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The Importance of Perception Shaping Your Professional Reality

Perception definition: The organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment.

The Importance of Perception Shaping Your Professional Reality

Your professional image and its effect on future career success cannot be understated. The work you do—and how you do it—contributes to the image others have of you in the workplace. Those others play a role as well. Your managers, colleagues, customers and suppliers all build an image of you as they interpret your work product, communication skills and behaviors in the office.

Building a professional image can be the difference between a rapid rise in an organization—or career stagnation. "The impression you create may affect future job opportunities, collaborations or other important matters," says James Uleman, PhD, a psychology professor at New York University and researcher on impression management.

Your professional image is in your control. To help you, we put together a list of seven tips that will set a strong foundation for building a positive professional image—and ultimately, career success:  

Show up on time: Being on-time and managing a consistent schedule is a great way to demonstrate that you are organized, reliable and consistent. Pick a window of time that you plan to arrive and leave work. Stick to it! If you have an unpredictable schedule it is easy for your co-workers to think you are showing up late, leaving early or seem unreliable. 

Prepare for meetings. Arrive at meetings ready to work. As mentioned above, you should be on time. This simple step shows your respect for your colleagues and that you are organized.

Own your work (and mistakes. They happen!) Take on assignments you can commit to driving through completion. Projects require teammates to contribute in meaningful ways, above offering opinions.  When you make a mistake on a project, own it. Don’t take the team down with you. Often the biggest mistakes we make turn into the best lessons learned.

Collaborate. Seeking advice, input and ideas of others can speed up projects and create better business outcomes. In addition, asking someone for help will build your relationship with that colleague while providing you an opportunity to learn.

Recognize others for their contributions. When presenting ideas or projects, be sure to give credit where it is due.  

Dress well. Every work environment has its own dress code. Do not be the person under-dressed. Business casual does not mean a wrinkled shirt and tennis shoes. There is a saying that you dress for the job you want.  People form perceptions of you based on the external image you present.

Be honest. It seems obvious, but being honest about your opinions, abilities and bandwidth are all great ways to ensure that people view you and your work in a positive light.

This last tip is probably most important of all. In a popular Harvard Business School article, Creating a Positive Professional Image, professor Laura Morgan Roberts says, “to create a positive professional image, impression management must effectively accomplish two tasks: Build credibility and maintain authenticity. When you present yourself in a manner that is both true to self and valued and believed by others, impression management can yield a host of favorable outcomes for you, your team, and your organization.”

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