Monday, August 25, 2008

Managing Stereotypes and Your Professional Image

We all know how important our professional image is to our success (we do, right?). I know I work really hard to establish a good first impression and then continue diligently to be the person I've represented to my clients and network of relationships.

But sometimes my professional image may already be decided simply because of a stereotype -- and you too. This then requires me to make the effort to overcome a stereotype, not for my class, but for myself.

Are you a lawyer? People in general have an impression of lawyers as a class. Are you a marketer? Some people classify you as "sales" while others may have the impression that your "type" are simply a drain on overhead. I am a marketing consultant... in some circles this is maybe a double whammy!

All of this is brought to light in an interview of Laura Morgan Roberts over at Harvard Business School's "Working Knowledge". One quote in particular grabbed my attention:
". . . you must realize that if you aren't managing your own professional image, someone else is. People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated throughout your workplace. It is only wise to add your voice in framing others' theories about who you are and what you can accomplish."
As much as ever my success, and yours, depend on what people believe about us. What are you doing to be in charge of your professional image?