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Your Professional Image
 

Your Professional Image

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The development of both your professional and social image is an essential ingredient of your career advancement

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Your Professional Image
By Shirley Robbins

This book is a working course with exercises to reinforce the information presented, and there are answers at the back of the book!

Information isn't the same as understanding. Many courses are designed to just share information. In some cases, that’s fine. But, there are some courses that are performance-based and in those cases we need to change how the reader thinks and acts, rather than just regurgitate facts.

When we teach others we’re not looking for them to just know information. Instead, we want them to use information in context to make good decisions.

Use this book together with ‘Business Communication’, ‘Letter and Report Writing’ and ‘Language Skills’ in the series ‘Using Plain Language’ by Shirley Robbins.

How to benefit from this book.
The development of both your professional and social image is an essential ingredient of your career advancement as well as of your job satisfaction. It is important for you to believe in yourself and your own worth; to develop a good self-image, and to cultivate an outgoing, responsible, positive attitude to life.

The responsibility for developing and achieving these characteristics rests with both you and your management – but principally with you.

Studying this book and completing the exercises will also help you to communicate better; to be assertive and not aggressive; to manage stress and conflict better; to handle sexual harassment, and generally, to improve your ‘total image’.

The information in this book will prove invaluable in whatever position you occupy, but will be especially useful to frontline staff, and particularly to those coming into the workplace for the first time. Enjoy the experience.

Chapter 1: Self-esteem – this is a feeling of self worth. This shows that you believe that you have ‘worth’ and have the ability to change and to develop your ‘total image’.

Chapter 2 and 3: Self-management / time management – In today’s competitive world, people at all levels of the business hierarchy find themselves under increasing pressure.

If you control your time, you control your life. But don’t be a control freak – that leads to tress. Build good relations in the workplace; decide what really matters and ignore the rest, and don’t forget time for yourself – to unwind and relax!

Chapter 4 – 6: That all-important first impression which includes dress, neatness, body language as well as voice.
Posture is important for health as well as the image you present. You may be smartly dressed, but a slouching posture will only result in a poor image.

Chapter 7: Personal space differs from nationality to nationality and situations. We all have a ‘personal space’ and this depends on culture. Africans, Arabs and South Americans require much less than for instance, South Africans, British and Americans. Body language is also part of this ‘space’ and it is important to be aware of space requirements, not only culturally but personally as well.
The degree of proximity, eye contact and facial expressions are all dependent on culture, personality and gender.

Chapter 8 - 11: Your appearance – grooming, neatness, health are all part of how you present yourself. Complementing your natural colouring with a good choice of cosmetics and hairstyle will create a good impression.

Expressing your personality through your clothes – clothes tell others a great deal about us. Are you the frilly, feminine type; do use flamboyant clothes to make a statement, or do you prefer a quieter, simpler, less obvious style? Whatever your style is, it will tell people a good deal about you!

A good working wardrobe will be an excellent investment. If you are starting work for the first time, we have given you excellent advice on what basics to buy and that you can build on. It is also important to care for your wardrobe – clothes don’t come cheap!

As important as it is to look well groomed, it is equally important that you expend some care on our working environment – especially as we spend a greater amount of time there than we do at home. Just as you are judged by your personal appearance, so you are judged by the appearance of your workstation!

Chapter 12: Budgeting – not our favourite occupation, but essential if we are to handle our finances well. This is especially important for those starting their first job.

Chapter 13 – 14: Your voice – how important! The smartest outfit, and all the grooming in the world can be marred by an uncultured, jarring voice. The voice is used in every situation – customer care; telephone reception; presentations, and all personal contact. If you have a problem, do go to a voice specialist and have coaching.

Chapter 15 – 16: You will all be involved in interviews at some time, and we give you valuable tips on how to handle an interview.
Office behaviour involves good manners, gifts, etiquette, relations with staff and bosses, and office affairs. Don’t start one and don’t interfere with anyone else’s affairs!

Chapter 17, 18 – 19: Assertiveness and conflict resolution are an integral part of the business world. It is important to understand that being assertive in many instances is essential – but it is never acceptable to be aggressive.
Where conflict arises in the workplace, there are regulations controlling the procedure to be followed. It is important to prevent conflict situations wherever possible, but if they do occur, then it is important to know how to handle them.

Win-win negotiating in a conflict situation is a complex process of settling a disagreement fairly. It starts with clarifying the conflict or problem; assessing the situation fairly; persuading and winning co-operation. The main point is not to blame, but to get a balanced view. In this process there has to be ‘give and take’ – not ‘the winner takes all’ attitude.

Chapter 20: Sexual harassment in the workplace can lead to all kinds of problems. Assertive behaviour involves the individual in choices – how serious they are about their work – but sexual harassment is not about choices; it has to do with power on the one hand and with the law on the other hand; and it affects everyone involved. There have been definite improvements to the laws dealing with this matter, but before it gets to that point, there are steps you should take and we set these out for you.

Chapter 21 - 22: Here we deal with the cultural differences of the various races. It is important to be aware of differences in manners, customs and behaviour. Where your company is doing business with foreign countries it is essential that you become familiar with the different cultures and their habits. It is both interesting and edifying to learn about other people’s cultures and customs.

In business, you may be required to entertain your boss, visiting dignitaries, sales delegations etc. Again it is essential that you are familiar with basic good table manners, acceptable types of foods and taboos, and to be able to organise such functions.

Chapter 23 - 24: Effective speaking – it has been said that if you can get up on your two feet and talk, you are already halfway to success! Earlier we mentioned the importance of a well-modulated voice. This is essential when you have to make speeches or give presentations. Various methods of preparing a speech and visual aids are discussed.
Meetings are an inevitable event in business. Again, the use of your voice can be crucial. There are useful pointers on the conduct of meetings.

Chapter 25 – 27: Here we deal with your mind; how you learn; how you study; how you remember. There is useful information on study methods, and how to improve the speed of your reading and writing. Remember, that if you want to progress in your career, you will need to study, and we show you how to use Brain Storming for ideas and Mind Mapping for collating information, preparing notes and for revision.

Chapter 28: Addendum A gives advice on choosing menus as well as suggested menus, and the relevant recipes to assist you in entertaining.

Addendum B: How lucky can you be? The answers to the exercises!

Remember to use the other books in the ‘Using Plain Language’ series by Shirley Robbins: Business Communication Skills; Letter and Report Writing, and Language Skills.

About the author:
Shirley Robbins has 35 years teaching experience and 14 years of consulting and training all aspects of Business Communication in Plain Language to government, municipalities, corporate business, as well as facilitating Public Seminars. She has trained German students in Cape Town and also in Berlin (Germany); trained throughout South Africa as well as in Swaziland.
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