How Are You Coming Across?

One thing I’ve come to believe is that the person you believe yourself to be is key to being the person others perceive you as. How you see yourself is largely how others will see you. To a point that is…

It’s always worth checking out every so often; how you are viewed by others around you, in order that the way you see yourself is in line with how people you interact with size you up. If you find that how you come across differs from how you view yourself, you should be asking yourself what it is your doing and saying that’s projecting this image that differs from how you believe your interacting with those you meet.

Take a moment and think about how you want others to see you. Do you want others to see you as helpful? Are you going for ruthless? Aggressive? Assertive? Innovative? Self-assured? We are multi-dimensional; meaning there are many sides to us and how we wish to be perceived will vary with the people in our lives we wish to interact with. So for example, we may want to come across as knowledgeable when we meet with our Supervisor at work, but when we talk to someone to buy our snow tires, we might wish to come across as wanting to be informed on what’s best for us and defer to their wisdom.

Whether we do it consciously or not, whenever we interact with others, we send signals about who we are, what’s important to us, how we see ourselves and all of these signals give others an impression of how we see ourselves. This is a key to interacting with the world around us and coming across to others in the way we wish to be viewed.

Take two people you see on a subway platform. Without having a conversation, you see them both from 20 feet away; one is a person in a formal suit, polished leather shoes, pressed pants, crisp shirt and tie, carrying a leather folder. The second is a person with green and blue hair, denim pants and sneakers, long-sleeved shirt, wearing a backpack and a tattoo on each forearm peaking out of the shirt sleeve. You know nothing about their character, their intelligence, their occupation, income level, hobbies, attitude, etc. but if you’re honest, you start to form an opinion about them just the same.

Did you choose a gender for both of the people above? None was given in the description, although to view them on the platform you’d have this information. That first impression you began to form in your brain is based largely on how you’ve perceived and interacted with other people of similar looks in your past. So whether you saw the person in the business suit as successful, determined and confident or conceited, hard-nosed and full of themselves is largely an individual thing. Were you to watch them longer, observe them closer, have a conversation perhaps, your view of them would either be reinforced or change based on further information you gather.

Just like the two people I’ve described, you present yourself to others (the world around you) both in how you look, how you act and what you say. Both the people above may be on the way to work, be very successful by their own definition and be friendly.

The choices we make right from the start of our day go a long way to determining how we are perceived. So what are some of these choices? Showering vs. not showering, brushing our teeth or not, how we wear our hair, the clothes we pick out, (cleanliness, colour, style, fit). There’s also the way we move. Do we saunter along, looking at the streetscape around us and the people we pass or do we walk with a purposeful stride, focused straight on the path ahead, not looking anywhere but at the destination we are moving toward?

Whether older or younger, some thought going in to how we dress, move and act will change how the people we interact with start to size us up. If you’re older and feel your age is a problem, I have to tell you that it’s possible this self-perception is coming across to others in your choice of clothing, grooming, how you behave and your movement. Look at yourself as objectively as you can and note the people around you that you perceive favourably. How are they dressed? How do they move? What’s their posture like? How are they groomed?

One thing you can do to check on how you’re coming across is to ask people you interact with and trust for their views on how they perceive you. As there is little value in only hearing what you want to hear, ask for honesty. Without leading them by saying, “Do I come across as confident?”, just ask how they see you.

Do this with one person and that’s interesting. Do this with two or three and it’s somewhat helpful. Do this with many people and you get a clearer idea of how the world perceives you. Now the question is do you like what you hear? Is it consistent with how you want to come across? If so, great! If not exactly what you hoped for, what is it you’re doing to create that image in their minds? If change is wanted, you act on it.

The Impact Of A Smile

A smile is one of the most positive and powerful things you can do for yourself when you find yourself in the company of others. It’s free to use, and it sends a message to other people that you’re approachable, your mood is favourable and it can often transfer to other people you interact with, making your interaction with others likewise positive. Wow! All that from a smile!

The lack of a smile can produce the opposite too. Your lack of a smile can communicate that you’re all business; maybe even a little cold or impersonal. It can send the message that you’re not approachable, your mood is not good, and those you interact with may feel guarded when dealing with you.

Think for a moment of people you interact with often; perhaps your co-workers if you have them. If you’re not employed, think perhaps on someone you see fairly often. Now picture if you can whether they smile often or not, and then consider whether you general consider the interaction you have with them positive or not. My guess is that you generally associate smiling faces with more positive interactions, and the less frequent the smile, the cooler the interaction. Am I right?

