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When you walk, do you stride, swagger, slouch, shuffle or sidle? When you talk, do you speak, orate, preach, communicate or whine? At work, are we present, absent, participating, performing or waffling? Actually, we probably do all of these at some time or the other depending upon the mental state we are in at that particular time.

Truth be told, we are hardly ever aware of our mental state and the image of ourselves we are projecting to the outside world. A good way to understand this is to see the way an actor approaches his character.

The actor will ask: “How old is my character? What significant events have shaped his life? What are his personal relationships like? Does he stand tall or is he bent by life’s cruelties? How does he dress in order to project his persona?” And so on and so forth.

Why is this important in the context of the workplace or our careers? Let’s say you go to an interview – what image are you projecting? What does the interviewer see? This could be in your current company or with a prospective employer. If you project an image of confidence and success, how much better would your chances of landing that role be?

Similarly, when we go to meetings or negotiations, how prepared are we to deal with the agenda, and how does it show? Have you done your homework on the issues at hand and people who will be in the meeting with you?

There is an axiom for those in sales: the customer buys the salesman before he buys the product. Therefore, it’s all down to how we come across in the eyes of the buyer.

The harsh reality of life is that we are all playing roles and need to project an image. It is only a matter of the degree to which we are fully aware of what we are doing and that we are portraying an accurate image of ourselves. So, dress for the part; practise your delivery, and, yes, walk tall.

– Leon Menezes

The writer is General Manager, HR, at a multinational company.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 11, 2012.