Back in the day when I was a young contract programmer—as we were called in those days—I worked with a wonderful older guy named Tom who, luckily for me, became my mentor. I had a habit of coming in early in the morning with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. I would relish the time reading the paper and savoring my coffee.
Tom approached me one morning as I was reading my morning paper. He asked if I was billing for the time that I was reading the paper. “Of course not,” I responded. “I’m an honest person and wouldn’t do that. I don’t start billing until I’m done with the paper and start working.” Tom’s response, “Who knows that?” stopped me cold.
I was focused on doing my job and never gave a thought to what people saw when they looked at me. With Tom’s guidance, I worked to change my image. I changed the way I dressed, changed the way I presented myself in meetings and took notice of the image I presented.
The results were amazing to me. Had I changed as a person? No. Had my work changed? No. Did people’s perceptions of me change? Very much so. Suddenly I was viewed as having more experience and knowledge than I had just a few months before. It was really fun for me when I ultimately got turned down for a job, because I was suddenly considered “too senior.” Clearly I had upped my image game.
As you go through your workday, pause and consider how you’re being perceived. As you look around at the people in your organization whose opinions are valued, do you see any common traits? How might you incorporate some of those traits into your image?
I’d love to hear your viewpoint and ideas on the subject. Of course, if you’d like help polishing your image, let’s set up a time to talk.