Now picture yourself out shopping, at the bank or returning an item to a customer service area. You’re in line awaiting your turn and if you’re like me, you’ve probably looked ahead at the possible people you might interact with and hoped it’s a certain person over the others. I know when I’m standing in a line, I always do this instinctively, and I’ve noticed I usually hope for the man or woman sporting a smile. I just assume my experience is going to be more positive because they’ll make it so; theirs is a cheerful face to start with and hence our interaction will get off to a good start too.

Now employers know the power of a smile. Look at job postings; specifically in the introductions where they describe the role and not the hard-core qualifications. You might see phrases like, “If you’re a people-person”, or “If you’re passionate about providing guests and customers with outstanding service”.  These phrases are put in job postings to alert readers to jobs that will match the right person with what’s to follow. These employers are saying that they are really interested in finding people who will derive immense joy and satisfaction from the high level of interaction you’ll be exposed to. They want people who will come to work energized by that interaction and so find themselves in a good mood; your smile is your visual display of that good mood, positive energy and passion you feel.

We don’t all speak the same language, nor do we experience many things in the same way when we’re from different cultures with different values, etc., but the one thing that is universally understood is the power and effect of the smile.

Now of course, many people don’t smile by nature. It’s not that they are unhappy or cold, it’s just that their resting face tends to have the ends of their mouth droop downwards instead of up or horizontal. It takes these people considerable effort to remember to smile, and the effort is hard to sustain. Consequently, they seem less approachable or maybe overly serious. What’s more, these people are well aware of this themselves from the many people over the years who say, “You look so serious. Anything wrong?” or, “It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little.” Believe me, you’re not telling them something they don’t already know. For them unfortunately, smiling is a lot of work.

A smile can often be hard to come up with too when you find yourself in a situation that you find stressful. A job interview comes to mind. You’re sitting in reception feeling nervous and trying to remember all you can about the company you’re applying to. You’ve done your homework but are nervous because first impressions mean so much. You’re mentally going through possible questions, what you want to be sure to mention, going over that one challenging thing you expect and then you’re interrupted when you hear your name called. Smiling at this moment means everything, but it might be hard to produce and sustain because the pressure or strain you might feel would seem to call for a serious expression.

Smiles are so important. They can light up a room, and in many cases, it’s the smile that has a ripple effect on the rest of your face. It can make your cheeks glow, your eyes shine a little brighter or twinkle, and completely captivate your audience.

Okay so consider this. When you’re in an interview – typically a stressful thing for many, consider smiling when you recall something pleasant. So if you’re giving an example of your customer service skills and recall interacting with someone whom you had a positive experience with, smile as you recall the moment. it will translate positively and communicate to the person listening that you are positively affected when you deal with others. This is the kind of thing that employers are looking for isn’t it? People who enjoy working for and with others.

So I urge you to smile today; think about it consciously as you go about your day and see if you can put a smile on others faces just by showing your own.

Don’t Let Your Past Taint Others First Impressions Of You

When you’ve had a run of bad experiences such as being let down by others, denied opportunities for advancement you felt you deserved, or flat-out been rejected for jobs you feel you were perfectly suited for, you can start to feel cheated, robbed and hard-done by. Unfortunately, not only can you feel these emotions, but try as you may, they can start to manifest themselves in your behaviour, facial expressions and comments. In short, you can become unattractive to others.

Now this is extremely unfortunate when you meet others for the first time; others who may just be in a place immediately or shortly afterwards to help you out. However, you can well imagine that if their first impression of you is a brooding, negative, all-too serious kind of person with a permanently furrowed brow and constant look of exasperation, you likely aren’t going to be at the top of their list when openings arise.

Sadly, this my dear reader, might just be something you are blissfully ignorant of. It’s true! Now I can’t say for certain of course not having met you, but do yourself a favour and without noticeably relaxing your facial muscles or attempting to consciously smile, grab a mirror and look at yourself. Imagine you were meeting someone for the first time now and what would they see? Of course you might argue that if you were in fact meeting someone for the first time, you’d definitely put on a smile. Ah but wait; that facial expression and overall impression staring back at you in the mirror is the face you’re projecting to people everyday when you’re at your normal self; just walking or sitting around. This is what others see all the time when you’re being your authentic self.

There are clues of course that something is amiss. Could be that people are asking you if everything is okay, or if anything is wrong. Puzzled, you might say things are fine and ask them why they ask, only to be told that you looked troubled or upset. If you are just being your, ‘normal self’, and you’ve not had these kind of comments in the past, something has changed in how you present yourself to others.

Now again, you might have cause to feel the way you do; let down, perhaps kept down, held back from promotions, denied interviews for jobs you wanted or interviewed and rejected far too often. These setbacks are certainly frustrating and it’s hard not to take them as personally as they are after all happening to you. However, taken on their own as individual not connected events, these disappointments may well be not so much indicative of your qualifications or experience but rather the outcomes of a very competitive job market. In other words, more people are applying and competing for single jobs these days and many of those are highly qualified. So if you are applying for jobs, you’ve got a lot of competition.

