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Better in Business and Beyond: Learn Why Image Is Everything

By: , SparkPeople Health & Fitness Writer

Inspirational women are all around us, teaching, motivating and leading others by example through the way they live their lives and inspire others. The Spark Your Life Series connects you to thought-provoking female leaders whose stories can help you achieve life balance, a health and fitness goal or a better state of mind.

This month, we talked to Jill Haney, founder of JH Image Consulting, co-owner of Co-Op on Camargo Boutique and career and workplace columnist for the Cincinnati Business Courier, on how to be an inspiration to others in the workplace. Click here for a printable checklist that can help you project a positive image at work and beyond.

About Jill

Jill Haney, founder of JH Image Consulting, trains corporations and individuals on using appearance, behavior and communication to achieve a commanding presence in their professional and personal lives.

With 30 years of experience in personal shopping, corporate and airline customer service, fashion buying and business consulting, Jill's insights on appropriate dress, manners, etiquette and communication give her clients a competitive edge in the marketplace and workplace. Her persuasive and engaging style has led her to become a charismatic speaker and workshop facilitator in visual, verbal and non-verbal communication.

Jill is also a certified image consultant with the internationally known London Image Institute—world leaders in image consulting and professional development. Jill's clients include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Fifth Third Bank, University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Graydon Head, PNC Bank, General Cable Corporation, Cincinnati Regional Chamber of Commerce and EmpowerMedia Marketing.

How did you get started in business and image consulting?
I've always had a passion for fashion and how it is such an integral part of how people present themselves. I'm also a stickler for manners, so the combination of the two led me down the path of image consulting. I first started in retail and then began helping friends and customers clean out their closets and rebuild their wardrobes. I learned about image consulting, found an organization that offered training and attended a week-long session. From there, I used my skills to help customers not only optimize their wardrobe and appearance, but also improve their overall presence.

Can you explain what professional presence is, and why it's important to have it?
Assumptions are made about us within seconds of meeting someone. Having a powerful presence immediately gives us credibility and makes us more memorable and influential. Verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as how we dress, is a big part of how others perceive us. Many bring technical skills to their jobs, but their presence can inhibit their potential.

How can your image help you land or keep a job?
Employers will determine if we are right for a job within seconds of meeting us, so our image is critical to making a powerful first impression.

Yes, you need to have the skills and experience to do the job, but what can separate you is your image. If you project confidence, have a pulled-together image and can communicate well, your chances of landing the job are better. Once employed, your presence can be an important determinant of your future potential.

Why should someone care about his or her image?
It's human nature for others to initially judge us based on our appearance. Being aware of how others perceive you can be an important advantage. Using our image to empower and sell ourselves is part of our career strategy. The question really is, "Why wouldn't someone care about his or her image?"

What if you don't have the resources to look and dress how you wish to be seen?
I recommend shopping in your own closet. I like to draw inspiration from magazines and blogs and then try to put together similar looks. Pairing existing pieces in new ways can make it seem like you have a new wardrobe. Sometimes you need to purge items, but you can often refresh existing pieces with some slight alterations.

What are your top tips for becoming a valued employee and coworker?
Try to bring your best self to work each day. Listen, be present, contribute when needed and stay away from office gossip and politics. We spend more time with our coworkers than with our loved ones, so be someone others want to be around.

Build strong relationships with your peers and leaders. People want to work with people they like, and they like people who take the time to get to know them. Also, to set yourself apart from others, do more than what's expected of you. Employers are looking for those who go the extra mile and help them solve problems.

What if you don't like your job—why should you care about how you are perceived at work?
All business is about relationships. Even if you're in a job you don't like, you can still build strong relationships and leverage them to find a more suitable and appealing job. You don't want to get tagged as a malcontent, or someone who has given up.

What are the top three things employers look for when hiring a new employee?
Without a doubt, the top criteria are an employee who can solve problems and help the company look good. Also, employees with good oral and written communication skills are always valued.

Other strong attributes include a strong work ethic, adept technical skills, the ability to work with others and in teams, strong leadership qualities, a good attitude, an eagerness to learn and a customer-oriented focus.

From what areas of your work do you receive the most satisfaction?
Helping people with their confidence. If I'm helping a customer at the store, there is this moment when she puts on something—a shoe, blouse or dress—and she finally sees herself as she has wanted to see herself. I just love it. In my corporate consulting role, I find satisfaction in raising awareness on the importance of dress, or helping someone project confidence through body language or improving their dining skills. A little bit of self-awareness can really improve someone's confidence. It's a beautiful thing to see.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Do I have to pick just one? My parents taught me the power of surrounding myself with quality friends and colleagues. I haven't always been successful with that and I have paid the price, but I've learned a lot about identifying those quality individuals.

What are your top tips for staying inspired at work?
I feel inspired when I stay on top of trends and research that supports what I do, and use it to empower my clients to make changes that boost their success. Also, I love when clients share their successes with me.

Get Your Action Plan

Live your own inspirational life with advice from Jill Haney.

Click here for 10 ways to be a highly successful employee!


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