Communicating a Professional Image

Communicating a Professional Image

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7308-5.ch002
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Communicating a professional image is essential in all professional settings. A professional image is essential in interviewing for a new position, meeting new clients, and establishing a professional reputation in a current position. A strong professional image involves nonverbal and verbal components. First impressions are lasting impressions, and it is imperative to present a strong professional image in all aspects of one's career. This chapter addresses ways to create a professional image and addresses ways impression management impacts the ways others view you in professional settings. Topics covered in this chapter include communication style, accountability, emotional intelligence, behavior and attitude, written communication, and nonverbal communication. A brief overview of creating a professional image through social media will also be covered. A more detailed discussion related to professional use of social media will also be addressed in forthcoming chapters.
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Presenting a professional image is critical in the workplace. Action, dress, attitude, tone, accountability, social media use, and nonverbal cues impact the way co-workers and supervisors perceive competence and professionalism. Understanding the role of emotional intelligence and impression management can assist in gaining trust among peers and in fostering a more collaborative work environment. Communicating a professional image is important for professional reputation and personal branding. Questions to ask include: What professional image do I wish to present in the workplace? How do co-workers and leaders view my level of professionalism? How can I work on continuous improvement while communicating my professional image? The objectives of the chapter are:

  • Explain what needs to be done to establish a professional image in chosen career.

  • Explain what needs to be done to maintain a professional image in chosen career.

  • Explain what to avoid in to have a professional image in chosen career.

  • Describes the possible consequences of not having a professional image in chosen career.



First impressions do count. Being aware of implicit bias is important and can assist in getting to know a person prior to passing judgement. However, actions including nonverbal communication, tone, attitude, and behavior do speak louder than words. Creating and communicating a professional image involved self-awareness and mindfulness of how personal image is perceived by others.

What Is a Professional Presence?

Communicating a professional presence is important in professional contexts and can have an impact on job promotions, leadership opportunities, and collaborative opportunities. In a world where first impressions count, individuals must step outside of personal perceptions and consider what an individual’s professional presence communicates to others. Presence is letting the best version of yourself shine through. Gray (2018) defines “presence” as a combination of “gravitas, communication, and appearance. Together, these elements form an impression of trustworthiness, competence, and authenticity” (p.1). Gravitas is signaling that you have the confidence and credibility to get your point across and create buy-in.” Communication is closely connected to gravitas. An individual’s professional presence and speaking skills are what establish your confidence and credibility and thus communicate gravitas. As much as we may not want to admit it, appearance is the third piece of this puzzle. This is not as much about how we look as it is about how we present ourselves (Gray, 2018).

First impressions can be lasting impressions and as such, the question is raised: How do you communicate a positive professional presence? There are many factors included in professional presence and many benefits as well. For example, personal appearance attitude, dress behavior, nonverbal communication all speaks volumes. Communicating professional presence is important in job interviews, a current position, and in growing a stronger professional network. The way individuals are viewed by others sends a strong message as to who the individual is as a professional in the field or potential leader of an organization. A strong professional presence also lends itself to strengthening and growing a professional network. Professionals in each field have preconceived notions about what a professional image entails in a chosen field. For example, in the field of law, there is an expectation that formal dress and language are used in the courtroom. Clear and concise communication is required in all professions, including electronic communication such as email or verbal communication when speaking with co-workers or give a formal presentation.

In an expert interview with executive coach, professional presence expert and former Integrity Coaching Associate, Justine Ballard, Integrity Coaching (2022) discussed key points from an interview on communicating a professional presence:

For me, Professional Presence means being present in the moment, physically, mentally and emotionally and showing that presence nonverbally as well as verbally. It’s also about showing the best of yourself. People make decisions about others in the first few seconds of meeting them and that first impression becomes the positive or negative lens through which everything else that you do is seen. (p. 1)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dual Perspective: A perspective that is both present and past-oriented. It is a perspective in which the past is used as a model for the future and the present is used as a model for the past.

Accountability: The fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.

Attitude: The way you think and feel about someone or something.

Nonverbal Communication: Communication without the use of spoken language. Nonverbal communication includes gestures, facial expressions, and body positions (known collectively as “body language”), as well as unspoken understandings and presuppositions, and cultural and environmental conditions that may affect any encounter between people.

Appearance: The way that someone or something looks.

Personal Branding: The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, widen their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.

Emotional Intelligence: The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

Collaboration: The action of working with someone to produce or create something.

Professional Presence: Professional presence is more than a to-do list, but it does include how you look and the impression you give upon entering a room. It reaches beyond the uniform to include self-confidence and a way of being, knowing and doing.

Impression Management: The actions people take to persuade others to think about a concept in a certain way. People use impression management to reinforce current opinions or attempt to change them depending on their goals.

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