Of great importance is to make sure the jobs you apply to in the first place are jobs you are truly competitively fit for. Ensuring you meet the stated qualifications – from an objective point of view mind – is integral to your success. Applying for jobs well outside your area of ability on the hopes that someone will take a flyer on you just isn’t going to meet with a lot of success. So if you do, you set yourself up to fail with a high degree of regularity.

Look, have you heard it said that many Recruiters and interviewers decide in the first few minutes of a first meeting if they like you or not? Sure you have. That first few minutes is nowhere near the time it takes to accurately check your education, experience, qualifications and overall fit. So what are they using to make these appraisals? They – just like you and I and everyone else by the way – use our first impressions. How you look, the tone of your voice, your facial expression, mood, dress, posture, personal hygiene and yes your attitude – these come together to create that first impression. After those first 2 – 5 minutes, the rest of the interview is really all about confirming or changing that first impression.

This is why it is so highly important that you don’t allow your past to affect your present if your past is a growing number of poor experiences. Yes, you do have to be authentic and real, not some phony, all-positive and artificially smiling person. Being ‘real’ is important. However, it could well be that given a chance to prove yourself in a job, or getting that promotion would see your old positive self return; the self you truly are most of the time.

Like I said, you might not be fully aware of how your body language and facial expressions have changed; what you think you’re covering up well may be very transparent to others. If you wonder just how things are, and you’re up for some honest feedback, ask people who’ve known you for some time and give them permission to tell you the truth. Could be they’ve noticed a change – and not for the better – but they’ve been reluctant to say anything out of concern for not wanting to hurt your feelings and strain a relationship.

Your first impression is one thing you have complete control over.

Job Interview First Impressions

In my experience as an Employment Counsellor, I’ve come to note that those who make good, positive first impressions don’t mind for a minute accepting that other people form opinions of them spanning the first 30 seconds to a minute when they meet. Equally, those who tend to make poor first impressions feel that its entirely unfair that others judge them in such a short time. Well, honestly, whether you like or dislike it when others form first impressions in such short timelines, the reality is, that’s…well…reality.

It’s not just employers and interviewers that form these quick first impressions, and quite frankly, as a species, humans have done it for centuries. It’s survival 101 you know; this innate ability we have to quickly take in whatever sensory information that’s available to us and then in mere seconds, assimilate all that data and form an immediate impression that then guides if or how we interact with others.

Walking on a sidewalk we look ahead and see a stranger approaching us. Based on extremely limited information, we might continue on with a smile and nod as we pass, or we might see a swagger in their walk, a scowl on their face, see their eyes set on us and with all this we choose to duck into a store or cross the street. We judged the situation to be uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worse, and best to be safe and not sorry. Were our actions justified?

Similarly in a subway if every time we look up we notice a person looking at us with a smile and fleeting eyes that look away and we see them bite their lips, we might interpret this as a shy, embarrassed, “you caught me looking at you, and I’d like to meet you but I’m too shy to start a conversation” look. Maybe we’re right and maybe we’re not; maybe we introduce ourselves on the off-chance they are interested in us, or maybe we bury our heads in a book because we might be wrong.

It’s in these everyday interactions with others that we form impressions of others while they of course are doing the same thing with respect to us. The data we take in might include someone’s choice of clothing, it’s cleanliness, their grooming, body odour or fragrance/cologne, their height, weight, shape, health of their teeth, colour of their eyes, posture etc. All in mere seconds mind you – our brains process all this data and we form opinions from which we judge them to be safe to approach, intimidating and to be avoided, etc.

In a job interview situation, take heart! For starters, always remember that this first meeting you’re about to have with some company representative is one you know is going to happen. In fact, you’ve got the time and place as two knowns, so it’s not going to catch you off guard. If you ask the right questions when offered the interview, you also know how many will be interviewing you, their names and their titles. This information can be of comfort, especially if you use social media to look them up and get a visual on their appearance and read their bios in advance of meeting them face-to-face.

You have the further advantage of choosing your outfit for this first encounter, deciding which clothing will be likely to make the best impression on them; be it formal, business casual, etc. The things in your control continue as you can make sure your hair is clean and brushed, your deodorant working, your teeth brushed and a swig of mouthwash will ensure any lingering offensive smells are absent. You can shine your shoes, choose your accessories with care as well.

In addition, when you arrive is in your control. Sure you might run into unexpected delays – that’s why their called unexpected! – but, you can almost guarantee your arrival time will be appreciated by leaving early and planning your route. A dry run on another day will likely give you a good measure of the time you’ll need.

