Have you sometimes met people who walk into a room and just “own it”? Confident and professional, yet approachable and charming, someone who you’d love to get to know better? These people leave a lasting first impression that is also great for their careers, because it helps them stand out in the minds of interviewers, managers and colleagues. When promotions come up, there’s a good chance that these people will come to mind first!
“But I’m not naturally confident!” you might reply. Well, “fake it till you make it”. Soft skills are a SKILL: they can be learned. Focus on where you want to be, and you’ll be surprised how easily you can apply these lessons to your own first meetings.
So what can you do to “own” that room?
* Don’t be intimidated by new people. Don’t worry that somebody’s title, social standing, etc. make you lesser/different from them; we all have our own stories and insecurities. We all want to be heard.
* Strike a balance between talking and listening. Find common ground with your new acquaintance. Genuinely look forward to getting to know them as a person, not as an opportunity. Create a reciprocal relationship: it’s not just about what they can do for you. Instead of being someone with a “drive to succeed”, it’s better to be someone who also wants to help others succeed. You have more to offer than you think.
* Be authentically you. When you’re talking about your hobbies and interests, you’re probably at your most charming (although, read the room: don’t talk hunting to vegans, for example). There’s a lot of job opportunities where the hiring is done based on recommendations from friends and family, so quite often it really is more about who you know than what you know.
* Never underestimate the importance of personal appearance. This isn’t about “attractiveness”: you don’t have to be a supermodel, just take good care of yourself. (And let’s face it, even supermodels don’t look their best when they wake up in the morning!) You can be poised and presentable regardless of your looks; if you’ve got a nice haircut, an air of elegance, and a stylish wardrobe, you’re most of the way there. They say about some natural beauties that they’d look good even wearing a garbage bag, but really, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone wearing a garbage bag is ever going to get job referrals, or even a job, no matter how stunning they are.
Like it or not, people will draw conclusions about you based on the way you present yourself. There’s so many quick, easy ways to improve your appearance, and these can really be an investment in your future. For example, you could see a physiotherapist to improve your posture, a dentist for teeth-whitening, or a beautician to improve your skin. The latter isn’t just for women, either: we all have skin, so we may as well all have good skin! New technologies come out in beauty therapy all the time. It’s worth keeping on top of the latest beauty trends to make sure that appearance-wise, you’re making the most out of what you’ve got.
It’s easy for success to overlook the quiet worker bee in the corner. Learning soft skills can be scary, but that’s true of many other skills as well, and the more you practice your social skills and present the best you that you can be, the more natural and confident you will become. So focus on that best you, and follow those dreams!