Self-Assessment Quiz ─ TRUE or FALSE:

  1. The only thing I need to do at work to succeed is to show up on time, work hard, and do what my boss tells me.
  2. I’m already confident, and I have no problems walking around at work being the confident person I am.
  3. If I need extra tips to advance my career, I’m more interested in taking a class or going to workshops.

Whether you’re the new kid on the block or the long-standing executive, there may be one tool in your career-building kit that you’re not using to its full potential, and that’s body language. On the flip side, you could be using it unconsciously, and this bad boy could really be holding you back. It could be keeping you from advancing to the next level or just making you look like a big tool. To that end, if you answered TRUE to all of the Self-Assessment questions above, read on!

Most people are aware of the body language basics like handshakes and eye contact. A sister-friend of mine told me her father taught her two things when she was a young woman coming out of college: 1) you always offer a firm handshake, and 2) you always look a person in the eye when doing so. My colleague says that information was incredibly invaluable as she was coming up in her career (especially as a woman).

If you’re NOT doing this, think about it. What do you think when you’re meeting someone for the first time and their handshake is like holding onto a wet fish? Not enticing. Not interesting. Not trustworthy, right? And you might feel a little like, “Ewww!” How about eye contact? If you’re fishing around to catch someone’s eye so that you can connect with them to flash your dazzling smile or try to share a new strategic idea, what thoughts run through your head when they’re looking down or away or past you? Uhhh, not trustworthy. Not confident. Not someone you want to be around or do business with.

Body language goes way beyond the handshake and eye contact.  There are several tools you can use to not only make you appear confident, but to also help you fake it ‘til you make it during an important presentation or in your final interview for the job of your dreams.

Posture – Grandmas are for nothing else but to tell us to sit up straight. DO IT! Slouching is sloppy. Sloppy ain’t nowhere near where you want to be when making a good impression or trying to sell a new client.

Arms folded – Want to tell someone you’re bored, not interested, or think their ideas are nutso? Cross your arms while they’re talking. Better yet, keep ‘em crossed the entire meeting. Want to appear open, interested, and available? Rest your arms on the table or in your lap. If you’re at a networking event, stand with your hands clasped behind your back or low in front of you. People will instinctively feel welcomed and will be at ease.

Body positioning – When seated around the sides of a boardroom table, watch where your chest is pointed. Meaning, if you want to shut out the person seated next to you and those behind you, turn your shoulders and chest away from them. If you don’t want to block them and their ideas in this way—which is more indicative of you being a team player—turn your shoulders and chest parallel towards the table or push your seat back a bit so that there’s sort of a flowing current that can pass from one end of the table to the other. To listen and interact, turn your head, or if you do turn your shoulders and chest, be quick about it and get back to an open position.

These are just a few tactics and tools that you can start using today. As you incorporate this fun stuff into your work world, watch how you turn into a dynamic team player out to win!

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