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Business Etiquette
Using Impression Management to Excel in Your Career
By Mercedes Alfaro, President, First Impression Management

Having well-rounded socializing skills are not an option, but a necessity of business life.

Most people looking to move up the corporate ladder realize the importance of mastering job-related skills.  But what they may not also know is that soft skills - the way they carry themselves, dress, interact with others - can be just as important in determining whether they will or will not be promoted, and may even be creating a negative image without their knowledge.  For example, I knew two managers who were competing for the same promotion.  Both were equally technically competent and mentally ready for the move.  Yet, one had outstanding social skills, dressed for the position and could easily strike up a conversation with anyone.  The other was sloppy in appearance, hid in a corner and had poor eye contact at social events. Guess who got the promotion?  

Conversely, there are also many professionals who think that they are great at networking, making small talk, and connecting with people when in reality they exude an unprofessional image.  Having well-rounded socializing skills are not an option, but a necessity of business life.

With this in mind, here are a few tips on how to improve: 
Set goals.  Where do you want to be in one, three and five years from now?  Do you want a promotion? A new job or career? What are you willing to do to achieve them? Write them down and review them periodically to keep on track.  

Take a good look at yourself or better yet, ask your mentor for feedback.  Unfortunately, we never see ourselves as others do.  If you are not getting the results you want, ask for feedback from others to better understand what is holding you back.

Commit to the change you want to create.  To make any change in behavior you must practice the new skill repeatedly for twenty-one days.  Set aside time to do this and make it a priority.

Dress appropriately.  Wear clothes that fit well and are appropriate for each business occasion.  Understand the difference between traditional business attire and the different levels of business casual.  Wear clothes that say you are there for business and should be taken seriously.  If you wear it to the beach, on a hot date, or to the park - it's not appropriate for business. With that in mind, keep mini skirts, T-shirts with slogans, overalls, low-cut tops, sandals, jean jackets, sneakers, zip-front hooded sweatshirts for your weekend or at-home wardrobe only.

Learn how to properly shake hands.  Touch thumb joint to thumb joint.  Make it firm - not a bone crusher or a loose fish handshake.  People form an impression of you by your greeting.  Make sure they've formed a good one.

Keep your body language open.  In business, many professionals are not aware of how they are communicating with their body.  Fidgeting or not making eye contact, will give you away.  Keep a smile on your face and your body language open.

Fake it until you feel it.  If you feel as if you have already achieved your goal, it will happen.  Individuals that maintain an upbeat attitude portray a positive image and attract positive company.
Remember "Successful people look successful!"  By remembering these points, you can help to more quickly advance your career.

Mercedes Alfaro is president and founder of First Impression Management, a national business etiquette training and consulting firm, helping individuals to excel in all aspects of their professional presence, online at or at 561-395-0256

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