Give Good Presence

To keep moving up the corporate ladder, you'll need to polish your demeanor. Here's how.

with those in control within your own company.

After nine years as a financial analyst for Shell Exploration and Production Co., a Houston-based subsidiary of Shell Oil Co., Tahita Doyle began studying for her master’s degree in human resources management to move into the human resources field. Although she didn’t get the human resources position she applied for, the senior-level human resources manager doing the hiring was impressed with her credentials. He invited her to meet with him to discuss her career goals. She took him up on it, and they began having informal discussions about how she might get into the field.

Shortly before completing her degree, Doyle began applying for human resources positions and let the senior manager know she was nearly finished with her studies. During this time, she also met informally with another human resources executive, who helped her secure her first human resources position.

“It’s important to build relationships with people not in your normal circle to expand your influence,” says Doyle, now a human resources representative. When she met with the senior managers initially, it was just to build a relationship and exchange information. She did not have a hidden agenda, she says. “I have found that what strengthens relationships is being honest and sincere,” says Doyle.

The key to effective networking internally rests with “being interested in other people,” says Janice Smallwood-McKenzie, a Los Angeles-based networking coach and author of The 101 Commandments of Networking: Common Sense But Not Common Pra
ctice (1stBooks Library, $12.45). Incorporate Doyle’s and Smallwood-McKenzie’s advice into your own networking strategy.

  • Always be yourself. “People often misrepresent who they are,” says Smallwood-McKenzie. Tell the truth about yourself and what you represent. Just remember not to ramble on endlessly about yourself.
  • Remember that networking is other-centered. When some accomplished people talk, they get into an “I-can-top-that-story” type of competition, she says. “Let others have their moment. Let them feel special.” You’ll be remembered positively for it.
  • Follow-up. A little thanks will always go a long way. “Remember to send a thank-you note when someone sends you a gift, gives you a lead, or helps you in a special way,” Smallwood-McKenzie reminds us.

Schooled in the social graces
As an executive, you’ll find yourself in many business situations, both at home and abroad. Being able to communicate with anyone will give you an advantage, says Cuff.

John J. Harris, president of the pet care division of Friskies, has done business in nearly every country. Patience and courtesy are critical to doing business successfully overseas, he says. It’s important to know a country’s customs and how it does business before you arrive. Eating, in particular, can take on significance, he says.

“The eating experience is longer. It’s not unusual for a meal to take three to four hours to complete,” Harris says. Professionals from other countries view meals as an opportunity to get to know you and assess how sensitive you are to local customs, he explains.

You’ll come across as respectful and professional if you take the time to do your homework and

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