Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Personal Branding, Presence and Style

By Ashley Stone

(Above, Inner Circle members practice their Power Pose to increase confidence and lower stress levels.)

How long does it take to make a lasting in-person or online impression? Three seconds or less based upon your appearance, energy level, and handshake or a quick view of your social media profile(s).

On Monday, Nov. 13th, Inner Circle members learned about how to best utilize their own three seconds to make a positive and lasting first impression through interactive personal branding, professional presence, and dress for success sessions.

Diane Mendenhall, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Ticketing, Premium Seating and Strategic Engagement, quickly set the stage for her professional presence session by playing Fight Song by Rachel Platten. This upbeat, driving-tempo tune empowers listeners to be confident in who they are, live their mantra and personal brand, and believe in themselves no matter the circumstance or situation.

“Professional presence is established from the inside out; it is the confidence we carry with us throughout all aspects of our lives and is heavily established in and through our body language,” said Mendenhall. “Our body talk includes being able to adapt to different situations, walking with a purpose, having an intentional handshake, maintaining comfortable and focused eye contact, removing verbal tics from our vocabulary, and understanding body space and positioning.”

Mendenhall encouraged student-athletes to participate in a body language activity to provide them more confidence and authority. Attendees stood in a power pose or “superhero” position, increasing their testosterone levels, while decreasing their cortisol and stress levels. 

Kim Robak, Senior Partner at Mueller | Robak LLC, and Chris Brasfield, Associate Athletic Director of Student-Athlete Recruitment and Experience, followed Mendenhall’s professional presence session with tips and tricks for looking the part and dressing for success.

(Above, Kim Robak addresses what not to wear in a business setting.)

Taking a page from What Not To Wear, Robak provided visuals of inappropriate attire to wear in a professional setting, including loose and tight-fitting clothing, low-cut tops, open-toed shoes, see-through blouses/skirts and leggings. She also spoke to appropriate attire, encouraging students to own at least one pair of black pants, purchase clothes that do not require dry-cleaning, and dress for the job they want.

“When you look like the delivery person, you’ll be treated like the delivery person,” said Robak. “When you look like the CEO, you’ll be treated liked the CEO.”

Helping male student-athletes understand proper attire, Brasfield allowed students to physically hand-select outfits for different scenarios, including shoes, socks, pants, belts, shirts, sweaters, suit coats, lapel flowers, ties, and pocket squares. Scenarios included an interview, an ordinary day at the office in a business setting, and a full day that included a 9 a.m. flight, corporate meeting at noon, afternoon networking social, and an evening NBA game.

(Above, Andrew Zymball, Freedom Akinmoladun, Elijah Sullivan and Austin Post put together an interview outfit.)

“I wanted to provide students the opportunity to arrange proper outfits for different occasions,” said Brasfield. “There was a lot helpful information throughout the entire event that students were able to consider regarding how to present yourself in a way that makes you more marketable and attractive to future employers.”

Inner Circle members thoroughly enjoyed the event as it opened their eyes to topics they knew little about and the impact these small details can have on their overall impression and career potential.

“I thought last night’s event was an eye-opening experience,” said Givon Washington, redshirt freshman sprinter from Argyle, Tex. “I never considered how much of a role your personal presence or brand plays in determining your success. I look forward to using the lessons I learned from our guest speakers in my everyday life from now on.” 

Emma Worley, sophomore tennis player from Northville, Mich., further considered the impression she makes on others after meeting them for the first time. “While I have heard about creating your personal brand, I have never thought about the three words people think of when they first meet you. This got me thinking about how I want others to view me when I first meet them.”

Inner Circle will put into practice what they learned through personal branding, professional presence, and proper attire in their next meeting on Monday, Dec. 11th as they will participate in mock interviews and resume reviews with business professionals and letterwinner alums.


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