Managing Your Professional Image

When is the last time you thought about your professional image?

I’m not simply referring to how you dress. Your professional image does include your appearance, and it also includes digital, competence and behaviors.


PowerePoint slide from “Managing Your Professional Image” by Suzanne Updegaff

Suzanne Updegaff, president of Employee Development Systems challenged listeners on a PRSA webinar to consider our professional image and whether it is what we want it to be. This imagining, she said, “allows you to create and become the best you.”

Not only should we consider how we see ourselves, we should also consider how others imagine us.

The physical is noticed with respect to appearance, but there are other aspects of appearance to consider. For example, do you appear to be engaged in conversations? Are you bringing innovative solutions to problems?

Updegaff asked, “What would you like your appearance to tell others about you?”

I once worked with someone who wanted to be upper management. However, he did not dress the part, and others in the organization consequently did not see him in that light.

Another aspect to consider is how you behave and what the behavioral expectations are within your organization. If you work someplace that expects everyone to be in at 8 a.m. and you roll in at 9:30, your behavior may be perceived negatively. A good question to ask yourself, Updegaff said is, “Are you proud of your behaviors?”

Updegaff asked listeners what they wanted to be known as. Are these attributes aligned with your competence?

In the digital reality, Updegaff said, “Monitoring your digital image is just as vital as showing up.” She also asked us whether our digital voice had grown up.

One suggestion she made was to Google our names to see what others see. This is vital because people will Google us when they are considering hiring us. Those who work with us will Google us to learn more about us.

“Building your digital image is a proactive ongoing piece to your career development,” Updegaff said.

When you combine the four realities, they become your professional brand. Updegaff said, “Keeping up is about thinking forward in your career.” We need to ask what we will need to know, do or be next year that we aren’t today if we want to move forward. We should also consider what habits are holding us back.

Updegaff’s parting advice: “Imagine you as the most professional person you know.”


How to Build a Publishing Resume

I update my resume every year, but as a writer I recently discovered I should have a publishing resume. It makes sense. Why would a publisher or agent want my resume that lists career highlights that have nothing to do with my writing career?

JRW Panel

Editors and writers shared their tips for building a publishing resume. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

At a recent James River Writers workshop, I learned what to include on this type of resume, as well as how I could gain additional credentials to put on the resume. Such a resume can help authors secure fellowships, awards and prizes. A publishing resume needs to include categories such as awards, speaking engagements and published works.

Why You Need a Publishing Resume

“It sets you up for all sorts of opportunities,” said Dana Isokawa, the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine, where she edits the magazine’s sections on writing contests and fellowships, literary news and trends, and conferences and residencies. “It’s a literary calling card.”

What I like about this idea is that it’s a great summary of my work to date.

“You want to sell yourself,” said David Streever, a journalist, author and editor-in-chief of RVA Mag’s print quarterly. He recommends placing your publishing resume on your own website.

Published Works

When it comes to adding links to articles you have written, the panelists had several suggestions on how to find freelance opportunities. One suggested making a list of all the topics you know and are good, and then finding stories on those topics to pitch to relevant publications.

Pitching editors is most often done by email. Be sure to proof the emails. “I get nervous when I pitch,” David said. “My brain shuts off.” To avoid mistakes, proof the email several times or ask someone else to review it before sending.

Another way to build your writing portfolio is to write a blog.


One area that the speakers highlighted was fellowships, which provide opportunities to further your writing and to be inspired by other writers.

Martha Steger, a prolific freelance writer, did caution writers to look for hidden fees, such as fellowships that only cover the cost of the stay and do not pay for WiFi, parking or travel.

Writers’ Groups

The value of belonging to writers groups also was touted. “You want to be part of a community that really cares,” Dana said.

I belong to James River Writers, Virginia Professional Communicators/National Federation of Press Women and Sisters in Crime. All provide me with invaluable guidance and access to successful writers.


Karen A. Chase suggested creating a budget for your submissions. At the end of year, have an ROI. If you enter a cost that costs $50 and you get a prize of $100 that is a 50 percent return. By allocating a set amount and tracking it, you can determine where you have success and where you might need to make changes to your approach.

I’m going to spend my next writing block working on my literary calling card.



PowerPoint Presentations Require Planning, Practice

PRSA Hampton Roads

Presentations require preparation and practice. 

The Institute for Crisis Management tracked 801,620 crisis news stories during 2017, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2016.

