Career women who thrive both personally and professionally need a favorable triple threat: technical competence, interpersonal rapport and a professional image.

So says LisaMarie Luccioni, professor of communication at the University of Cincinnati and a certified image professional. Personal image is an often-overlooked area of one’s professional development plan, she says. “There is often a difference between a person’s personally perceived image and that person’s publicly received image. What type of image do you think you convey? What type of image do you actually convey? Remember, there is a definite connection between people’s perceptions of us and how those perceptions affect our obtainment of our goals.”

Luccioni offers women these suggestions for projecting their best image:

Remember the expectation of attire. Dress for your industry and position. That is, conservative industries (banking, law, finance) will usually demand a more tailored appearance. Creative fields (design, art, architecture) allow more latitude. Unusual color combinations may be admired, as well as creative jewelry arrangements.

Accept that your attire and grooming represent not only yourself but, by extension, the company or organization that employs you. The quality of your work isn’t the only factor being assessed; your hair, makeup, jewelry and clothing are evaluated as well.

Remember that fashion magazines are great for discovering new clothing trends, but should never determine your professional wardrobe. “One of the biggest issues HR managers ask me to address in my clothing seminars is women wearing the slinky, silky camisole under a tailored jacket. Fashion magazines depict these as work-appropriate and, in some contexts, they may just be. But for most places, this conveys an overly sexy look.” Luccioni adds that excessive leg and cleavage display is another area of concern. “People are apprehensive about addressing this on the job because they fear the possibility of sexual harassment lawsuits, or just general discomfort about the topic. A good rule of thumb is to ‘raise the necklines and lower the hemlines’ when at work.”

Demonstrate powerful non-verbal mannerisms. A firm handshake, engaged facial expressions, consistent eye contact and erect posture (both when standing and seated) all communicate a woman in command of her space and comfortable with her ability. “I’ve worked with women who were flawlessly dressed. They were well spoken. But they had a weak handshake or would avert their gaze when speaking.”

Understand the importance of workspace. What does your furniture, seating arrangement and pictures suggest? “Seating arrangement is a powerful tool that can be used to strategically create distance or connection,” Luccioni explains. “A desk between you and your guest can be a barrier. If, however, you seek to create connection, position the conversation so that it takes place without the desk between you.”

Recognize color psychology. “The darker the color, the more power it conveys,” Luccioni notes. Colors such as black, navy blue, and gray communicate authority.

Want more advice? She invites questions via e-mail at