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For those who master the essential elements of a professional presence, there will be opportunities galore. Here's how I'd leave the rest of the world in the dust:

Opportunity #1: First impressions count and they're impossible to erase. Once perceived as a dud, always seen as a dud. Don't underestimate how much power you have over perception. Go for broke - smartly tailored clothes that befit your work situation, hairstyles that are sleek and polished and accessories that are memorable give you an edge.

Opportunity #2: Manners matter. I love when someone stands to offer a handshake, holds the door an extra second, says "excuse me" when they step on my foot, admonishes their child to refrain from wrecking a storefront window and says "good morning" even when they don't know me.

Opportunity #3: Email can brand you as a super performer by observing a few cardinal rules. Always change the subject line to reflect the topic of the email. Make that subject line irresistible so it gets opened before the others. Attach the document when you refer to the document. Don't send mass mailings unless you're confident we're interested in your latest obsession.

Opportunity #4: Voicemail messages should be to the point. That means name, number, tightly-edited purpose of the call and a repeat of the phone number. Free association works on the analytic couch not while we're catching up with messages.

Opportunity #5: "Out-behave your competition". That's what Dov Seidman writes in his new book "How." How you engage with others, how you collaborate and how you apologize when you drop a greasy spoon on my shoulder is what sets companies and people apart.

Opportunity #6: Banish "whatever." Don't think it, don't say it and don't act it out. Everything matters.

Opportunity #7: Toot your own horn. Products die on the shelf without consistent promotion and talented individuals are ignored or not utilized without effective self-promotion. No matter what is going on in your life, lead with enthusiasm, vigor and a few choice sound bites about what you're working on.

Opportunity #8: Don't mumble. Sit up straight, throw your shoulders back and articulate.

Opportunity #9: Know something. Movies, theater, music, opera, museums, galleries, travel spots, personal trainer, tailor, nutritionist, designer, advertising guru…be generous with information. It brands you as a leader.

Opportunity #10: Eschew shortcuts. Send a handwritten note instead of an email. Wear pressed shirts instead of wash-and-wear. Engage with the salesclerk before handing over the credit card and introduce people before starting a meeting.

Opportunities to demonstrate panache rarely fall into the lap. Be creative.

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© Copyright 2007 Ellen Lubin-Sherman

 
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