That’s why when the Hampton Roads chapter of PRSA asked me to present on crisis communications, I knew I was going to have to do some research on the latest incidents. Plus, it had been about four years since I last presented on the topic, and I would need to rework some of the slides. In all, I spent about 15 hours preparing.

Based on the feedback and follow-up questions, I think it was worth it.

I share this because some people think they can simply whip up a PowerPoint and then present. To succeed, the prep time is critical. Here are some areas to consider:


  • Decide what the look and feel of your slides will be.
  • Identify the photos, illustrations and artwork that you will use.
  • Consistently use font face and type size on all slides


  • Keep words to a minimum on the slides.
  • Avoid full sentences.
  • Never read your slides.

Take Away

  • Always summarize your 2-3 key points.
  • Make the key points memorable so they will stick with your audience.


  • Know the composition of your audience and tailor your presentation accordingly.
  • Find out what they are expecting.
  • Always ensure that your presentation description matches what you present.


  • Know your slides.
  • Speak with confidence.
  • Don’t speak too quickly.

The first practice round I did with my colleagues, I realized I had too many slides, and that I was treating the presentation as if it was a full-day training session. I spent a few more hours on it. I cut slides, added case studies and identified key points. I did a second practice session, and knew I had the right presentation.

The effort put into a presentation pays off when you look at the audience and you see people taking notes, tweeting and nodding in agreement.

On the Path to Publication

Last summer I finally finished the first draft of my travel memoirs – a book I had no intention of writing. My focus had been on writing a mystery and joining the ranks of my favorite authors. Following a visit to my 50th state before I turned 50 – my own bucket list, if you will – friends and colleagues convinced me that my journey was worth chronicling.

What the heck, I figured. At a minimum, it would be one amazing journal of my visits to all 50 states. Now I’m in a second round of revisions and will be finished by late spring at which time I will begin shopping the manuscript around.

On my best days, I write furiously and happily. On my worst days, I’m filled with angst and doubt about my efforts.


The path to publication is helped when following the advice from published authors. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I’ve learned, I’m not alone. At the recent Mystery Palooza put on by the Sisters in Crime Central Chapter, several authors shared their journeys on the path to publication.All admitted to the same struggles. I wasn’t alone! Their stories encouraged me to keep plugging along. The authors who presented all had from two to 34 books to their name.

When asked about motivation, several responded about the importance of belonging to writers’ groups. I do, and they are right. Each time I attend a meeting I learn something. I also want to have something to share about my progress.

Frances Aylor, author of the Robbie Bradford financial thrillers, said. “I realized I was telling everyone I was writing a book, and it became a point of honor to finish it.” A few of my colleagues inquire every few weeks about my progress. I look forward to the day when I’m holding a copy of the book!

“Being around other writers motivates me,” author Mary Burton said. Every time I see her, she has encouraging words for me, and she has 34 books to her credit! Her next book, “Her Last Word,” debuts May 8.

Heather Weidner said, “It helps to have peers looking at (your work).” Her second book, “The Tulip Shirt Murders,” just came out.

When I shared my draft with my readers, I was apprehensive to get their feedback. What if they disliked it? Instead, they said, “Tell me more. I want more details.” They scribbled notes and suggestions throughout my draft, and I’m rewriting to deliver what they asked for.

I’m on the path to publication. I’ll let you know when the launch party is!

You’ve Got Mail – And More Mail

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with their inbox. I know I do. If I find a webinar about taming my inbox, you can be sure I signed up for it.

I recently did just that through the Career Mastery™ Kickstart 2018 event. Carson Tate, who offers a course in taming the inbox and is the author of “Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style” shared some tips.

While most of us are working to be more productive, part of our problem is poor allocation of time, Carson noted. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all. We each need to find the style that works for us.


Carson Tate offers advice on how to tame our inbox. 

Carson encourages us to change our mindset about our inboxes. “You no longer work for your inbox, your inbox works for you,” she emphasized.

I was relieved when she said that the typical inbox should have no more than 50 emails in the inbox. Whew! That’s about where I am by week’s end. The first part of the week my inbox soars with emails. For a long time that frustrated me, but I know now that by week’s end the flow of emails ebbs. Midweek, I set time aside to review my emails for any important ones I may have overlooked. I delete those that require no action and offer no information. When Friday comes, I often walk out the door with 50 emails or fewer. Before the holidays I was down to 18.

It’s important to think about how you use your inbox. For me, it’s a giant to do list. Carson said there is nothing wrong with that, but for that to work, it’s important to move reference emails to a retrieval system. I’ll file emails into folders as needed. Other times, I file the attachment into a Word folder so I can retrieve it later.

