Thanks to Tami Palmer of Greyzone and Karen Southall Watts for contributing to my recent piece on Personal Presence. You ladies rock! You can read the full article here or click on this link to visit the NCBR/BizWest site.
Cultivating Personal Presence – The REAL Key to Success
Most of us spend way too much time working on our résumés while barely giving our personal presence a passing thought. Your résumé may get you an interview but it won’t land you a job. It’s like having a whole bunch of nails but no hammer. What good is that? Personal presence is the real key to opening doors and meeting with success.
Karen Southall Watts is a coach, trainer, and writer who works with job seekers at all stages of their careers to assist them in achieving their goals. She says, “I see many highly educated, well-qualified people who are out of work. Many people expect that their impressive résumés will do all the talking.”
“Candidates think they can present a laundry list of qualifications and get job offers, contracts, and deals in return. It simply doesn’t work like this. Even when candidates can rattle off their skills, they struggle to convey their value or what it would be like to work with them as an overall experience.”
Tami Spaulding, founder of Greyzone, a job search and career mentoring organization, agrees. Spaulding tells her clients, “Your résumé is an outline. YOU are the presentation. Your résumé is marketing piece to help you get in the door. It’s up to you to sell yourself.”
Helping clients develop personal presence is a topic near and dear to Spaulding’s heart. “I think I have stumbled upon the secret sauce for interview success and even overall career success. It is pairing humility with confidence. That energy is what makes people attracted to you and gets you far. You really need both of these qualities in balance. We need the energy and the confidence to reach out to others and at the same time we need to remain humble and sincere in our approach.”
Spaulding talks about a client who recently had the courage to be real when asked about his biggest weakness during an interview. “It turns out that the interviewer had the same weakness! They bonded over their shared shortcoming. We crave this kind of authenticity. People feel comfortable around us when we are open and honest. Candidates go unnoticed or are quickly forgotten when they are too guarded or when they try too hard to please.”
The goal is not to be perfect. Presence is about being authentic. Watts’ background in musical theatre gave her early insight into what it meant to have presence. “Over the years I have seen many performers who were technically accomplished but no one would sit through their performances. Then there were those singers who did not necessarily hit all the high notes yet audiences couldn’t get enough of them. It takes more than being qualified and now I see this in every pool of people I work with as a coach.”
Personal presence can be difficult to define yet most of us recognize it in a heartbeat. It’s unique to every person and comes in as many different flavors as there are people on the planet. Gandhi had presence. So did Marilyn Monroe. The key is discovering your own presence and staying true to it in every situation.
The good news is that presence can be cultivated. We can learn to how to dress or how to sit with greater poise and presence. We can join groups such as Toastmasters in order to refine our public speaking skills. Networking plays such a key role in our success. There are countless books on the topic and endless opportunities to practice connecting more authentically with others.
It is best to begin cultivating presence through a process of self-discovery. We need to embrace what makes us unique and then set clear intentions about how we want to show up in the world. In my work with clients, I incorporate journaling activities, creative visualizations, personality assessments, value clarifications, video coaching, and communication practice to help people discover what makes them unique. Only then do we begin to define and develop their personal brands.
As they move out into the world, the intention they have set can inform and guide their behaviors. Acting from a place of intention allows us to feel greater confidence and a sense of ease in every situation. Watts adds, “We can meditate on what we really want to be known for and keep these qualities in mind as we interact with others.”
“When networking, for example, it is more about being someone worth talking to than collecting business cards and asking for favors. People can feel when you are trying to convert them to a sale or a job offer. They don’t like that. On the flip side, people can feel when you are genuinely interested in them with no expectations.”
Spaulding encourages her clients to ask lots of good questions during interviews and networking conversations. “Show curiosity. Be attentive. It is as simple as asking questions and letting others tell their stories. Listen and make eye contact. People are drawn to us when we show sincere interest in their stories and experiences.”
Kristi Hedges, executive coach and author of, “The Power of Presence – Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others,” offers this definition. She says, “Personal presence is the ability to connect with and inspire others.”
Watts agrees, “Presence is not about us as much as it is about how we make others feel. We all have this little seed inside that yearns to become something bigger and brighter. People with charisma and presence cause us to see these things in ourselves that perhaps we did not even know were there. That is what presence does. It brings out something wonderful in the other person.”
Toss your résumé aside. Get busy discovering who you are and how you want to be known in this world. Personal presence is cultivated in through a lifetime of intentional living. Every interaction offers a chance to be your best self and to inspire others to do the same.