Typically, there are two types of situations that warrant turning around your professional image.
The first is when you transition from one career to another in a different field. You may find yourself frequently discussing your new line of work and inhabiting a slightly more representative role.
The other situation doesn’t necessarily mean a new job. This is more like an internal wake-up call. Suddenly, you might come to the realization that you aren’t necessarily dressing for the job you want or portraying yourself in the most flattering light in the workplace. As a result, you decide to overhaul your entire image to become more professional.
However, buying new clothes and updating your LinkedIn profile tend to be quick fixes. Turning around your professional image is a long-term project. It needs to be done in a manner that sticks. If you’re ready to be the change you want to see, take control of your image with these tips.
1. Get professional help.
A few months ago, I finally bought my own website and domain. It was official! I no longer operated through a makeshift portfolio called “Google Chrome bookmarks” to house various clips of my writing, something I knew wasn't sustainable or projecting a strong professional image. Everything had finally migrated over to its own website.
It wasn’t easy to cram nearly 10 years of work into a neat, aesthetically pleasing arrangement. Bits and pieces of that site are still a work in progress, actually. I would have loved the support of a pro to help out. Hiring a professional, like a consultant, can be a huge win in elevating your personal image and taking it to new heights.
Communications consultant Sonya Matejko highly advises working with a professional on your personal brand. Think of it, first and foremost, as an investment in yourself. Not sure how to tell your story? A professional will guide you through various mediums, like podcasts and YouTube videos, which can be part of your narrative. Need help editing your professional bio, but cringe about bragging or even humble bragging? They’ll determine the best strategy for playing up your accomplishments — and yourself!
Remember that great communication professionals are not here to pivot your brand into their brand. Their approach should always be unbiased, and tailored to reframing and editing your needs specifically.
“By investing in someone who can tell your story for you, you’ll be able to see yourself in a new, elevated light,” Matejko says. “If you want to turn around your professional image, give yourself permission to get help being steered in the right direction.”
2. Have a (positive) one-on-one “self talk” with yourself.
Remember the Disney Channel Original Series Lizzie McGuire? Lizzie was a teenager with an animated alter ego. Animated Lizzie often voiced the emotions IRL Lizzie felt, from venting when she was frustrated to internally celebrating little victories. In spite of the trials and tribulations that come along with hormones, animated Lizzie was always a reflection of the real Lizzie: kind, thoughtful and positive.
Self-talk is kind of like having your own animated Lizzie. It’s the inner dialogue you have with yourself. Author and speaker Gloria Pierre further explains that your internal image is influenced by your self-talk, which is also the start of your external image. When self-talk is positive, it’s the result of positive thoughts. And, negative self-talk is — you guessed it — the byproduct of negative thoughts.
Let’s say you’re trying to have better self-talks with yourself, but struggling against a sea of negative thoughts. How can you make self-talk positive if you’re used to having it shift toward negativity?
“Monitor your thoughts and question the negative ones until they deflate,” Pierre says. “How you talk to yourself influences how you talk about yourself and your attitude about people and situations.”
3. Audit your social media presence.
Liz London, founder of The Ladyboss Nation, has several career titles. She’s an entrepreneur, a dog trainer, a belly dancer and an author. London believes that there is a place for every personality in professionalism.
However, she also knows it can be difficult to present so many pieces of yourself to the world all at once. “I have four different social media accounts to separate my stage personas from what I considered my professional personas,” London says.
Consider conducting an audit on your social media presence. If you find that content on your personal social accounts clashes with your professional image, create separate handles specifically for your brand and post accordingly. You get the best of both worlds this way: a space that is private for your personal life and professional accounts for the #boss life.