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November 9, 2021

Professional Polish, Part 1: Thinking and Speaking Like a Professional

Webinar Tackles the Issue of How to Elevate your Professional Comportment, Appearance, Mindset, and Confidence. 

By Danielle DeGroot, University College Writer

We have all heard the age-old saying, “there is nothing like a first impression”, and there is some definite truth to that statement. Appearing to others as a polished professional is something that we are not prepared for in the college classroom, these are skills that are developed and honed over a lifetime. This webinar presented by University College is hosted by Maureen Breeze, founder of Cultivage. Breeze is a certified executive leadership coach, corporate trainer, author, and University of Denver adjunct professor who works with leadership fellows through the Denver Metro Leadership Foundation. In this webinar Breeze delves into why professional polish is so important, what it means to appear professional, offering some guidance on how to improve your professional polish and presence.  

Why Focus on Professional Polish?   

Breeze starts out by explaining that professional polish makes a big difference in how one is perceived, it is directly related to how employable someone is. These skills are harder to teach, and often take years to fully develop. As we grow professionally and personally, this polish should improve. Polish is important to focus on because as Breeze explains, it is easy to become invisible if one lacks professional polish. Colleagues will not take you as seriously, and something may feel off if they do not trust your appearance of professionalism and polish. This webinar provides tricks to boost professional polish both in-person and online. Breeze discusses communication skills, professional appearance, emotional intelligence, and the factors that help form the image we project to others.   

There are four main focus areas that Breeze discusses that contribute to professional polish. This blog will focus on the first two: how you think and how you speak.  

  • How you think.  
  • How you speak.   
  • How you appear.  
  • How you act

Thinking Like a Professional   

The first area that Breeze delves into is thinking like a polished professional, thinking analytically creatively, and practically. As she explains, it was discovered through the research of Dr. Robert Sternberg at Yale University that most of us have analytical thinking skills, however, creative, and practical things are where many people need to work to bolster these abilities. Professionals should be focused long-term and on the big picture. Breeze provides a list of ways to bolster your ability to think like a professional:  

  • Clarify the why behind what you are doing.  
  • Think about doing the right thing.  
  • Understand the process and your role and how they fit together.    
  • Ask questions to advance the process.  
  • Demonstrate clarity in your writing.  
  • Give an opinion when asked and be ready to justify it.   
  • Tell stories to bring your ideas to life.  
  • Anticipate questions and events.  
  • Take action early.  
  • Manage up think about what your boss needs to know -communicate up the chain   
  • Ask quality questions to demonstrate the quality of your thinking.   

Breeze suggests employing the SEER method when it comes to professional thinking and communicating one’s ideas to others.   

  • Summary of point of view/idea.   
  • Elaborate on that point with valid evidence and support information.  
  • Example, give them a relevant story as an example.   
  • Restate your point of view /idea.   

Speaking Like a Professional  

Speaking is especially important when it comes to presenting oneself as a polished professional. Brees points out it is important to be mindful of what one is saying and how one is saying it. For example, when one is asking questions, they want to make sure they’re asking quality questions. Breeze offers us a quote by author Don Miguel Ruiz, “Be impeccable with your words.” As she says nothing is more aligned with professional speaking and polish than that.   

Tips for Speaking Like a Professional   

  • No excuses.  
  • Do not go into “blame mode.”   
  • No rambling, be clear and concise, to the point.   
  • Stay away from office gossip and politics.  
  • Do not lose emotional control.  
  • Bring energy to your speaking with your tone, pauses, volume, and high-quality language.   

One big thing Breeze points out is that as a society we tend to apologize far too much. Stop starting conversations with colleagues and bosses with an I’m sorry. Do not justify being there by saying “I’m just here because…” These are words and phrases that diminish your power and professional presence.  

The webinar offers real-world action steps you can take to make a positive impact on how you are perceived professionally. It is never too soon or too late to take time to focus on your professional polish, and this webinar is a perfect place to start. You can watch the entire webinar, as well as other career development webinars in this series on the University College Vimeo page.

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