By Sylvia Tishler
Accountants With Class
Style matters in today’s business world. Meet six CGAs who show how fashion can create a winning image for the successful CGA.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself confidently walking into a room and introducing yourself to a potential big client or the hiring manager of the company you really want to work for. Now open your eyes. What do you have to do to make that vision a reality? Do you know someone who lives that image of what you want to be? Maybe it’s your mentor or someone you could ask to mentor you. What are some of the qualities your mentor possesses? Does he put people at ease and get along with everyone from the janitor to the mayor? Is she always dressed appropriately for the occasion? Does he always stand by his word and follow through on commitments? Does she have impeccable manners and etiquette?
Along with negotiating and motivating, business etiquette is an essential soft skill that separates the leaders from the ones left behind. To many, the word “etiquette” conjures up images of someone who is stuffy, old-fashioned or pretentious. But etiquette is not about putting on airs or being artificial, and it isn’t only for the upper crust or social climbers: it’s a powerful and profitable skill that you can use when it counts the most. Understanding business etiquette will make your personal and professional relationships more harmonious, productive, manageable and meaningful.
first & lasting impressions
Karmen Rempel, CGA
Senior Accountant, Grant Thornton LLP
DRESS BY PINK TARTAN.
JEWELRY BY KATE SPADE.
SHOES BY STUART WEITZMAN.
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. You are being assessed from the moment you enter a room. Most initial conversations centre on small talk and trivia with no real verbal clues of character, forcing us to decipher unspoken signals. Here’s how to get off to a good start.
The way we hold ourselves reflects our past, our personality and our attitude to life. People form 90 per cent of their opinion of you in the first 90 seconds, and your posture is a crucial giveaway. The higher you hold yourself, the higher your self-esteem. Transform from timid to take me seriously simply by standing tall and making direct eye contact.
Steady eye contact. Our eyes reveal our emotions. The more you look someone in the eye, the more confident, attractive and truthful you seem.
Walk confidently. Walk with an even pace and a slight bounce. Tilt your pelvis forward, hold your head high, half smile and look at others. You’ll feel more involved in the world by seeing what’s going on around you, not to mention that you’ll look more confident. Don’t curl your hands into fists – let them fall naturally, slightly cupped with fingers curved. When you walk, allow them to sway as a natural result of your body movement.
Your stride mimics your confidence. With your head down, hands shoved into your pockets and feet dragging, you look sad and depressed. You can get a strong sense of the type of person someone is by mimicking the way they move. Happy and ambitious people walk quickly toward their imagined goals. No purpose and nowhere to go? Chances are you’ll walk slowly and shuffle rather than stride. When your eyes look down, you’re probably feeling it. Look straight ahead and you look to the future. Keeping your head high also keeps shoulders back and tummy in – if your head sags, everything else flops.
Avoid defensive postures. Crossing your arms tightly across the chest is an instinctive attempt to protect the heart and lungs. It is also an obvious sign that you’re nervous or defensive. Holding one arm across the body is slightly subtler but has the same result, while holding hands with yourself, in front of your body, is another version.
get a grip
Franky Yuen, CGA
Group Accountant, Canaccord Financial Inc.
SUIT BY Z ZEGNA.
SHIRT BY HUGO BOSS.
TIE BY ALTEA.
A handshake is often the first touch. Touch bypasses the brain and creates a “gut” impression.
A fingertip grab. People associate a wimpy, weak grip with an equally pallid personality, and grabbing fingers instead of a palm keeps the other person at a distance.
The knuckle crusher. A handshake is a modification of the primitive gesture of raising both hands to show you aren’t holding a weapon. Shaking the other person’s hand so hard you cause pain means the opposite – you’re ready to do battle. Very often, the knuckle-crusher’s hand is attached to a stiff arm – again, designed to keep you at a distance.
The sandwich. Holding someone’s hand in both of yours like a glove can be the best thing you ever did – or social suicide. With someone you’ve just met, it’ll probably be seen as smarmy and suspicious (hence its nickname “the politician’s handshake”). Use it as a goodbye with someone you’ve been talking to intensely, however, and it’s ultra-effective.
The elbow grab. Again, this can be a bit fake – think of an overeager and nervous host. However, this move can also be used to avoid the hugger. Straighten your arm and grab the elbow to put distance between you and someone you feel is about to offer you an unwanted hug.
