Force for Good:
By Peter Amsterdam
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When it comes to our mission work and witness, each of us counts and has the potential to build, contribute, create, and fortify. Our core values state that “we value each individual and his or her unique talents, skills, and strengths. We believe that every person can contribute to changing the world by changing one heart at a time.” The power of one.
“You are the message,” as one author puts it. Each of us embodies the message; each of us is the representative of the services that we offer—both spiritual and practical. People’s impressions, perceptions, and responsiveness start with each of us. Those factors determine whether they will respond positively to our message and the services we offer or react with disinterest or rejection.
Research shows that we start to make up our minds about other people within seven seconds of meeting them. Much of the communication is unspoken. Consciously or unconsciously, we signal our true feelings with our eyes, faces, bodies and attitudes. At the same time, we trigger in each other a chain of emotional reactions, ranging from reassurance to fear.
You are the message. … Recall three times in your life when you know you made a good impression. What made you successful? I’m sure of this: You were committed to what you were saying, you knew what you were talking about, and you were so wrapped up in the moment that you lost all self-consciousness.
The trick is to be consistently you, at your best. The most effective people never change character from one situation to another. They’re the same whether they’re having an intimate conversation, delivering a speech, or being interviewed for a job. They communicate with their whole being.1
If we consider that how we present ourselves can tip the balance in how people respond to the Gospel and the services we are offering, what we communicate to people via our personal presentation and profile takes on greater importance. This reminds me of something we published a few years ago:
We need to be quality representatives of what we’re advertising. If we’re not, then some people won’t even give us the time of day, or give us a chance, or hear us out, or want to associate with us. Practical matters are tedious to focus on and improve in, but by doing so, we’ll be giving more people a chance to try our “product,” and that means better business for our company and greater results. Our goal is that what we’re selling will make its way into every household in the world, and it starts with us being good salesmen and women.2
Marketing the message and the method ultimately starts with the power of one.
Your professional image
One of the most important marketing tools available to you is you. One marketing expert referred to this as “the brand of you,” ultimately recognizing that people’s perception of a service, a product, or an organization starts with their interaction with the individual they encounter that is representing these.
The Brand of You
Treating our personalities as products reflects an increasingly competitive society in which the best way to stand out is to develop an engaging—and easily defined—personal image. … Make no mistake, we all represent a brand. It’s the brand of YOU. How you talk, walk, and look reflects on that brand. Do you come across as trustworthy, confident, and competent, or do you fail to captivate your listeners?
... Remember that if people like you—and feel good about you—they are more likely to invest in you, your service, or your project. So whether you’re speaking to an audience of one or 1,000, think about how you project the brand of YOU. Your brand deserves an extraordinary spokesperson—and you’re that person!3
According to experts, people use their perception of things such as your clothes, your overall appearance and demeanor, your body language, and your communication skills to make up their minds about you. According to these same experts, it can be quite difficult to change a less than positive impression once it’s been made. As the saying goes, “You never have a second opportunity to make a first impression.”
Images are so powerful because, however little you may like it, they do say something true about your personality. It’s no accident that you dress, talk and behave the way you do. … Think about it—you are part of the package that you’re presenting to the client. People shouldn’t judge us by our outward appearances, but of course they do. … [Y]our appearance does label you, therefore it is important to get the right label!4
Considering that people may make up their minds about you before you’ve had a chance to fully make a pitch, explain your work, or articulate your message, this highlights the importance of investing in your professional image.
Observing the business etiquette and manners expected in your culture also weighs in as to whether people will feel comfortable associating with you or building a relationship of trust.
One of the keys to building a professional image that will stick is authenticity—building on who we are and what we believe. Most of us probably don’t have charismatic personalities or dazzling charm, but good manners and etiquette are qualities that anyone can learn and acquire. These, as one author expressed it, are “based in ethics and kindness, not pretense. It is the mark of character and manners. It is respecting others no matter what their position in life. In fact, you indicate who you are by the way you treat others.”5
Physical appearance matters
The world today has become more casual in appearance than 50 years ago, when a suit and tie were fairly standard wear for almost any type of work other than manual labor or blue collar work. And, of course, American movies are pervasive, and in many of them, people are dressed quite casually—even what would probably be considered dressed inappropriately for some settings—which can give the impression that casual dress is appropriate for most occasions.
How you dress can be interpreted as how you will attend to business, and indicate whether you respect people’s culture, expectations, and will meet professional standards. “A sloppy appearance shouts to the world that you don’t care enough to take care of yourself, and therefore you probably won’t take the time to care about your job either.”6
Present Yourself Appropriately
Of course physical appearance matters. The person you are meeting for the first time does not know you, and your appearance is usually the first clue he or she has to go on. But it certainly does not mean you need to look like a model to create a strong and positive first impression. (Unless you are interviewing with your local model agency, of course!)
The key to a good impression is to present yourself appropriately. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and so the “picture” you first present says much about you to the person you are meeting. Is your appearance saying the right things to help create the right first impression?
