As you work hard to advance your career, you want your professional skills and accomplishments to be front and center: your management style, leadership abilities and job performance. If you shine in these areas, you may feel assured of a promotion in the near future. Your strong points, however, might be overshadowed by certain personal characteristics that undermine your overall professional presence.
A recent CareerBuilder study, conducted by Harris Interactive among 2,878 hiring managers in different industries, offers insight into which personal attributes could make you a less appealing candidate for promotion. What you may think of as small details, such as wrinkled clothes or chewed fingernails, can communicate to others that you lack professionalism in the workplace and may not be top leadership material.
“When it comes to career advancement, you want to stack the deck in your favor,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder. “While strong job performance and leadership skills will weigh heavily on prospects for upward mobility, employers will also look at whether the employee conveys an overall professional image both internally and externally.”
The top personal characteristics that would make those surveyed less likely to give a promotion are:
• Piercings – 37 percent
• Bad breath – 34 percent
• Visible tattoo – 31 percent
• Often has wrinkled clothes – 31 percent
• Messy hair – 29 percent
• Dresses too casually – 28 percent
• Too much perfume or cologne – 26 percent
• Too much makeup – 22 percent
• Messy office or cubicle – 19 percent
• Chewed fingernails – 10 percent
• Too suntanned – 4 percent
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
1. Clean up your image.
If you don’t think your physical appearance is communicating the appropriate degree of professionalism in the workplace, make an effort to dress for the job you want. Wear clothes that are well-tailored, pressed and professional enough for a meeting with your boss or your best client. Pay attention to the details, making sure your hair is neat, your fingernails are trimmed and your tattoos or piercings are not visible. Think about how you dressed when you initially applied for the job, and put that same attention into your everyday appearance.
2. Don’t get carried away.
It is important to look and smell pleasant, but there is such a thing as going overboard with makeup and fragrances. If you spend hours applying makeup every morning or give yourself several generous spritzes of perfume and cologne, you may want to tone it down. Wear makeup that is subtle and enhances, not distracts from, your professional presence. Avoid strong fragrances that colleagues might find overpowering. Don’t forget that the basics are the most important — going to work showered and keeping your breath fresh throughout the day with mints or mouthwash.
3. Keep your workspace clean.
Your professional image goes beyond what you wear to work. Your office, cubicle or desk should also reflect that you are capable, hardworking and organized. If your desk looks as if a tornado struck it, you are probably not showing your best side. Do a major clean-up of your workspace, throwing out what you don’t need and creating organizational processes to keep it tidy in the future.
Are you surprised by any items on the list? Are you guilty of any of these professional presence faux pas?
Learn more about EDSI’s Professional Presence in a Casual World course.