9 min read
This article was translated using AI technologies from our Spanish edition. Errors can occur as a result of this process.
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.
One time, in communication class, one of my students reprimanded me for deducting points from his speech. The cause? – Dress informally in a formal speech. His argument was interesting to say the least: Prof. What do my clothes have to do with my speech? If I have jeans, shorts or trousers, it doesn't matter: what matters is what I say, my words, my message.
It's an easy feeling to share. Unfortunately it is wrong. The image is not only an important part of communication, it is also absolutely necessary. The image itself is a common code in a social environment that defines parameters such as threat, empathy, tribe, identity, trust, authority and respect.
The personal image is part of the ethos which is the first filter of human communication. We listen to those we trust and we trust those who communicate their social, technical, formal, proximal, or moral authority. The way we present ourselves plays an important role in this. In a world of robots, the image might not matter; But we are in a world of people who not only take in data, but also establish relationships. This is the basis of all communication.
Much has been written (and much more is being written) about personal image: the way we dress, the clothes, the hairstyle, the fashion and the styles. Self-image is a science in itself, but it's only part of the equation. There is another important part of our picture that we can sometimes lose sight of: the expanded picture.
The augmented image is the group of external elements that project your image, character, values, and style onto other people as well. You need to view them as part of your integral image and give them the same care that you give to your personal grooming and style.
Some elements that will be part of your expanded image are:
1. Your car
Have you ever had to get someone into your car and get rid of excuses and excuses – "Excuse me, excuse me graduate, let me save this … you see … I have kids at home" – while you try desperately to get rid of yesterday's leftover food?
Your car is a very important part of your image, but maybe not for the reasons you think it is. Although brand and luxury are requirements in some business environments, the general rule is that it doesn't matter how expensive your car is – don't go into debt! – but even more, what condition it is usually found in. What's the use of wearing a Chanel dress or an Armani suit if you show up in a dirty, neglected, or broken car on your date?
Have the car that you can. But always keep it flawless. It's a projection of your values and people see it and associate it with your personality.
2. Your office / cubicle
Office styles change over time and follow different trends. A few years ago, "luxury" offices were made up of heavy wooden furniture, classical paintings, and heavy ornamentation. Modern offices use straight lines, neutral colors and a minimalist spirit.
Remember, however, that your office is the visual metaphor for your brain. Whoever visits it confirms what they see in your room through you. They won't say "wow what a messy office" they will say "wow what a messy person". While there are professional environments where “clutter” is required and expected (e.g. creative companies, design companies, etc.), don't be disappointed. It's not the same "creative" thing as downright messy or dirty. Visualize the style of your space and you are sure it will convey what you want to convey.
The traps in the offices are: old-fashioned furniture. Surplus of personal items and souvenirs. Things on the desktop that you are not currently using. Useless papers and things that are there "just in case …". Poor quality pictures and ornaments. Trash, dirt, and general clutter. Bad lighting.
This applies to your home when you receive people, partners or customers from your company. Stop and ask yourself, does this room represent me as a person and as a professional? If not, don't be afraid to make the necessary changes. If you need it, ask a professional for help.
3. Cell phone and pen
It's not uncommon to come across people who seem to have taken care of every aspect of their picture … until they pull out the phone with a crashed screen, years of scars, or an unprofessional case. And then the illusion is broken.
Like in a car, your cell phone talks about who you are and how you are. It's not about having the latest model, luxury brand, or overpriced phone – it's about investing a little in presentation.
Same goes for the pen: try to carry a good quality and in good condition pen or pen that you can use or borrow if needed. There's no need to spend thousands of pesos: excellent pens are available for the price of a Venti coffee. The important thing is that you are aware that these accessories convey the style and care that you put into little things.
4. Your manners
Although the monkey dresses in silk … it is said and he is right. Bad manners are always red flags because they speak of internal values that manifest themselves unconsciously. Punctuality, deference, respect for all people. The way we greet, smile, and interact with the people who serve us (such as waiters, cashiers, etc.) says more about who we are than the most luxurious of ties.
Are you projecting a negative image? Maybe they are not your shoes. Always maintain a friendly and service-minded attitude, put the others in front of you, spend time and quietly listen to what they say to you. And please … don't get distracted by your cell phone while others are talking!
5. Your social networks
Either excessively or by default, few professionals keep their social networks aligned with their professional profile. Everything you upload to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. is part of your expanded image and has a direct impact on the perception of your brand in the environment in which you evolve.
"But networks are for friends and family," someone will tell me. And I will answer you: exactly! In your opinion, where do your first customers and partners in a business process come from? Your networks need to convey two things: your personality and your personal and professional interests. When it comes to photography, science, politics, or technology, your networks should be transparent and help you get high on the list within your circles of influence.
Second, you should keep in mind that anything you put there is public. People you don't know may have access to your photos and comments. Try to behave in them as you would in a real public setting: with education, quality, character and intentionality. What you enter today will be there in two, five or ten years! Maintain awareness and caution and do a cleaning once a year.
6. Maps and contact
Until recently, business cards were ubiquitous. You were the first thing we did in starting a business on many occasions. With technology, they have lost their presence and many younger entrepreneurs prefer to exchange contacts on their phones.
Regardless of whether you use paper or digital contact cards, design them so that your picture is conveyed positively! Yes on paper: well designed, well printed and up to date. Yes, digital: complete, updated and easy to transfer. Do not give "your number" but your card with your complete information and in a professional manner.
Don't be satisfied with what "everyone does". Level up your game and don't miss the chance to make a good impression.
7. Your Zoom Fund
This is absolute proof that even though fashion changes, style remains the same. The personal image is not a set of rules, but the habit of being aware of the projected image where nothing is unimportant.
The use of Zoom or similar platforms is ubiquitous these days, and we spend hours in classes and meetings every day of the pandemic. The world of the future is going to be much more interconnected in that sense, and virtual meetings are here to stay.
The fund you use in your meetings corresponds to your office. Is it a white wall with no decorations? Is it a messy house or a window that is too bright? The background of your meetings deserves attention: it must be neat and balanced, and prefer neutral colors. It shouldn't have any distractions. It must have good front lighting and a face-to-face camera. Do not use virtual resources! You prefer real funds with a professional spirit.
Finally, remember: the personal picture is not a costume or a mask. It's not a way of lying, it's a way of being transparent. It is an optimized reflection of your style and values and one of your true allies in your personal and professional project.