Ever read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… by Richard Carlson? It’s good advice for life. But when it comes to your career? Not so much. If you want to get ahead at work or land a new job, it’s important that you pay close attention to the little things you do—in and out of the office—that could sabotage your professional image, also known as your personal brand. Everything from your knowledge and expertise to how you dress to what you say helps to define your personal brand. Here are five ways to build a strong professional brand that sends the right message.
Mistake #1: Introducing yourself with your first name only
The next time you find yourself at a business meeting or professional event, introduce yourself using your first and last name. Women often introduce themselves using their first names only, making it easier to be forgotten in the crowd or during a busy meeting. When you look someone in the eye and confidently introduce yourself with your full name, you automatically sound more professional. Leave the first name-only introductions to Beyoncé and Adele.
Mistake #2: Not taking a seat at the table
If you’re attending a meeting that will be crowded, get there early and take a seat at the table rather than automatically standing or grabbing a chair on the outskirts of the room. The reason? You want to be in a position that will make it easier to join in the conversation and voice your opinion. If you have something to contribute to the discussion, speak up—don’t wait for an opening to appear, as you may miss your window.
Mistake #3: Asking for directions
It’s an old joke (or truism?) that men refuse to stop and ask for directions. (Really, how hard is it to admit that you’re lost?) While this tactic makes no sense on the road, it does provide a valuable lesson for the workplace. The fact of the matter is that men are taught as children to hide their fear when faced with challenging situations—and that can be a benefit on the job. Most executives agree that confidence is essential to being a good leader and strong negotiator. You have to exude self-assurance, even when you feel lost and helpless. Keep this in mind when you’re searching for a job or running your first big project at your company. When all else fails, fake it till you make it.
Mistake #4: Not tooting your own horn
As Sheila Wellington writes in her book, Be Your Own Mentor, “false modesty has no place in an ambitious woman’s office tool kit.” If you want to get ahead, you not only have to deliver results above expectations – you have to be recognized for your accomplishments. If you’re working on a project that’s going well, don’t be afraid to share your enthusiasm with your boss. Keep your manager in the loop so she knows you’ve got things covered. At the end of the project, share the results—especially if they were good. Remember, you’re in charge of your career.
Mistake #5: Apologizing
Women have a tendency to apologize in the workplace, even when we’ve done nothing wrong. While you may think you’re merely being polite, you’re actually hurting your image. Think about it: If you’re apologizing all the time, you’re unintentionally telling your boss that you make a lot of little mistakes. And as Lee E. Miller and Jessica Miller point out in their book, A Woman’s Guide to Successful Negotiating, men will often interpret this behavior as a sign of weakness or a lack of conviction. So whether you’re closing a business deal or negotiating your compensation, don’t be apologetic.
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A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.