They’ve Got “It!” The Importance of Presence

Have you ever met someone who owns the room the minute they walk into it? This person has the unique ability to draw people in and have others carefully listen to every word they say. Presence is useful for building personal connections and business successes. It is often cited as the difference between landing a job or not, being promoted or not, or making a business connection or not.

Presence is an interesting concept. Some people seem naturally charismatic and born with it. It isn’t necessarily something that can be defined, at least not easily, but it is something that is sensed; in other words, you’ll know it when you see it.

So, how can you learn to build and maintain your presence in business settings? I believe part of the answer lies in the culture of professionalism at your workplace, as well as your ability to successfully network.

Manage Perception of Your Professionalism

Having a professional presence is a dynamic blend of poise, self-confidence, control, and style. Even if you have knowledge and skills, it is often your professional presence that earns you approval.

In order to establish a strong professional presence, go back to the basics:

  1. Dress to impress
    For an interview, networking event, first meeting, job presentation, or any formal event, it’s important to dress appropriately to make a good first impression.

  2. Stay professional in conflict
    When faced with conflict, staying calm is the key to maintaining trust between you and your co-workers or clients. You shouldn’t blame others; instead, try being open to others’ views while stating fact-based observations, not judgements.

  3. Show your eagerness to learn
    In your free time, read up on industry news, watch TedTalks or YouTube videos, take online classes, and read books.

  4. Complete certifications
    Sign up for a learning course where you can receive a certification upon completion. Certificates are a great way to show that you’re committed. They are also great to display on your LinkedIn page, resume, personal website, or portfolio.

  5. Manage your energy
    People always talk about the importance of managing your time, but more importantly, you should be managing your energy. Make sure you take breaks and don’t overwork yourself to avoid burnout.

  6. Monitor your social media
    Did you know that 90% of employers consider your social media activity during the hiring process? As such, it’s important to not post anything that could jeopardize your brand and professional career.

  7. Avoid office gossip
    It’s important to avoid unnecessary office gossip so that it doesn’t impact your professional reputation and you can stay focused on your responsibilities while not tarnishing relationships.

  8. Be reliable
    One of the biggest factors of your professional presence is reliability. If you say you’re going to do something or have a deliverable ready by a certain date, follow through.

  9. Treat others with dignity & respect
    Your language and behavior toward other employees reflects your reputation as well as the company’s brand. When meeting with co-workers, listen to their opinions, be supportive, and avoid using offensive language.

Demonstrate Your Presence While Networking

Networking is another opportunity to profile your presence. It’s not just a chance to make connections either; it’s also an opportunity to learn from others. Try to network daily (in-person and virtually), both inside and outside your organization. 

Not only does networking establish your professional presence and other impressions of you, but it can also help you secure your dream job, or at least get your foot in the door. In fact, over 80% of those looking for a job say that their network has helped them.

Here’s what you can do to network effectively:

  1. Make a powerful LinkedIn profile
    According to a Forbes article, a strong LinkedIn profile is integral to your professional growth — it is what makes you stand out from the nearly 740 million users. First, you must build a strong brand. Second, you need to know the type of people you want to connect with. Once you figure out your target connections, incorporate relevant keywords in your profile and content to post.

  2. The Interview starts when you walk in
    Some may think the interview starts when HR starts asking you questions, but it’s as soon as you enter the building. According to the Wall Street Journal, everyone from the administrative staff to the security guard are watching your demeanor. Are you rude? Are you constantly checking your phone? The moral of the story is that you’re presenting yourself to everyone.

  3. Networking isn’t one-sided
    When you network, there should be value to both parties. If someone helps you, you should help them in return. In fact, not returning the favor is a huge networking mistake, according to the Muse. For instance, if someone writes you a letter of recommendation or helps you land a job, you could write them a LinkedIn review or put in a good word for them in the future. 

  4. Know the boundaries of professional networking 
    If you’re on the job search, don’t flat out ask for a job or an interview. Instead, ask questions about the company and its culture to see if you would be a good fit. If you’re interested in working at a company you’re networking with, let them know you’re searching for a job and that you’re interested in learning more about them.

  5. Networking should be a conversation
    Networking should be conversational and not a sales pitch. One way to prepare is to research the people or company you’ll be networking with and come up with several questions ahead of time. Another way to prepare for a networking conversation is to read up on the latest industry news. Check out this Forbes article for a five-step script for a network conversation.

Presence Matters

When I started out in the professional world, I didn’t fully understand the value or impact of presence, but since then, I’ve realized the difference it can make. By being more aware of your presence and honing it, specifically through acts of professionalism and at networking events, you can create stronger connections with people no matter where you go. Think of presence like another tool in your toolbox — it’s something you access again and again, sharpening and polishing it over time.