What is Professional Presence and How Do You Build It?

Two young business professionals standing together and discussing over business report in office hallway. Office colleagues reviewing a business document in lobby.

What is Professional Presence and How Do You Build It?

So many hiring managers mention “professional presence” as a desired trait when adding to their team, but what do they really mean?
To clarify the ambiguity of “professional presence,” I surveyed heads of law firm recruiting, professional development, and human resource departments asking them to explain what “professional presence” looks like. Based on their feedback and my own experience interviewing candidates, I have defined the key elements of professional presence.
People with a strong professional presence:

  1. Have a positive, can-do attitude. What this looks like: They take ownership over projects and are eager to solve problems. They also give others credit and are easy to work with. They keep their word and do what they say they will do, even if it’s an assignment they don’t particularly enjoy. 
    Why it matters: Coworkers and bosses want to work with young professionals who are eager to take on assignments and who tackle them with the right attitude. Your positive attitude will be noticed, and others will be eager to collaborate with you on more projects. Conversely, managers will notice your lack of enthusiasm and engagement, and this will impact them trusting you with more challenging work. 
  2. Are proactive.
    What this looks like: They arrive at meetings prepared with materials needed (test the Zoom link, look up professionals who will be speaking, offer to take notes). They anticipate the needs of coworkers or bosses and are ready to assist without being asked.
    Why it matters: By being proactive, you demonstrate responsibility and reliability. If you take initiative, you will inspire the trust and confidence of bosses and your coworkers. As a result, they will trust you with greater responsibilities and new projects.  
  3. Are able to read the room and communicate accordingly.
    What this looks like: They assess the appropriate tone for emails or written communication. For example, they observe how others in the company communicate and emulate the most effective
    communicators, whether verbal or written. They are articulate and concise and speak with confidence about their work in groups or one-on-one meetings.
    Why it matters: Effective communication is important in all industries and careers. Strong communicators come across as more competent and confident. If you struggle to communicate
    effectively, senior professionals will be less confident in your ability to execute projects.
    Now that you know what professional presence looks like, you can showcase these behaviors and traits and inspire confidence with the professionals you work with, and your career will advance as a result!

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