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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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ImageIf you think your qualifications are enough to take you to the top, think again. Here are 6 (maybe not so) easy ways to really make an impact at work!

No matter how hard you worked for your degree, diploma or doctorate, what will make the difference in how far and how fast you climb the corporate ladder is your ability to make an impact. In other words, what will really make you stand out from the competition is your ability to use your personality to motivate people, inspire a team, communicate effectively and – of course - look the part!

Personal impact is about what you bring into a room and what others read from that. Think about the people you have met who are able to command attention simply by the way they carry themselves, speak and engage an audience. What is it that makes certain people appear confident and able to draws others to them?

Personal impact is about what you bring into a room and what others read from that.

Just as a commercial company strategically develops a brand to make it stand out in the marketplace, you should be developing your own personal brand that will make you first choice when it comes to your professional career.

Here are some useful tips to help you take that step up the ladder.

1. Make your Image Matter

Just because the expression 'you don't get a second chance to make a first impression' has become a bit of a cliché, doesnt make it wrong. We live in an image-conscious society where perceptions count and trying to change negative impressions can be very difficult once someone has made a judgement about you.

>Studies have shown that what we see accounts for about 55% of the feelings that we have about another person – and how they feel about us. By understanding what you are saying about yourself through your appearance and your body language, you can strategically manage your visual impact.

Your personal brand will be established first of all by your image, so before jumping into whatever clothes happen to be within your reach each morning, consider what attitude your image is reflecting to those in charge and remember that people will take you at your own estimation. Clean, well-tailored clothes will reflect a well-groomed professional person, so avoid loud colours, large, bright jewellery and other personal expressions of style and remember that when you are at work, you are representing those who are paying for your time. Dress for the job you want - not the job you have - and never think that it doesnt matter how you look.

Be aware of your body language and the impact that this makes on other peoples perception of you. An upright posture, firm handshake, warm smile and good eye contact when speaking to others sends the message that you are a professional and can confidently handle any situation.

2. Be a Team Player

To make an impact at work, you have to be able to work effectively with your colleagues. If you are part of a team, this means not just doing your share of any assigned projects, but also delivering any work given to you on time and to a consistently high standard so that you can be seen as reliable and dependable.

Aim to inspire those you work with by offering and sharing ideas and by being proactive. Listen to your colleagues' ideas and give positive and respectful feedback rather than purely negative comments, even if you don't agree with their position. For example, 'That's an interesting idea' is a much more positive response than 'Don't talk rubbish – that would never work!'

Be supportive and share your skills with others in the team. Not only will it build a bank of goodwill for you when you need help, it will also show you to be a leader and a natural coach – an essential skill for getting ahead today.

Dress for the job you want - not the job you have - and never think that it doesn't matter how you look.

3. Manage your Time

Being late for work or for important meetings will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Think about how you manage time and the impact this makes on your colleagues and manager.

With the range of gadgets and other electronic tools on the market today, there is no excuse for being late, missing deadlines or for forgetting an important meeting. Getting your timekeeping right means prioritizing between what is urgent and what is important.

If you report to more than one person, communicate conflicting priorities or delays to manage your managers or colleagues expectations. Even if you dont own a Blackberry, you can still use pen and paper to write a 'To Do list or use your diary to help you manage time.

4. Check Your Attitude

Making an impact isnt simply about having the skill – its also about showing the will to get things done. This means showing leadership by taking responsibility and having a 'can do not a 'must I do? attitude. People will remember you for taking responsibility when, instead of saying 'its not my job, you are the one who says 'let me find out who can help you.

Dealing with people at work isnt always easy but it is important to keep control of your emotions. Try to remember when you have to deal with difficult people – whether these are customers or colleagues – that when you are at work, its business, not personal. Keep any conflicts in perspective and aim to find a resolution that allows a win/win situation for all concerned.

Being shy and retiring at work will not make the kind of impact you need to get ahead. Be positive about what you accomplish and learn to talk up your achievements in a clear and confident way. Take credit for what you do but remember to share the credit with others in your team who helped you.

Avoid getting sucked into office politics and, however tempting it may sometimes be, keep your ethics and integrity intact, even when others are losing theirs. There are no short cuts when it comes to planning a long-term strategy and while it can take a long time to build a good quality personal brand, it takes a very short time to lose it.

Being late for work or for important meetings will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Be assertive, not aggressive when dealing with others at work. Being assertive means communicating what you want and need to your colleagues clearly and respectfully and treating people with the respect that you would like to be given. Be assertive by learning how to say 'no when it is appropriate and setting clear boundaries so that everyone knows where they stand.

5. Make the Most of Mentors and Networks

Navigating the maze of office etiquette and understanding the unwritten rules of different corporate cultures can be incredibly difficult. A mentor can help you understand the norms of your workplace, particularly when you are fairly new to a company.

Finding someone inside or outside your organisation from whose experiences you can learn something can be critical to your success in making a positive impact. Think about a mentor who has the skills or qualities that you would like to model yourself on and dont restrict your options to someone who looks like you. Quite often, having a mentor with a different ethnic background or gender to you can help you see other points of view and provide you with different experiences that will be of help to you.

When you do find a mentor, treat the relationship with respect. Follow through with any assignments that you are given and be ready to take advice when its offered without being defensive.

Another critical way to make an impact is through networking. Whether we like it or not, the harsh reality in any society is that its not always what you know but who you know. Understanding why and how to network is one of the most critical of the new skills that we need to apply at work.

Networking can be for business or social reasons and it is important to set goals for your networking and to clarify what you want to achieve. Think about where and how you can most benefit from making new contacts and the types of people in your company or your industry that would be most helpful to you. List your contacts and highlight the best people to help you towards achieving your goals. Get involved in your company or industry networks, attend events and stay in touch with your new contacts on a regular basis.

Navigating the maze of office etiquette and understanding the unwritten rules of different corporate cultures can be incredibly difficult.

But do keep in mind that networking is a two-way street and while building your contacts, always look for ways to offer support to others as well.

6. Keep Challenging Yourself

Just doing what you have to do may see you get by, but is unlikely to help you get ahead. Making a success of your career is not an easy option and it calls for continuous personal and professional development.

You can increase your knowledge of your companys business and widen your network internally by getting involved in projects outside your immediate job description. Consider mentoring others in a more junior role to you; not only will this help improve your management skills, it will also help to demonstrate your leadership potential.

To make an impact at work, you need to be proactive and to keep looking for opportunities to progress. You need to be persistent; to take strategic risks and eventually, you need to also be smart enough to know when to move on.

Go out and make an impact!

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