How Professional Poise Can Distinguish You in the World of Work

06/05/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

First impressions are lasting, especially in the career world, when an interview or a pitch can be your single shot at success. Your stage presence speaks volumes about how you are perceived, from the board meeting to the coffee shop. Since your audience forms an opinion before you even open your mouth, your body language conveys more than half of what you are communicating. You have control over the way you carry and comport yourself and these mannerisms can help you own your self confidence.

Here are five essential strategies to ramp up your professional poise:

1. Stand tall and use good posture when sitting in a board meeting, making a presentation or even grabbing a snack in the company break room. Good posture is healthy, conveys confidence, and can make you look 5 pounds thinner. Now that's my kind of dieting!

2. Analyze your speaking voice. Be sure to speak slowly, clearly and keep your volume constant throughout your statements. A strong landing or dismount is very important and can make or break the effectiveness of a statement. Use proper grammar and work towards eliminating filler phrases such as: "like", "um" and "you know." Be aware that "you guys" is not an appropriate way to address a group in a professional setting, especially if the party includes women.

3. Dress the part. Take stock of your professional wardrobe and make sure you are neatly groomed and wearing clothing that reflects the culture (and decade!) of your work environment. Ill fitting and sloppy clothing sends an immediate negative message to your clients and colleagues. Shoes should be polished and allow you to walk comfortably and well balanced. Ladies - the killer heels look great for a night on the town but they will not serve you well if you are wobbly on your feet during the company tour or interview.

4. Have a positive attitude and avoid work place gossip and politics. Positivity is infectious and can impact how you perform on the job. Pay-it-forward with an upbeat mindset and watch your colleagues follow suit.

5. Be mindful of the rules of etiquette whether you are hosting a client for a business lunch or a guest at your boss's holiday party. Retool your etiquette know-how so you can be comfortable eating and socializing in a professional environment.

Distinguish yourself with professional poise and gain confidence and self esteem by ramping up your stage presence on the job. Owning the role of the polished professional will show the world you mean business.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins pens a career transition blog called "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" ( She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.