I recently interviewed London Mayor Boris Johnson at an event in Singapore.
He’s an interesting guy – expected to be U.K. Prime Minister someday – but for the life of me, I couldn’t stop looking at his hair!
It’s blonde, spiky and goes in many different directions. I was intrigued as to how a man in one of the world’s most conservative professions could pull off such a wild look.
After 30 seconds, I had my answer…
Mr. Johnson’s irreverent approach to image works because it is rooted in authenticity. He’s a cheeky devil and his wild hair is simply an expression of his personality.
Here are a few pointers to help you project your most authentic professional image.
#1: Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Accent
You no longer have to be from a certain place or sound a certain way to be successful. Many of my media training clients approach me for help with disguising their accent or the fact that English is their second language.
My advice? Let it go.
People don’t care about your accent. In fact, talking like yourself comes across as real, confident and trustworthy. You’re not a robot. You may even make a grammatical error that’s is specific to where you grew up. So what?
Some of the best television guests I have interviewed didn’t try to hide where they came from. A billion dollar fund manager from Queens had an accent that sounded street smart. A feisty banker from Liverpool came across as tough and capable.
Don’t be afraid to talk like yourself.
Rule #2: Appreciate What You Have to Offer, Even if it’s Different from What You Admire
Early in my news career, it used to drive me nuts that no matter how hard I tried, I just could not pull off being funny. My co-anchor was brilliant at making people laugh. I would watch him in awe.
As much as I admired my colleague, being comedic was just not something I could do authentically. I was referred to as “nice” or the “social glue of the show” which – at the time – I considered boring and completely unacceptable!
But after viewers would comment on how they found my voice on their TV sets soothing first thing in the morning, I gradually started appreciating what I had to offer. It was different but no less valuable.
Stop trying to emulate the strengths of others and do what comes naturally to you. You’ll be the best at it and I promise people will notice.
Which leads us to….
#3: Embrace Your True Personality Type
Are you an introvert pretending to be outspoken and gregarious to fit in with your company’s culture? Or an extrovert trying to tone it down because you think that’s what required?
That’s exhausting. Acting like something you are not is like holding a beach ball under water – it requires a huge amount of energy. Energy that could be better used staying focused on your message and your clients’ needs.
Your professional strengths will shine through when you are coming from a place of authenticity.
London Mayor Boris Johnson on stage with Lisa Oake in Singapore.
A friend of mine recently confided that her husband complains that she only wears black, white and beige. I was surprised at the comment because I think she always looks classy and elegant. Her wardrobe contributes to that perception.
So, which opinion should she listen to? Mine or her husband’s?
Neither. She should listen to her own opinion. Wearing what makes you feel good – whether it’s crazy hair or a classic suit – generates confidence. Confident people do better.
End of story.
Rule #5: Don’t Try to Disguise a Balding Head
No comb overs. No hairpieces. No colored spray. A confident bald guy will always project more presence and credibility than a guy trying to cover it up.
To avoid a shiny head during interviews, photos or presentations, use a shine control gel like this one from the Body Shop.
#6: Don’t Embellish Your Résumé or Your Past
Your résumé and your word are arguably the most important places to be authentic.
The Internet now makes it close to impossible to get away with distorting facts. Just ask NBC’s Brian Williams who was caught embellishing stories about his time covering the invasion of Iraq.
There is a saying in the news business:
“Credibility takes years to build and just seconds to destroy.”
The same logic applies to your professional image. Always stick to the facts.
Putting your authentic self out into the business world means you may face criticism or even outright rejection. But doing so suggests you are brave and truthful – both of which generate trust across all corporate cultures.