Whether you bow, shake hands or not, smile or not, maintain eye contact or not when actually meeting during the first 2 seconds; again in your control. Even the way you sit or pace back and forth in reception, your posture as you wait and then your body language as you get up to introduce yourself to the interviewer(s); all this within your control and therefore up to you to choose how you wish to act.

These first few seconds are critical as those you meet form first impressions of you just as you are of them. The thing is though that you might be feeling so much pressure on yourself to do well and get a job offer that in the moment you aren’t thinking a great deal about them – being so worried about yourself and what you’re communicating.

Positive or negative, that first impression is the initial point from which all further interaction either reinforces or works to change one’s first impression. The more you put some effort into ensuring the first two minutes shows you as you’d like, the more you can feel confident done your best to get off on a good note. A poor start and you’ll feel the pressure to alter their view of you.

First impressions; vitally important and worth paying attention to. Oh and on the subway? Just go up and introduce yourself!

How To Make An Elevator Pitch

Your pitch is that brief introduction you give to someone when time is of the essence but you want to communicate nonetheless who you are and what you’re after. Some call this an elevator pitch; bringing to mind the 30 or so seconds you have someone to yourself who you wish to introduce yourself to.

For starters you have to know yourself. That sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it? Don’t think I’m being flippant; if you don’t know yourself intimately you can hardly expect someone else to get you. Hmmm….know myself….seems downright easy. But is it? More on this later.

Secondly, once you know yourself, you have to be able to take all the things you know and prioritize which of your many characteristics and skills you want to highlight in this pitch you’re forming. What you choose to include and by exclusion omit might even vary from situation to situation, from person to person depending on who you meet. So it’s not just having a single pitch all nice and neat but perhaps more than one.

It all sounds rather complicated! It’s stressful! What do I include? What do I leave out? What if I mix up my words and go blank half way through my pitch?

Relax….breathe….let’s not make this complicated at all.

It helps if you have a clear goal in mind with respect to your employment goal; be that a job or a career. How about I use myself as an example for the purpose of this piece? You can take what I share and modify the content but adhere to the process if that helps you out.

Okay so I’m an Employment Counsellor. Now while that’s what it says on my business card, I’m so much more than that. I want to differentiate myself from others immediately. So I’m not, “an” Employment Counsellor, I’m “your” Employment Counsellor. I’m in your service; more on that to come.  I said the first thing to start with is knowing yourself. So some things I know about myself are the following: I believe in…

  • the power of enthusiasm
  • empowering others
  • humour and fun as integral parts of learning and sharing
  • trust
  • demonstrating Servant Leadership principles

Now that’s obviously not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get going. Next up I want to look at those items and choose what is most important to me as I introduce myself to others. What do I want them to know about me? What would be most advantageous not only to me, but to the other person to know about me? Why? Because it’s likely that if they are in a position to employ my services in some capacity, it would be in my own interests to come across as having something valuable to them.

Whether or not this person hires me or refers me to someone they know could use my services, this first 30 seconds or so is critical to creating that first impression; and I’ve got the advantage in having time now to craft this pitch so it comes across exactly as I want rather than winging it later and then saying to myself, “Why did I say that!” Ah, I blew it! Dumb, dumb, dumb…”

To my list then. Enthusiasm and empowering others are extremely important to me. I also make a large assumption that anyone I’m speaking with is going to similarly value engaging with someone they find enthusiastic as they go about their work. As I believe in empowering others, I’d think people would like to learn and be able to do things for themselves instead of being reliant on others. So I definitely want enthusiasm and empowerment in my pitch.

The service to others I mentioned earlier? Serving others is something that defines me and I’d like that to be one trait others come to see in me through my actions. As this is a first meeting with someone I’m prepping for, they can’t be expected to know this or have seen me in action, so it’s up to me to communicate this and if the person asks, provide examples that demonstrate my service to others.

So, I’ve got a beginning: “I’m your enthusiastic and empowering Employment Counsellor. I find great joy and satisfaction being of service to others; building and nurturing relationships founded on trust and mutual respect. I have a positive infectious attitude and deliver my services with passion and humour.”

The thing about a pitch is that you want it to roll off your tongue in such a way that your tone of voice, your facial expression and your body language support the words you choose to use. In my case, the pitch would be delivered with a smile (for warmth and friendliness suggesting the fun). The words enthusiastic, infectious and passion are all similar in meaning and reinforce what I want to be known as.

So what do you think? I’m not asking what you think of my pitch as much as I’m asking if you think you could take what I’ve shared and then apply it to your own situation? That after all, is of importance to you, my reader.