Match it. The ideal way to shake a person’s hand is to match their handshake. If you’re offered a soft hand, return it with the same; if you’re offered a strong grip, return with a strong shake. Subconsciously, the other person will think, “he’s just like me and I like him already.”
5 tips for the perfect handshake
- All introductions, regardless of gender, should be accompanied with a firm handshake.
- Stand and shake. Standing is more powerful than staying seated, and it shows respect for you and the person receiving the hand-shake.
- A handshake should be short and sweet and accompanied with a smile and good eye contact.
- In a business setting, a man or a woman can initiate a handshake. In a social setting, it is still acceptable for a man to wait for a woman to initiate.
- To show your sincerity when meeting another person, shake hands and then pause briefly before releasing your hand.
suit up for success
In our hot real estate market, we’ve all heard of curb appeal. If a house is attractive on the outside and well maintained, buyers are more curious to look at the inside. In business, people also need curb appeal. If your outward appearance is neat and attractive, people will want to know more about what you have to offer.
What we wear says a lot about who we are and where we want to be. Dressing professionally communicates that you want to be respected and taken seriously. It can get your foot in the door and get you the job or promotion. Always be overdressed rather than underdressed, especially when applying for a job. Sloppy or inappropriate attire suggests that you don’t respect yourself and won’t care how you reflect on the company, whereas a professional and appropriate image says you are prepared and promotable. Keep in mind that you are creating your own personal brand. You must pay as much attention to building that brand as a top marketer would to their brands.
creating a winning wardrobe
Regional Director, Finance, Environment Canada
JACKET AND TROUSERS BY JACQUELINE CONOIR.
SHIRT BY THEORY.
NECKLACE BY LUCY THE FIRST.
Think quality not quantity. When choosing your wardrobe and accessories, buy quality. Poor quality items go out of style faster and wear out quicker. Good quality items launder better, crease less and look more polished. This will save you money in the long run.
Carry a quality pen. Although it seems small, the pen you use in meetings has a big effect on the way your personal appearance is perceived. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it should look attractive and write well.
Briefcases and purses. Bulging, scuffed-up purses and briefcases can ruin a well put-together look in an instant. Buy the most expensive ones you can afford.
Business cards and cases. Never leave home without them! I am always shocked when I go to business trade shows by how many people do not have business cards. How do you expect people to remember you? If you do not have a job, have a personal calling card designed with your contact information. Carry your cards in an attractive case that keeps them clean and uncreased. Offer your card with both hands and look the person in the eye as you smile and introduce yourself.
Invest in a few good suits. This goes for men and women. You will need good quality jackets and pants and skirts that can be mixed and matched with different coloured blouses or shirts. Buy clothing that reflects the level you wish to achieve rather than the level at which you’re currently working. It has been said that a man’s tie is his signature and a woman’s jewelry is hers. In other words, it shows your personality. However, keep it appropriate – which means no cartoon character ties or shoulder-grazing earrings.
Put your best foot forward. You can always tell how put together a person is by their shoes. Shoes should be in good condition, not tired, dusty and worn. Shoes are your most important accessory because they do more than simply complete your ensemble: good-looking and polished shoes help convey your professional image and attention to detail.
14 Fashion blunders at work
- Exercise clothes
- Sweatshirts or sweatpants
- Beach wear
- Short skirts (shorter than 2” above the knee)
- Souvenir/logo T-shirts
- Revealing blouses
- Stained or wrinkled clothes
- Rhinestone-studded or torn jeans
- Nightclub attire
- Scuffed shoes with worn heels
- Heavy perfume or cologne
- Wet hair
- Excessive jewelry
Now that you have mastered your posture, stride and appearance, it’s time to open your mouth and talk about yourself and your services.
Pitch and volume. Speaking clearly and communicating effectively will benefit your career. Lower your pitch if you have a high-pitched, childlike voice. Avoid the indecisive-sounding upward pitch at the end of a statement, which makes you seem uninformed or insecure. Volume is another area to watch, as speaking too softly or loudly is annoying. Notice the body language of the people you speak with – are they leaning forward to hear you or moving back to reduce the sound?