Start with the way you dress. What is the appropriate dress for the meeting or occasion? In a business setting, what is the appropriate business attire? … For business and social meetings, appropriate dress also varies between countries and cultures, so it’s something that you should pay particular attention to when in an unfamiliar setting or country. Make sure you know the traditions and norms.
Appropriate dressing and grooming help make a good first impression and also help you feel “the part,” and so feel calmer and more confident. Add all of this up and you are well on your way to creating a good first impression.7
There are advantages to adopting a more professional dress code when appropriate, within the cultural expectations of your country. Having a professional appearance can help the people you are trying to reach to feel comfortable with you and at liberty to speak and interact with you, and to bring you into their circle of friends or colleagues. It can give them confidence in presenting you to others as a personal or professional acquaintance.
Building your professional profile
There may be any number of reasons why preparing a professional profile (which may be referred to as a biographical sketch or a curriculum vitae or a résumé, depending on what part of the world you live in) of yourself and your work experience would be needed.
A portfolio of this nature is likely to be helpful, and in many cases is required, if you enter into formal relations with legal entities, government foundations, etc.
There are a number of websites that contain current information on preparing a professional profile, and of course, there is the local library or web resources that you can check to help ensure that the format of your professional profile takes into account any expectations specific to your country. Creating a professional profile for yourself is not only useful, but it can also help you to develop professional ways for presenting yourself, your work experience, your abilities, and what you have to offer.
Following are some websites containing information and sample templates for creating a biographical sketch that can be helpful to get you started.
Résumé writing tips and help
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Career services
The Europass CV
Once you create a draft of your professional profile, you may also want to ask a network associate or someone with business or professional background to critique it and give you pointers on how you can improve it. There are also experts in this field who, for a fee, will work with you to help you to create your profile.
Ultimately, “you” are the message, and a professional profile is just one of the tools in the toolbox for communicating who you are and building relationships of trust and credibility with people. However, it can be helpful to create a good first impression and to tip the balance in your favor when people are deciding whether to meet you or consider you for a grant, a job, or a collaboration endeavor.
There are also other corroborating documents that are useful to gather for your professional profile, including recommendation letters or letters of acknowledgment from institutions that you have worked with or assisted, and official certification for any courses you have taken or seminars you have attended, to document your expertise. Letters of recognition of your missionary or voluntary work can be very helpful additions to your profile.
The Internet and you
Personal branding includes your online identity—the links that pop up when you Google someone or their personal details on sites like MySpace, Facebook, or a personal blog; even someone’s personal email address says something about them.8
Whether we intend it or not, how we conduct ourselves on blogs, social networking sites, chat rooms, etc., sends a message to people about who we are—and it may be a message that will stick permanently, even when we choose to reinvent our personal image or to adopt a new profile. Like it or not, whatever we do or say on the Internet can become part of our image.
For example, if friends or associates encounter something on a personal blog or networking site that represents a very different image of you or people you work with, your work could suffer. Your future prospects could also suffer, as others whom you may approach in the future, whether for a job opportunity, a grant, or a collaboration opportunity, may evaluate you based on your Internet presence—not only the presence you carefully craft to represent your professional profile, but what you didn’t intend people to find or read.
One author said, “You can’t take something off the Internet. That’s like trying to take pee out of a swimming pool.”9 Credibility can be lost in the sight of those who have placed their trust in you due to careless or thoughtless information posted on the Internet. It’s helpful to continually remind ourselves that the Internet is indisputably a public forum.
“For some, online persona undermines a résumé” and “Facebook can ruin your life.”
This underscores the need to be judicious about what you post on the Internet, including on blogs, MySpace, Facebook, or any other social networking venues. What you post can come back to bite you.
“Thousands of social network site users have lost their jobs—or failed to clinch new ones—because of their pages’ contents.” Material from such social network sites is even being used as evidence against people in courts of law.
It is our aim to build a positive public profile online that attests to our Christian beliefs and integrity as a movement. And, in addition, it’s just common sense, for your own sake, to be wise and conscientious about what you post on the Internet. A negative impression and reflection of you on the Internet can be very difficult, if not impossible, to erase. Be wise.—Maria Fontaine
Though there are many tips and lots of good advice available on how to best present and market yourself, ultimately it’s all about God’s leading in your life and God’s Spirit working in you and through you to fulfill His purpose for your life in contributing to making the world a better place one heart at a time. The power of one.
Originally published February 2011. Adapted and republished June 2013.
Read by Simon Peterson.
1 Roger Ailes with Jon Kraushar, You Are the Message (Crown Business, 1989).
2 Originally published February 2008.
3 Carmine Gallo, "You: The Brand," Bloomberg Businessweek, March 1, 2006.
4 Sue Currie, “Why a Professional Image Is Important” (http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/p247574277_Why+a+professional+image+is+important.html).
5 Sara Pentz.
6 From “Everyday Public Relations.”
7 © Mind Tools Ltd, http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/FirstImpressions.htm.
8 Quotation adapted from “It’s a Brand-You World,” by Jeninne Lee-St. John, TIME, October 30, 2006.
9 Grant Robertson.