If I may make a suggestion, pass this piece on to others. Who couldn’t benefit from being able to articulate who they are, what they offer and how they deliver it in a brief 30 seconds or less?

So what’s your own pitch sound like?

Signals We Send To Others

In my line of work, I see a lot of people on a daily basis; people who are largely unemployed, others who are underemployed. They share many things in common with one another, the most significant one being that they are first and foremost people. Obvious yes, but critically important to continually recognize.

Each one of these people has a past and present, and while they may be occupying the same visual space in front of me at any given time, it’s that past and present which they have uniquely lived which differentiates them from each other, and logically from me as well.

Interestingly enough however, if you are observant, you can make some good assumptions about people you see but have yet to interact with in conversation. From the way they dress, walk, what they carry with them, how social or private they are with others, what they are doing and their physical appearance, you can gather a great deal of information.

Now were you and I sitting down together and watching, we would see the same people, note the same things, but we might make inferences and form opinions based on what we observe very differently if we compared notes. This phenomenon is similar to having 6 witnesses to an accident who give very different interpretations of what they’ve just witnessed to a Police Officer. In those situations, you’d be asked to describe what you saw without making any personal interpretations or subjective statements.

Ah but you and I sitting side by side, our situation is slightly different. Here’s what our brains do with what’s before us. First of all we receive this stimulation; most of it visual, perhaps some of it auditory and we could pick up odours be they pleasant or foul. It’s less likely we’ve got any taste or touch stimuli. So the sight, sounds and smells are what we’ve got to work with. This information we take in and our brains start to assemble that information in ways that make sense for us.

By making sense to us, what’s happening is that our brain is organizing the data we’ve received, putting it together in a way that makes sense to us; and this is largely based on past encounters we’ve had with others in our lives that were similar. Hence a cologne or perfume someone wears might attract or repel us but it may remind us of someone we’ve known who wore that fragrance. The other thing is that with the organizing that is happening in our brain, we compartmentalize what we are experiencing. Does this person go in the harmless, danger, be on my guard, pleasurable or perhaps avoid interaction at all cost categories? Ever been walking down the street and you see someone coming towards you and you suddenly think it wise to cross the street to continue your way but avoid possible contact? Same thing.

Knowing this process is going on; receiving, processing and evaluating data in order to assess and predict with some certainty if a given interaction will be favourable or not, it’s safe to assume other people do it too. So what? Excellent question.

The answer of course is this; how we choose to dress, walk, act; the things we carry with us, our hygiene etc.; all these things are sending information to those around us. Other people are then using the data we’re sending to form opinions about us then before we’ve even said a word. If and when we do enter into verbal dialogue, those words will be additional information their brains take in; as will the handshake or hug give them touch stimuli, and a kiss perhaps some taste stimuli to add to their assessment of us. Although a hug and kiss are unlikely for a first encounter but some do greet each other this way as cultural norms.

Like me, you’ve got a lot of control over the signals and stimuli that you share with those with whom you come into contact with. Even if you pay little attention to your clothing and your grooming for example, you are still sending out information about yourself and the choice you made in how you are presenting yourself to the world.

You have control over these things I say. So it stands to reason then that if you are not attracting the right kind of attention; if you are not interacting with others in your life the way you’d like or having the impact on others you’d like, changing up some things will communicate different information and it will be received and processed by others differently. Stands to reason doesn’t it?

Now if you want others to take you professionally – for a job interview perhaps – and you want a favourable first impression, you have the power to package yourself differently and hence increase the odds of promoting yourself so you are received as you’d like to be. Do nothing, and how you’ve been successful or not in the past with others in your personal presentation is likely to remain unchanged. Without making a personal change at all, assuming you’ll have better luck or a different reaction isn’t wise.

Whether it’s a job interview, wanting to impress someone you find attractive or putting yourself in a favourable position in your existing job for some future promotion, pay attention to the cues you are sending to those around you.



Getting The Right Bra

At the moment, I’m facilitating a two-week workshop on self-employment and starting your own small business while in receipt of social assistance. As participants in this group are all exclusively on social assistance, it’s important for them to understand the rules that are in place that govern what they can and can not do as a small business owner until that day when they reach financial independence and can then do as they wish.

Now there are what I call the soft and technical skills that are required to be a successful small business owner. The technical skills are things like budgeting, writing a business plan, product production and money management. The soft skills are things like how dress, understanding what personal qualities are generally held by entrepreneurs etc. Very important and many would argue even more important than technical skills, as those can be sought out in others you could contract.

