Whether you have an important job interview or just want to be noticed for all the right reasons at work - how can you make sure you stand out?
Researchers disagree on the exact amount of seconds that you have to make a first impression but it is definitely less than a minute. People make snap judgements about you before you even open your mouth, so how can you make sure the impact you are having is positive, favourable and yet authentic to who you truly are?
This was a very live question for me last week. Two colleagues and I were hosting our very first workshop together. We were keen to make a good impression on the sixty women who would be attending our event entitled 'Be Fabulous - Inside and Out'. We wanted to be able to build great connections and make a positive impact with our audience.
The three of us are all experts on authenticity - but from different perspectives. Karen Lowe (www.Karenl.co.uk) is a personal stylist helping women dress in a way that makes the most of who they are, Alex Bollag is an Alexander Technique teacher focusing on the connection between thinking and movement (www.AlexBollag.com) and I am a coach whose passion is authentic relating. So, I discussed with the others what can we do to help and not hinder the way we come across?
We came up with seven tips between us, which we found useful for ourselves and which we also hope will help you to shine at work:
1. Be confident but don't try too hard.
How you show up when you walk through the door will largely depend on your thinking in the moment you turn that doorknob. That's because what is going on in your thoughts has everything to do with how you come across to others - whether you want it to or not.
Alex explains, 'Your body expresses what you are thinking. You don't need to worry about your posture because if you feel truly confident, it will come across in how you move. It all starts with your thinking and your attitude. I don't think we realise how much effect our thoughts have on the little movements we make and therefore how people perceive us.'
It can help to think about what you are telling yourself about this job. Do you really want it? Do you think you can do it?
If you are nervous it is OK to admit it and if you are struggling with something at work - it is better to speak up than to pretend that you have it all sorted. People are more likely to trust you if you stop trying to be something you're not.
2. Be intentional about how you look
Whether it is dressing for an interview or planning your daily outfits for work it helps to think ahead.
Karen believes each one of us is our own shop front. 'What is your shop front saying about you? Is it inviting people to come in and get to know more about you? Or is it looking dirty and tired and will people walk past and ignore you?'
Karen advises, 'present yourself as the best version of yourself. You want the other person to want to get to know about you and be excited about being in your company.'
3. Pay attention to the details
There are some things that are definitely in our control when it comes to making a good impression. We can make sure our clothes are clean, our nails aren't chipped, our shoes are polished and our hair is washed.
Karen believes the details can reveal a lot about us. 'When you pay attention to the finer details of your outfit - that translates as paying attention to the finer details of your job and being someone who cares and won't overlook anything.'
4. Focus on serving not pleasing
It can be tempting in an interview or in a job to try and do everything we can to please the other person. We want them to like us, approve of us, or notice us and so we try to second-guess how we should behave in order to make them happy.
People-pleasing is not the answer. Not only will it leave you exhausted and probably resentful but it is unlikely to get you the respect you long for from your boss or colleagues.
Instead of trying to please everyone, a better approach can be to think about serving others. In order to serve someone we need to work out what they really need and then help deliver that. One of the best ways to do that is to ask them to voice their expectations and make agreements together on what you can realistically do to help.
5. Get curious
The advertising executive David Ogilvy once said, 'If you want to be interesting be interested.'
It can really help to get curious. Don't make assumptions about a person or a situation. Instead seek to discover the truth.
Alex recommends remaining open and not over-rehearsing what you are going to say or do. 'There is a difference between being prepared and being over-rehearsed. You don't know what the person is going to ask you. You want to respond to them and find out about them.'
6. Listen and learn
I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review by Judith and Richard Glaser entitled The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations.
They discovered that people at work who had the most positive effect on others did all of the following: Showed concern for others, listened well, demonstrated curiosity, painted a picture of mutual success (using the word 'we' and were open to difficult conversations.
Their positive communication style had the effect of producing 'oxytocin' (the feel-good hormone) in their colleagues. This led to greater collaboration, better communication and trust.
7. Believe the best of yourself and others
It can be tempting to think that if we were different in some way or more like someone else we would make a better impression. But the truth is you will make your best impression, be your best self, create your best ideas and make your greatest impact - when you show up as your authentic self.
In other words - be you and allow those around you to be them.
In the end, not everyone will love you and you won't be right for every job. That is how it should be. Rejection can be helpful in helping us find where we truly belong and discovering where we can create the greatest impact.
I'm pleased to report that our event went well and most of the women loved it but one really didn't. It wasn't her thing. She didn't resonate with us. A few years ago I might have lost sleep over that - now I am happy to accept that we can't be everything to everyone and that is OK.