She also encouraged individuals to stop starting the day with emails. “Your inbox is everyone else’s to do list for you,” she said.

I hadn’t thought about it that way. I now limit how often I check my inbox so I can work on the projects that are a priority. However, I will admit that I check it more frequently than is often recommended because I work with reporters on tight deadlines and need to be able to respond quickly.

By limiting how often I do check my emails, I am able to advance my goals.

The mail continues to arrive, but I’m processing it more efficiently.

What are your tips for taming your inbox?


5 Tips for a Creative Plan for Your Writing Life – Or Just Life

Working on your career is like working on your story. You need to ask yourself, “What is the ending for my 2018 story?”

Journey1Michelle Mercurio shared that advice during a James River Writers workshop. I found it so powerful I went home and spent a few hours journaling about it. Before long, I had three specific outcomes I wanted to see happen by the end of 2018. More importantly, the outcomes were more than words. I told a story with each of the outcomes, weaving in details and monthly plans. It’s going to be a beautiful journey.

The actual workshop was about scheduling, motivating and organizing one’s writing life, but I quickly found the advice applicable to so many areas. And yes, one of my 2018 outcomes is to have a book contract.

Here’s what else I learned:

A map is useful. Michelle urged the audience to define their buckets and then create an ideal calendar and map out how to fill the buckets.

Accountability matters. Karen A. Chase said when you regularly meet with groups you have to show up or people will ask why you didn’t attend. And when you show up, there are people asking about your progress. I’m finding that to be true with my book of travel essays. I’m making more progress the more I talk about it because people follow up and ask me how it is progressing.

Find your spot. We all need a place that inspires us. Or a place that helps us get unstuck. Or maybe a place that is simply a change of pace. I recently spent a long weekend in the Outer Banks writing. It wasn’t my house so I couldn’t be distracted by things I should do around my house. Instead I focused on my writing. It helped that the weather was lousy and I stayed indoors.

Organize. You can organize your notes and ideas by folders using dates or topics. Michelle prefers to use binders. Others organize electronically. Choose the system that works for you, and, if you need to, Kristina Hamlett said hire someone to help you organize.   

Say no. “We need to say no in order to say yes,” Kristina said. It’s important to make time for writing. That might mean turning down invitations.

With all this planning and organizing, you would think you would be set to write (or whatever your goal is), but avoid the pitfall of overscheduling and making so many lists that you aren’t writing.

“It’s safer to plan than it is to do, but choose writing,” Michelle said.

Books to Grow Your Career

I’m sure by now you realize how much I enjoy reading. I love a good novel, especially a mystery. I also read a lot as related to my career and future success.

A recent Business Insider article about how to keep up with the evolving business landscape noted that reading a lot will keep you open to change. The author wrote, “Leaders who read can get into continuous learning loops that allow them be more empathetic and collaborative, rather than commanding and controlling.”

Ron Friedman, an award-winning social psychologist who specializes in human motivation, said one of our psychological needs is to feel competent.

“When we are exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives that is when we feel ourselves growing,” he said during a webinar with the Career Mastery™ Kickstart 2018 event.

BooksOne suggestion he had for doing this is to give each person on your team a reading budget to purchase a book once a month or quarter. I don’t have a budget to do this but I do share titles with my colleagues and others in my network. I also participate in an informal women and leadership reading group where I am exposed to new ideas or different ways of approaching a concept.

Here are four that are on my list:

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith He examines the environmental and psychological triggers that can derail us at work and in life and shows how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives, and enact meaningful and lasting change.

Strategize to Win by Carla A. Harris She gives readers the tools they need to get started; get “unstuck” from bad situations; redirect momentum; and position themselves to manage their careers no matter the environment. Here’s a video of her on the topic.

7 Lenses by Linda Fisher Thornton She describes 7 dimensions of “ethical responsibility” that together give us the whole picture of ethical leadership in a global society and provides a powerful framework for ethical decision-making and action.

No Ego by Cy Wakeman Ego-driven behaviors are the #1 source of drama in workplaces today, and it’s costing organizations billions annually. She provides a modern leadership philosophy that provides simple tools and techniques to eliminate drama from our organizations, deliver up employees who say yes to what’s next, and cultivate accountability, not engagement, to drive big business results.

If you have read any of these, would you share your thoughts in the comment field? And if you have other suggestions, we’d love to hear them.