So there I was on day 2 of a 10 day class yesterday. The subject we were discussing is clothing, and how important it is to make a good first impression on investors, advisers, potential customers and business partners and colleagues. My audience was made up of people in ball caps, reflective sun glasses, t-shirts, jeans, etc. I was stressing the importance of taking pride in how you dress, and the fact that one never knows when you might attract or put off someone who might help grow your business.

With this target population, I assume nothing. We talked about everything from the length of skirts and dresses to the need for clean nails and teeth maintenance. Then the topic turned to underwear. You know, making sure your pants aren’t having your crotch at your knees, and 7 inches of your boxers exposed if you want to be taken seriously. And with respect to bra’s, not over exposing yourself, colour matching with your top etc. It was at this point a question was posed which I think is worthy of sharing here.

The question came from one of the females in the group who said that the cost of a bra for her – being heavy chested) was out of her price range. She pegged the right bra at about $80.00. We talked as a class for about 20 minutes on the subject of bras. Was it uncomfortable for me? No not really. I was impressed that the group on day 2 could have a serious conversation without the immature comments that might have come up from other groups, or the snickers.

Wearing the right bra really can make all the difference no matter what your bra size. But in the case of this woman and a few others in the room, it was an issue of needing the right one to provide support and reduce back pain. My suggestion to her was to put a funding request in writing for her Caseworker, and if she could obtain it, include a note from her physician that backed up her claim of experiencing back pain. Looking at things on a cost basis, what’s less expensive after all, two $80 bras or trips to Doctors and Chiropractors?

And as one of the woman in the class contributed, wearing no bra at all isn’t the answer as a small business owner. And she’s right on that account. And on the other end of things, another participant brought up the issue of being small chested and having to find one that fit her frame.

Finding the right fit; be it a bra, a dress, a pair of pants or a shirt is critical to both looking professional and feeling good about yourself and your level of self-confidence when addressing others. For tall or large people, some stores charge extra for plus sizes, and even those that don’t sometimes have limited selection of clothing. One of the men in the group said he has a waist size and inseam combination that isn’t easily found, and he has to sometimes settle for clothing that wouldn’t be his first choice due to availability.

You see the option of going to stores that cater to people who are taller, broader or heavier etc. isn’t always there for those on fixed incomes. Pay your rent, buy your groceries and there isn’t much left for what we might call basic necessities. And this is why I’ve made the suggestion to put a request for some clothing funds to the client’s worker who is in a position to provide it based on demonstrated need.

By the way, you might have already done a comfort check with yourself had you been in my position. You know, a guy talking with a mixed class about bras and underwear. Would you in my place be at ease discussing it or even think it appropriate. My feeling is this: if it’s important to the participants in the class to bring up, it’s important to discuss. Really effective adult education facilitators have to in my opinion, allow for discussions to occur where interest is sparked. Sure I’ve got my agenda, but adult participants have to be respected, allowed to contribute, and if it’s topic-related and relevant, discussion is to be encouraged. Looking at things the other way round, if she didn’t bring up her concern, she may not have found out that funds are available to help alleviate her problem and find a solution.

Like they say, there are no dumb questions. And if you’re thinking of a question, someone else likely is too whether it’s bra’s or some other subject.

1st Impressions: Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?

Last week was the first of a two-week job searching class that I am facilitating. When the group first walked in on that Monday morning just over a week ago, I judged each and every one of the people who walked through the door and sat down. And don’t think they didn’t judge me either.

Now of course, judging others is not something that you might think you do; it’s as if the idea of judging someone else is a bad thing to do. I’m here to tell you that not only is it a very good thing to do, it’s absolutely necessary, and the faster you realize you are being judged the better if you are seriously job searching.

However, what I really want to get across is that you have to believe that some people are just better at judging others with a higher degree of accuracy than you might like to think. As each of these 12 people sat down, within a few seconds I had already formed an initial impression. As 20 minutes elapsed, I either revised or reinforced my initial impression of each person as they introduced themselves. I watched their faces to see who could make solid eye contact, looked at their posture as they were seated, felt their handshake and thought, “confident” or “insecure”, looked at their clothing and thought, “Not taking this seriously” or “Well done”.

As a week has now passed, I’m closer to the end of the program than the beginning with this group of people, and I can tell you honestly that my impressions formed after 3 seconds – that’s 3 seconds – was 100% accurate. Now if you think I’m sharing this to impress you, you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m sharing this with you as a person looking for work so you can fully appreciate the importance of that critical first chance to make a strong positive impression.

The good news is that the capacity or ability to shape the impression that others have of you is within your control. While anyone can extend a hand and shake the hand of another person, some will put no effort into the gesture and offer a limp hand, or worse, just a few fingers not even the entire hand. It’s not essential to squeeze hard, but a firm handshake is by far the best that shows you to be assertive and confident.

