Some people just seem to effortlessly have their shit together. They wake up at dawn, drink some type of liquified vegetable made by their Vitamix, do 50 pushups while checking their e-mails, let their hair dry naturally into the perfect style, and make it to their morning meeting looking like a Joan Smalls and Mark Ruffalo love child. I am not one of those people. If you are, go read something else.
What I am however, is a great bullshitter. I am able to create the illusion that I am successful with tricks, good lighting, and just the right amount of caffeine—and you can, too. Here are some easy ways to look, act, and feel like a professional.
Never underestimate the power of a well fitted shirt. Invest in a few key pieces that say “I am here to rock your business world.” A couple pairs of tailored pants in neutral tones, a couple of well-made button-ups, and a blazer are a good place to start. And don’t forget the shoes. Statistically (not statistically), 9/10 hiring managers judge a person by the state of their footwear.
If expensive threads aren’t in your budget yet, check out your city’s consignment store scene to get bargains on gently worn clothing. Mid-range stores like H&M stock polished looking clothing at a more manageable cost.
Keep Up Your Hygiene
Related: keep what you do have nice, clean, pressed, and fresh. Brush your teeth, keep your nails looking primo, wash with pleasant smelling soap, keep that neck beard at bay, and don’t forget, never use too much fragrance. You’re not in a 1970s sitcom.
Carry mints with you as well as one of those mini travel deodorants so you won’t be self conscious about anything at all while you’re making moves on your way to world domination.
Know About Everything
Not in a Jeopardy way, just in a well-rounded way. You want to be able to converse in a way that makes you seem authoritative on what is happening in the world around you. The easiest ways to do this are:
- Follow and interact with a mix of well-connected people on social media. National Geographic photographers, social influencers, reputable news outlets, you get the idea. Have your toes in a variety of pools.
- Keep tabs on your competitors and those in similar fields. Are they excited about a new product? Should you be? Are they hiring? For what?
- Read more. Have a book, newspaper, or good magazine on the go at all times. Reading makes you smarter—it’s that easy. Your brain will thank you, your business will thank you, your high school librarian will thank you.
Be confident, especially when you’re talking about yourself and your company. This is the “fake it til’ you make it” trick. Just like me ordering takeout sushi, always refer to yourself and your company as “we”, not “I”, even if it is just you. It will make it seem larger and more stable. Plus, you might get an extra set of chopsticks for emergencies.
Give yourself a kickass job title that makes you feel unstoppable, just like Palpatine but in less of a “control the entire universe” way. Are you a freelancer? Nope, you’re an “independent consultant” or “self employed.” Have you started a blog? You’re the Founder or the CEO. Mediocre manager of a failing paper company? World’s Best Boss.
Genuinely listen to what those around you are saying. Winning business is basically flirting, and when you’re flirting, you want to make people feel good. Ask questions and make eye contact to create a comfortable environment. Practice paying attention 100% so you can reiterate what people have said later on.
Respond to your e-mails in a timely fashion. Make sure to let your audience and clients know that you are there. Replying within a day is good, but if you can be even quicker, do it. Being on time is perhaps one of the most professional things to do, and, it’s free.
Have a Professional Website and Email
Still using email@example.com and your old Myspace site? Yeah, it’s time for an upgrade. Your online presence is what people will use to decide whether to trust you, so it better look sharp.
- Choose a creative domain name that reflects who you or your company are.
- Consider sending out a monthly e-mail to remember to keep your audience engaged. Make sure these are well curated and the furthest thing away from spam as possible.
- Have different e-mail addresses for different purposes, even if they’re all just going to you. General inquiries? firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications? email@example.com.
With some practice and routine, the magic will turn into reality. You will fake it until you make it and the days of pressing your snooze button 15 times will be ancient history. Don’t worry about the pushups though because #dadbods are so in right now.