Did you know that it takes only four minutes to make a first impression and that body language accounts for 55% of that impression; 38% from tone of voice; the remaining 7% from our actual words? In other words, competence is only one factor in career mobility. Those women who are competent AND look and sound like a professional are the ones most likely to be successful.

Many of us are unaware that our body language sends important non-verbal messages and that other people process these messages on some level even if they are processing them subconsciously.

The lessons we learn from our childhood about how girls should behave (be polite, be humble etc) often translate into the way we present ourselves professionally.

Here are some common mistakes women make:

  1. Crossing your legs. Did you know this is a sign of resistance?
  2. Folding your arms in front of you. Are you aware that this sends a message of insecurity and defensiveness?
  3. Smiling inappropriately. This can send a message that you are not serious.
  4. Sitting in meetings with your arms  under the table. Observe men at meetings. Confident men rest their elbows and hands on the table and lean forward.
  5. Tilting your head in conversation can soften your message and can also be interpreted as a lack of commitment in what you’re saying.
  6. No eye contact. This is a sign you are uncomfortable or unsure of yourself.

The overall lesson here is that we need to be aware how we present ourselves as professionals. We may be unconsciously sending cues that are sabotaging our career efforts. While we may be extremely competent and excel at our job, our body language may be protraying us as someone entirely different.