Avoid word whiskers. Words like “um,” “you know,” “right,” “’like,” and “You know what I’m sayin?” are unprofessional. Keep your hands away from your mouth when you are speaking. If you’re nervous, whether in an interview or doing a presentation, remember to breathe. When we are nervous, we tend to stop breathing, which can cause all sorts of problems, like glazed-over eyes, red faces, tingling and numbness and forgetfulness. Breathing puts the oxygen back into our extremities and we think more clearly. When you take a deep breath, the corners of your mouth go up and you smile, putting others at ease. Pause, breathe and smile.
Take a public speaking class. Public speaking is a 21st century business essential. Those who master it are bound for glory; those who don’t are bound to underachieve.
the little things matter
Dylan Rickard, CGA
Financial Analyst II,
Port Metro Vancouver
SUIT AND SHIRT BY CANALI.
TIE BY ZEGNA.
SHOES BY ALLEN EDMONDS.
With unemployment so high and job applicants all overqualified, the branding skills you’ve learned so far will get you the job – but will they help you keep it? Given that just about anyone can match or beat your prices, what sets you apart from others? It’s the small practices that keep your customers loyal or get you noticed by the boss for promotion opportunities.
Leave your dramas at home. Your relationship problems, health issues and financial woes should be left at home. Constant complaining about the boss or clients makes others feel uneasy.
Accept compliments. This may sound easy, but it’s difficult for a lot of people. Think of how many times you’ve complimented someone and they’ve said, “Oh, it was nothing” or “This old thing?” This forces the other person to then try to convince you that you really do look good. In effect, you are suggesting that the person complimenting you doesn’t know what they are talking about and you are throwing the compliment back at them. A better way is to say a simple “thank you,” or better yet, “Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say.” This sounds gracious and compliments the person in return.
Be honest. Your credibility is based on your ability to be honest in all situations. Imagine the damage to your career if you were to intentionally lie or misstate or misrepresent yourself or your products or services. You could lose your job, ruin your reputation and set yourself back irreparably. The truth may hurt, but dishonesty can be devastating.
Keep your word. Be up front with your clients or bosses and colleagues on what they can expect before starting a new project. Changes can directly impact your department and budgets, and your clients and colleagues need to be notified immediately. People tend to be more forgiving if they are forewarned. Your word is all you’ve got.
Admit mistakes. It’s the mistakes and how we handle them that make or break our reputation. If you make a mistake, admit it, fix it and carry on. Blaming others and trying to cover up just creates bigger problems. People are generally very forgiving when we admit our mistakes.
Be punctual. They say that “If you’re not early, you’re late.” Arriving early by a few minutes gives you time to go to the washroom, freshen up and gain your composure before starting your workday or attending an important meeting. When you are late, you send a signal that you don’t respect the other person’s time.
Watch your language. Profanity and coarse language are inappropriate in public. It shows immaturity, impatience and a lack of self-control. It does not command respect or admiration. When you are angry or upset, walk away.
Handle conflict with grace. Conflicts do happen, but when you’re seething inside, never let others see you come unglued. People will be receptive to working with you if you can maintain a calm, unwavering demeanour in the best and worst situations. Pause, breathe and smile!
Don’t burn bridges. Someone once said, “Never slam a door shut so hard that you cannot open it again.” Never speak negatively about a past employer or business relationship that turned sour. Your adversary today could be your ally tomorrow.
Show up to move up. If you want to advance in your profession you need to be seen, which means attending networking functions, joining business groups in your community or volunteering for special projects at the office. Put yourself in lots of places and you increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time. It’s also important to speak up at any opportunity. Hone your public speaking skills and give presentations at industry association meetings. The more you participate in social interactions, the less anxious you will be.
There are all kinds of professionals who can help you with your image and your speaking and business skills, but your values and ethics are your own. Staying true to your ideals and following these best practices can pay big dividends.
Sylvia Tishler is the founder and director of Frameworks Training and Finishing Academy. Sylvia helps her clients build their personal brand by teaching them the soft skills guaranteed to increase their visibility, credibility and profitability. For the last 15 years she has been one of the top public speaking instructors for CGA-BC.
Photography by Ed Araquel
Produced and styled by Catherine Dunwoody
Hair and makeup by Anya Ellis for Liz Bell Agency
Fashion Assistant: Kiran Khaira
Shot on location at The Loden Hotel, Vancouver
All women’s fashions available at Wear Else
All men’s fashions available at Harry Rosen