What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear someone discuss "professional image?" For me, I instantaneously think about outward appearance. Specifically how I dress and how I carry myself. During the annual NASPA African American Women's Summit, I was introduced to a new concept of my image that I need to be conscious of; my intellectual image.
Oftentimes we are so distracted by how others perceive us based on our looks and actions that we might fail to examine the perceptions formed based on our speech, diction, and language. Our speech, diction, and language have direct impacts on the opportunities afforded to us and how intelligent, trustworthy, and credible we are perceived to be.
My challenge for myself as well as for you is to be conscious of our intellectual image and take ownership for it.
Here are some suggestions for how to move forward:
1. Be well versed in facts, statistics, trends, and current events within your field. As a Student Affairs professional I have made a vow to read the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, and other accessible news sources and journals to better understand the field in which I work.
2. Be well versed in your institutions jargon and the jargon used most often in your field. Do you know the "buzz words" at your institution? Do you have a clear understanding of what they mean and their history? Do you know the “buzz words” within Student Affairs? Can you speak about intentionality and civic engagement for example?
3. Analyze your speech and diction. Talk to individuals that are close to you and ask them to provide you with feedback on your speech. Are you clear and concise? Do you use words appropriately? Is your tone, dialect, and humor distracting?
4. Improve your vocabulary.
5. Become comfortable giving presentations and commanding a room.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice and know that change does not occur overnight. Improving your intellectual image will take time; however the investment will be worth it.