One of this week’s highlights, was a meeting in celebration of Professional Women’s Day. The American Business Women’s’ Association, group of which I am a part of, always provides not only opportunity to network with other professionals but also, they are very deliberate about making personal development an integral part of every meeting’s agenda.

Hence, when they announced that Dr. Rob Tate would make a presentation on ‘Professional Image and a New Look at Business Etiquette,’ I jumped with excitement. I have always appreciated the importance of appearance and good manners especially as it relates to having a positive, professional image. I am not easily offended, yet some of the things we see these days in the business and professional arena leave much to be desired.

The speech was not only humorous, but also very informative. It was refreshing to discuss what I consider to be pretty basic etiquette principles, but also others that with time, have lost some emphasis. As time goes by, extremely busy schedules and a very advanced technology have contributed to a less personal, sometimes automated interactions.

As we discussed practices such as proper voice messages and emails, showing up on time and RSVP’ing for events. It was evident that from whether ladies should wear stockings, offering our seat to an elderly person to the use of personalized thank you cards; many of the good old rules of etiquette are not as obvious any more. And when we add new generations to the mix, then you will really see how some of rules of etiquette might be considered plainly foreign language.

Further reflection on today’s etiquette and personal image made me think that these topics have lost a little bit of their luster. At least some of these concepts have vastly changed the workplace. I have interacted with people that do not even think of their image unless they are back in the dating scene or job searching.

“Design an impacting image that conveys what you want others to see in you.” Maria Martinez, The INNERactive Coach
Whether you are in the job market or not; the image you let others see of you may impact significantly the outcome of your relationships both at personal and professional levels. In fact, Entrepreneur describes it as “…could wreak havoc — or be the cornerstone of its success.”

So, how do we ensure that we are always displaying a clean, sharp image? I would say that there are three major components to it:
1. Appearance. I’m sure you have heard “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” If you are not up-to-par when you are meeting someone for the first time, they will remember it.
2. Interaction. The way you speak, act and treat others shows a great deal of the type of person you are. Be cautious of the way you portray yourself. Whether you are in a business meeting or in at the corner drugstore, remember that you may run into someone there that you would prefer did not see you like that.
3. Non-verbal communication. It is not only what you say, but what you don’t. Body language and facial gestures are just as important as the words you use. Keep in mind that research shows that approximately 38% of all first impressions focus on body language.

In general, I tell my clients to experiment by paying attention and keeping a log or journal. I am not suggesting you are not authentic; yet just to be mindful. It really all depends on what your message to the world is. Do you want people to see someone confident, approachable, knowledgeable or shy, insecure and standoffish? This would be a good place to start then take a look at a couple of suggestions that will help you improve your overall professional image:
- Walk and move confidently; offer a firm handshake
- Sit straight
- Make good eye contact
- Greet anyone you meet using their name
- Dress according to the occasion
- Be open to small talk
- Project a friendly and warm voice; use proper language
- Be authentic; be you.

I know many people these days are either searching for a job, switching jobs and even starting their own businesses. Many of these changes have been forced by the economy and as a result, perhaps you were caught off guard and do not know where to start. As I mentioned earlier an improved Professional Image can help you not only cause a great first impression but will also boost your self esteem and level of confidence. All in all, when your professional image is clear and sharp, you show the world that you know what you want and where you are going. Remember that it does not have to be super fancy or super expensive, but simple, confident and reflective of you.

If you know that your image can use a little (or a lot of) improvement. If you have decided that you need a makeover and are not sure where to star; or if you realize that a better image will help you secure a promotion, a new job or improve your sense of being; coaching might be for you.

© 2010 Maria Martinez

Author's Bio: 

Maria Martinez is a Personal Development Coach; she works with with individuals who want to untap their potential, achieve greater levels of success and live happier, healthier lives. By providing support and accountability, individuals reach higher and greater goals; balance life at work and at home; and enjoy time doing things they most love. ‘Create the life you want; Start within.’

For more information about Maria Martinez and coaching services go or via e-mail: