Learning How to Control Professional Presence and Influence

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Table of Contents

  • Dress to Impress
  • Superwoman Stance
  • Body Language
  • Cultivate Your Communication Style

Statistics show that you have seven seconds to make a first impression in professional settings. This means that before you take your seat at the table, answer your first interview question or begin your presentation, a lasting decision has already been made. As stressful as this might sound, not all hope is lost. Here is how you can supercharge your professional presence — and in turn your success!

Dress to Impress

Getting suited up is a non-negotiable for professional women. A 2014 Yale study shows that during a mock negotiation with 128 candidates, those suited up averaged a theoretical profit of $2.1 million, compared to that of $680,000 for those dressed more casually. Those dressed somewhere in the middle averaged a theoretical profit of $1.58 million, which is still a substantial difference. Why is twofold: You feel more confident when dressed the part, and you are taken more seriously when dressed the part.

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So what does dressing to impress look like? The fit, cut and color over every item must be complementary for your skin tone and body type. You want to be on-trend, but not trendy. Your style must be authentic but never overtly sexy. Accessorize but keep it classic and simple. Look to Olivia Pope’s style as inspiration, as her wardrobe is the perfect balance of conservative, on-trend and professional. Step it up or get a bit more formal when meeting with new clients or on days of a big presentation. Hair and makeup must be applied and styled to create a polished look. Get the wardrobe and style help you need by hiring an image consultant and having your hair and makeup done for special presentations.

Superwoman Stance

Dressing the part will help to boost your confidence, but you can take things to the next level by starting your day off by standing in the superwoman stance for at least two minutes: hands on hips, feet wide apart, shoulders back, all while staring confidently forward. If your presentation is in the afternoon, lock your office door and power pose there, or head to the ladies room. It might sound silly at first, but studies show that it works.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research shows that after two minutes of power posing, study subjects felt 26 percent more powerful, assertive, confident and comfortable. Not only did the study subjects feel more confident but were instantly identified as the candidates hiring managers wanted to hire, compared to candidates who did not power pose. In other words, their personal presence intensified in a positive way.

Body Language

Body language is where many professional women have room to improve, as it is a nonverbal way of expressing your confidence — and therefore your access to success. It is also one area that is rarely criticized by our male colleagues, like other areas of our demeanor, such as tone of voice or assertiveness. Your goal is to stand up straight, make eye contact, give a firm handshake and no fidgeting once you sit down. Perception is reality in the professional world, and here is the message poor body language is sending:

  • Slouching is perceived as closed off and/or lacking in confidence.
  • Poor eye contact is perceived as distracted, unfriendly and/or lacking confidence.
  • Too firm a handshake is perceived as an attempt at dominance, while a weak handshake is perceived as weakness or a lack of confidence.
  • Fidgeting gives away your nerves and makes you appear distracted or unsure.

If you have room to improve on the confidence front, consider working one on one with an image coach to help polish your body language and nonverbal communication. It may also be helpful to join a speaking or women’s networking group to gain the practice you need to remain calm and cool, at least on the outside.

Cultivate Your Communication Style

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

Consider the effective leaders, mentors and colleagues you’ve known over the course of your career. While each has their own style (some are relatable, and some are all business), what they all have in common is an ability to communicate effectively and exude a strong professional presence. If you haven’t yet, define what your communication style currently is and what you want it to be. The goal is to communicate in a manner that is clear, specific, measurable and memorable. Most importantly remember that communication is a two-way street, not just about what you have to say. Effective leaders have mastered the art of communication by:

  • Greeting people by their names
  • Working in the lessons they have learned along the way into their presentations
  • Asking for input and making changes to the plan based on input
  • Making the time to listen
  • Providing constructive feedback in real time
  • Thanking their team individually and as a whole, personally and publicly
  • Providing clear and specific directions and feedback

With intention and a few small changes, you can brand yourself as an industry expert who is trustworthy and competent. Dallas image consultant, executive presence consultant and corporate trainer. Effective communicator. Transformation queen. Confidence creator. Those are just a few of the titles Tara holds. She has the tools you’ve been looking for, and she uses each one to help her clients shine in every aspect of their image and communication, both personally and professionally. Tara has appeared on “Good Morning Texas” and interviewed on FOX, ESPN and CBS for her unique insight on creating a polished style and professional presence. 

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