Anne Sowden is a Certified Image Consultant and owner of Here’s Looking at You. She provides image enhancement advice, verbal and non-verbal communication skills education, culture-specific coaching, as well as etiquette and protocol training. Anne works with both teams and individual clients so that they represent their companies with confidence and professionalism, and helps them to strengthen their authenticity through confidence gained from an enhanced image.
This piece on the softer skills involved in creating an impression is perfectly timed for the holidays!
Technical Skills Get You The Job, But Soft Skills Make Your Career
By: Anne Sowden
No matter what you do or where you work, your soft skills are key to setting yourself apart and successfully growing your career. Whether you call it your image, your brand, your persona or your value proposition, you want to inspire others, command trust and respect, and be noticed – for all the right reasons. The way you showcase those skills is with your presence.
Presence is hard to define but it is a combination of qualities that reflect who you are – how you look, how you act, what you say and how you say it. It is how you are perceived and successful business people recognize the importance of reinforcing how others perceive them. While they work constantly to polish and enhance their technical skills, they are also fine tuning their soft skills.
Developing or strengthening your presence is a process – a chance to learn about yourself, how you are perceived and how you want to be perceived. Just as you regularly update your technical skills, you also need to review and refine your soft skills. Some key areas to review include:
Self-awareness – Ask yourself: How do I want to be perceived? How do I come across right now? How do others perceive me? What skills do I need to enhance? These are hard questions to answer on your own so consider working with a coach or mentor who can advise you and make recommendations.
Authenticity – Being authentic is about being yourself, genuine, open, honest, and treating others with respect in every situation. It builds rapport, trust and confidence with both clients and colleagues.
Appearance – You want to look your best from head to toe. That means wearing clothing and accessories that reflect who you are, showcase your strengths, make you feel confident and are appropriate for your audience. Does that mean a suit? In most cases, yes, or at the very least, a well-made tailored jacket. You want to stand out because you are dressed well, not because you’re dressed to attract attention. If this sounds overwhelming, hire a professional who can help you fine tune your look.
Communications – People with presence look and sound confident. Do you stand straight and make eye contact or slouch and fidget? Do you speak loudly enough to be heard, slowly enough to be understood, know when to speak up without seeming to interrupt or encourage others to express their points of view?
Behaviour – How do you interact with people? How do people feel when they meet with you? Do you come across as confident and unflappable or impatient and hesitant? Are you constantly checking your phone or are you able to turn it off and focus on those around you? How do you manage relationships? Do you connect with others at all levels, regardless of who they are?
Mindset – Of all the soft skills, this is the most important. Whether you know it or not, mindset influences your presence. It comes across in everything you do – consciously or unconsciously. It speaks to your openness, professionalism, ability to connect with people and willingness to grow. If you don’t have the right mindset, you won’t have the right presence.
If all this sounds overwhelming, ask friends and family for feedback or work with a coach or image consultant who can guide you through the process.
Having presence is not about being perfect. It’s about being the best you can be in every situation. It’s about being open and honest with yourself and others, without being afraid to show vulnerability.