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Professional Presence — It’s a Gift!

Five steps to increase your visibility (and paycheck) at the office

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Certain women excel on the job, command respect and influence others no matter their spot on the org chart. They also tend to get paid more. Their secret? Professional presence. It’s when body language, speech, style of dress, expertise, visibility, engagement and authenticity work together to get you noticed.

Dionne Mahaffey, a business psychologist and coach in Atlanta, says that even if you’re a capable worker, commanding a larger salary is just as much about optics. In other words, you must intentionally and consistently tell your colleagues a story, with both verbal and non-verbal cues, about how exceptional you are. If you don’t, they will fill the information gap with assumptions. And in their stories, you’re less likely to stand out.

A 2018 study in Labour Economics showed that extroverted, open workers make more money over the course of their careers. “Shy people may be criticized in performance reviews” for connecting less, Mahaffey says. They get results, but don’t often verbalize them.

The good news: You’ve got several ways to signal to office decision-makers and influencers that you’re a high performer — and none of them require you to be that braggadocious person in the room. Here’s intel from successful sisters to show you how it’s done.

Enter the group, not the room

As you walk into a meeting room or seminar, instead of claiming a quiet or distant spot, claim the spotlight by greeting others with enthusiasm. Share news of a recent success. Vanessa Allen Sutherland, 47, an attorney in Norfolk, Va., has gotten raises of up to 25 percent. “A mentor told me, ‘You have to talk to people inside and outside of the company about your work,’” she says.

Be informed

Do your research before meetings to position yourself as a thought leader. Having a thorough grasp of related issues and topics will also help you to ask better questions in discussions with others. When you feel prepared, that confidence comes through in your voice.

Dress the part

Select outfits for the role that you aspire to. Sutherland says looking polished is key to her success. “When you’re sitting at the table, you can’t look like the oddball.”

Be an active listener

Listen to understand, not to reply. Lean forward, ask questions and occasionally repeat what you’ve heard to signal you’re following along. “You display confidence when you’re engaged in the discussion,” Mahaffey says.

Connect with eye contact and hand gestures

When body movements sync with what we’re saying, people can sense our sincerity. Eye contact also establishes trust. “Meet your companion at eye level without staring,” Mahaffey advises.