Take some time to groom yourself. So trim your facial hair, wash your hair and brush or comb it. Put on a clean blouse or shirt and yes you should tuck it into your pants if you want to come across as a professional, whereas a shirt hanging over your pants looks far too casual like you are going to the beach. Do your best to save your jeans for the weekends and evenings on your own time and either present yourself in dress pants or at least some khaki’s.

As for your footwear, sandals are once again for the beach and strolling down the street window shopping but never for job searching. Socks and shoes for the men, while the ladies have a few more options such as flats, closed or open-toed shoes with tights, hose, bare legs etc. And for the ladies only, don’t make the mistake of wearing your skirt too high or your top too low. Interviewers will not be impressed with your cleavage, and if anything it will work against not for you.

And it might as well be said here, that wearing the right bra for your body size is a must. If you haven’t already done so or don’t even know they exist, you might benefit from making an appointment with a knowledgeable salesperson in an undergarment department or store dedicated to women’s clothing. Tell the sales clerk you’re seeking advice on getting properly fitted in a bra that offers support. Don’t assume that you’ve had it right all these years. The difference between what you’re wearing now and what you perhaps should be wearing can make you more comfortable, keep things in place, and improve your appearance.

And then there’s the smile. A smile warms others up to you and visually tells others that you are warmer, more approachable and pleasant. If you don’t smile as a rule, you may come across in that first few seconds as cold, brooding, too serious, and someone to be cautious around. And it actually takes far less muscles to smile than it does to frown so stop working so hard!

Even how you walk will reveal you. Walk briskly and you’ll be deemed to be confident, perky, having a purpose, going places and on a mission. Walk with your hands in your pockets, slouched and shuffling your feet and you’ll come across as lazy, unmotivated, disinterested, even depressed.

I’m going to present two different initial greetings in writing only and you decide which of the two is the more assertive confident job seeker. Both are responding to meeting an interviewer. Person A says, “Good morning! Nice to meet you.” Person B says, “Hi.” Did you choose Person A as the more assertive? You can’t hear the tone or volume of the voice, but the words alone probably in your mind were heard nonetheless. A greeting just using a few more words makes a stronger positive impression.

Work on improving your own first impression. If you receiving some help from an Employment Counsellor, Career Coach, or Job Coach, maybe you might want to discuss what you’ve read and practice a few things.


How They Form That First Impression Of You

You’re up for that big promotion and you get wind that they’re flying in the big boys from Corporate to meet you in order to check you out; oh and they’ll be wanting to meet the wife of course. Not to worry, it’ll just be an intimate dinner with the two of you and the three of them. Or more likely, you’ve landed an interview and you’re going to be meeting someone, or some people from the company who are going to be conducting the interview.

In both scenario’s you are going to be on display and those people are going to be checking you out. So in order to prepare you, let’s look at HOW they’ll go about that. Remember that this process makes sense. Why? Well, they’ll be using all five senses to help them in shaping their opinion of you, and ultimately their judgement pronounced upon you!

Feel, smell, taste, see, hear  + their past experiences = the impression they form. The good news is you can influence the impression they form by breaking down the five senses. The handshake is one of the first things strangers may do when first walking up to you. That extended hand in your direction is one way they’ll use to then make a leap to what your handshake conveys. Is it limp, firm, bone-crushing, and does that in turn convey weakness, assertiveness maybe aggressiveness?

The eyes of course will be used to see what you look like. Are you dressed appropriately for the interview or not? Was that a brown sock and a black sock I just saw? Your clothes will tell them whether you might fit in or not, whether you take the interview seriously or not, and the clothes you’re wearing might be the best you’ve got in some situations.

Oh and these new people will use their nose to smell you as odd as that sounds. It will be subtle, but whether or not you’re wearing a strong perfume or cologne, or whether you have a strong body odour will influence their opinion. In a heat wave you might be concerned about sweating and the resulting smell, or perhaps you subtle fragrance reminds someone of a past spouse, and if that ended badly, well, too bad for you.

Using their ears to listen to your words, their tone, your vocabulary, your answers (weak or strong), your use of humour, your monotone voice; all will again influence that opinion.

Lastly we come to taste. Now of course they aren’t going to literally nibble on your ear or lick your cheek, but you’ll find they may say to themselves after you have left, “Leaves a bad taste in my mouth” or “What stories and humour! He left me thirsty for more”.

