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Presenting yourself in a professional environment

Whether you know it or not, everyone works as a salesperson in some form or another and the brand you’re working for is yourself.

I know this may sound rather absurd or even philosophical. But simply put, we should all have the ability to promote ourselves, regardless of the situation. The logic that follows is simple; even if you have incredible skills and techniques that are not rivaled by anybody, if you don’t know how to market yourself appropriately, you probably won’t be able to take advantage of those skills.

So, I’d like to share two essential steps I always take to present myself well in professional settings, regardless of whether it’s an online discussion or job interview.

Step 1:
Be reflective about who you are

As a menswear columnist, I am often asked for styling advice from friends and peers. Be it how to dress for a first internship or what color to pick for their first suit, there is a recurring pattern that boils down to one greater question: how do we conform ourselves to an established social construction?

While that’s certainly an important consideration to keep in mind before we make a decision, thinking it too much would be equally problematic. In fact, I would even encourage you to take a step back from focusing on how to fit into our surroundings. You first need to consider who you are as a person.

This could be best explained by a personal experience of mine, which you might find familiar.

Having grown up with social media being an essential part of my youth, I had been quite troubled by the constantly shifting fashion trend led by style idols (and influencers who came afterward) on what’s trendy or what not to wear.

Apart from the various economic and environmental implications that come with it (which could be another article all its own), the most concerning consequence of pursuing trends is that it made me less self-aware of my own tastes and passions.

To put this into perspective, no matter how nicely dressed I was in these clothing, I still wouldn’t look my absolute best because I was fundamentally mimicking or even living under someone else’s shadow.

Needless to say, you could expect I didn’t have much success in standing out, let alone having the opportunity to present myself effectively.

Fortunately, things took a turn when I was inspired by a few of my closest friends to tap into what I’m truly passionate about — craftsmanship and sustainability.

As a direct result of this rather monumental self-discovery, I also launched a blog called The Suitstainable Man, which examines the dynamic between my passions, along with men’s style.

Since then, I’ve been able to work closely with firms and businesses in the tailoring and sustainable fashion industry to present insight and stories within the trade, as well as to spread ideas on my website for my readers to enjoy.

All in all, the lesson here is rather straightforward – In order to present yourself effectively, you have to be more reflective of who you are as a person and what you want to represent beforehand. Then, if you’re confident enough to stand for your ideals, you’re more than halfway ready to promote yourself professionally.

Step 2:
Think from your audience’s perspective, and promote yourself accordingly

With that said, it’s not enough to just be self-aware and authentic to your own identity. You also need a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses to see if it appeals to your audience.

The truth is, while you shouldn’t conceal your passion just to promote yourself, you could always choose what to present or at least rephrase your words in order to captivate your audience.

My personal experience tells me that sometimes even though you’d consider some of your strength are worth highlighting over others, they may not necessarily be what others are looking for.

There could also be scenarios where you didn’t consider a strength that could end up playing a crucial role, namely by even allowing yourself to secure a job. This was precisely the case from my previous job as a marketing officer.

I recall that during the interview, I was asked to demonstrate sufficient experience to qualify for the role. While I could have taken the safe path by elaborating on the job duties of my previous internship experience (which perhaps would have been overkill by quantity), I decided not to present myself that way.

Instead, I took a risk by focusing on my work at The Suitstainable Man, which I’d recently launched at that time. By emphasizing how running a one-person brand requires me to have the expertise in both content creation and effective marketing, it certainly served as a better demonstration of why I was the fitting candidate for the role.

Next thing I knew, the company was asking when I could start working, and that was just a few hours after the interview!

So, remember to stay flexible. Your strengths and weaknesses are relative to the person you’re talking to. Trying to think from your audience’s perspective and whatever catches their eye will always be your strength.

The key to presenting yourself successfully in a professional setting largely depends on a balance between the ability to think from your audience’s perspective and to stay reflective of who you truly are.

Take a page from what Will Smith’s Genie said to Mena Massoud’s character in the latest Aladdin movie, “You look like a prince on the outside, but I didn’t change anything on the inside.”

With that said, this doesn’t mean the clothing you choose to present yourself with is not important. Sometimes, it is the icing on the cake that can determine whether you’re the perfect pick or just pretty great.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into how you should dress for your internship or your first job, you can check out this article I’ve written on this topic. You can also send me an email ([email protected]) should you have any further questions.

Take care, and bye for now.

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