meaning in clothing choices. It’s sometimes challenging to decide what’s okay and what’s not.

A few rules of thumb:

  • The first place to start is to consult your company’s dress code and make sure you comply with the minimum requirements. However, if you’re interested in obtaining more than the minimum job, then dress for the title you want. If you want to be promoted, dress one level up. If you want respect, dress in a manner that earns respect.
  • If you’re a business owner, dress in accordance with your industry, but a step better. Set yourself apart from the competition. An additional level of confidence is placed in the individual that has a successful appearance. It gives the impression that your business is good and it would be profitable to work with you.
  • Dress better than you need to – always. You never know when opportunity will knock.

Speak for Success – Practice your conversational style. A lot of business is done in more casual settings such as passing in the hallway or running into someone at lunch. Always be prepared and ready. Some options for improving if you struggle with this:

  •  Join a local public speaking group like Toastmasters.
  • Enroll in a public speaking class at a local college.
  • Hire a coach to help and provide constructive feedback.
  • Above all – practice! Practice in your mind, out loud, with a friend, with a colleague, anywhere and all the time. The more you have rehearsed and practiced, the easier it will be when your moment arrives.

Tweet, Post, Pin, Blog for Success. Influential people are watching your on-line activity. Social media is just one more way for potential employers and clients to gather more data points about your character and professionalism. Your on-line presence can propel you forward or take you out of the game. Be smart about what you share. Take care in what you write.

Your professional image is critical to your success. Take some time and determine your professional goals. Then assess what your image is today and what it needs to be for you to achieve your goals. Make and implement a plan that will close the gap between the two and move forward. Begin today!

About Kaylene Mathews: (

Board Certified Coach and President of KSMLifeCoaching, Kaylene Mathews equips and empowers individuals and groups to gain the clarity they need to achieve their personal and professional best through coaching and training services. She authors a twice weekly blog, monthly newsletter and just published her first book, available on Amazon.

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