Now all of the five senses that an interviewer may employ are certainly things you can influence for the good or the bad. The one thing in that equation above that you have limited power to control is past experiences. So if all the panel members across from you are new to you, there is no personal past history to have influenced. In this case, they will be nonetheless comparing you to other people from their past and judging you based on whether those past relationships worked or not. For example, maybe you are way too young in their opinion and remind them of Anwar who was so full of himself and thought he was better than his co-workers. Maybe a prejudice of theirs rises when your strong body odour from years of cooking with spices hits their nostrils and they are instantly reminded of a very bad experience they had while on vacation in a foreign county. How are they going to deal with you on a daily basis? Not fair of course, but maybe reality playing out in their head too.

Now in the case of a promotion, you may know every person on the interview panel. The sum total of all their dealings with you up to this point in time will of course influence their decision and their opinion of you as they try to imagine you in a different role. Can they see you as a Supervisor with respect from your peers? That incident in the staff kitchen with the whipped cream might have been funny back then, but at this new level could never be tolerated.

Think carefully about how you craft your image both as you prepare for the interview over a few days and in whatever situation you find yourself in here and now. In your current job, you may not be pushing for any promotion. However, realize that others are taking notice of you unconsciously on a daily basis. They’ll put the sum total of those experiences together like a puzzle if and when you decide at some future date to move forward and apply for a promotion. If you don’t realize and act on this reality, you’ll perhaps wish that you had.

Feel, smell, taste, see, hear  + their past experiences = the impression they form.

A nice, neat simple formula that wraps up how we form opinions and pass judgements on those around us, and equally important, how they form opinions and pass judgement on us!

Scruffy Peach Fuzz

Yesterday I came into contact with a fellow who is unemployed and regularly makes use of the Resource Centre I work at. Now, I’ve know this guy for a couple of years, and over that time, he has struck me as personable, willing to engage in conversation, he makes good eye contact, and he seems fairly intent on working.

Now as it so happens, I was contact by an employer just two days ago who is looking to hire a few people, and one of those roles they are looking to hire is in the area of Shipping and Receiving. In addition to the obvious duties of the job, the inside information she shared with me is that the company recently cut the dead weight; employees who stood around waiting to be told what to do. They are looking for go-getter’s, energetic people who move quickly and look for things that need to be done and take initiative to do them.

So I engaged this fellow in conversation and asked him what exactly he was looking for. To this question, he replied that he’d like a Shipping / Receiving position. So far so good I’m thinking. “What’s standing in your way”? I asked. Transportation and a two year gap in his employment were the two things he mentioned. I hadn’t mentioned the job opening yet to him, and I then asked about his work ethic, and turns out he is interested in a job where he keeps busy and active. Again so far so good, and he’s saying the right things. He even indicated that the salary he would start at was in the ballpark of the job I knew about.

When I mentioned the job opening and the inside tips I knew about, he got understandably interested and he really appreciated the chance I was giving him. But then one thing happened that I still can’t really understand. You see, this guy has constant peach fuzz on his face. His beard and moustache are thin and spotty, and he keeps it trimmed that way. To someone who doesn’t know him, it looks like he just hasn’t shaved for three days and is either too lazy or is in the early stages of growing a full beard. So I suggested he consider going clean-shaven to the company when he drops off his resume and application.

My suggestion was meant with tremendous resistance. He figures he’s being hired to do a job, and if in the back room of a store unloading and unpackaging merchandise, it shouldn’t matter what he looks like. If someone doesn’t like his appearnace, he doesn’t want to work for them he said. Now I scratched my head at this one because of what he said next even more. He then said, he himself isn’t all that attached to his facial hair, it’s just the principle. I just shook my head and actually told him that I was surprised because I thought he was smarter than that!

If the facial hair isn’t all that important to him, why not shave it off or grow it all in and keep it trimmed. It just gave the impression that he didn’t care about his appearance, and going to a job interview, it would communicate that he’s not all that concerned about making a good first impression. Representing a company, even for those times you are on a break, on the floor of the store or on a bus while wearing your company logo, you still represent a company, and other people make connections between your appearance and the employer. Right or wrong, fair or not, if you can’t be bothered to take some pride in yourself, then the store by default probably doesn’t take pride in their cleanliness and appearance either.

In the end, I don’t know if he will in fact show up today with a clean-shaven face or not when he drops off his resume and application. It will be interesting to hear what happens however, because I’ll follow up on this. Ironcially, he told me that all kinds of people have told him what I told him and he’s sticking to his position. He figures that once people get to know him, then they are in a position to judge him. I disagreed and told him so. People make instantaneous judgements all the time – himself included. Is that woman appealing from across the floor enough to go over and talk to her? Is that well-dressed guy on the street corner successful? Can you guess someone’s financial situation based on just how they present themselves? And if someone drops off a resume, you can bet that person is being sized up and judged from the moment they enter the eyesight of the peson receiving their resume.

Aw I still hope he shaves and gets the job interview at least!