Over the past twenty years, there has been an occasion where I have been accused of not being professional (usually when someone is suffering deep emotional problems). Worse, I have myself thrown the term out to describe someone else’s behavior (I have always been mentally stable). I don’t even know what “professional” means. I do get paid – isn’t that professional? Let’s put it this way: In the good old days, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the business olympics – only amateurs were allowed (and while my performance may be amateur, I have been paid on numerous occasions for my athletic acts of business which is a clear violation of both old-school olympic and current NCAA standards. Though I don’t have enough tattoos to make any NCAA team nowadays, even women’s soccer.).
Let’s face it: appearance matters. And while I do mean the way you look, I don’t just mean the way you dress and do your hair. The way you appear to others makes a difference. (oh yeah, I finally found a description for ‘professional’).
Back in the tumultuous aftershock of 9/11, I was stuck trying to save my own business and looking for work at the same time. I got pretty good at interviewing (either for a new client or a new job), and learned a valuable lesson: It’s not so much what you say, but how you say it. In other words, my verbal appearance made a huge difference when interviewing. Time after time I was able to win positions or contracts (before they were frozen due to the economic hit) by my ability to answer questions freely, non-chalantly, and completely. It was my ability to communicate that made others think, “This guy is sharp, we should seriously consider him” (suckers).
Now obviously, you have to be able to produce good work for your charade to be fruitful in the long run. If you’re interviewing, you need to have the right resume in the first place to get very far, but in the end, I believe its one’s ability to communicate effectively that determines, to a large extent, where their career goes.
Communicate with words. Communicate with physical appearance. Communicate with personal style and with business results.
Photo by S. Diddy