In installment 4 in our Investment Series, Team Member Bridget Beirne shares the truth about her professional presence self-investing, and the change it has made in her business life.
As I get older (not OLD, mind you, just older- more mature? Let's go with that...) I've realized more and more how there are some things in which it is worth making financial investments. I'm not talking about the big things like the stock market or retirement plans (although they're important, too), but in smaller financial expenditures that have made a difference in both my professional skills and my personal life.
I remember being in my early 20s, scrambling to make ends meet. (Is anyone successful at that in their early 20s?) My wardrobe was the sad mix of remnants from college and a few basic essentials that were purchased for auditions and interviews. I'm sure Ramen noodles were on the menu. It was post-college days, and most of us can relate to what those halcyon (read: Ramen filled) times were like.
As I plugged along over the years, I realized that there were some small things that made a big difference not only in how I felt about myself, but in my professional presence and communication skills. (They are, after all, intertwined!) That sometimes, taking a cab to a work event or performance allowed me to show up feeling refreshed and ready to go, rather than harried and a bit sweaty. (Anyone who's run to an appointment down 8th Ave in NYC in July would tell you the frequency with which that can happen.) That there was a science to finding the right work shoe- one that felt comfortable for hours and still looked professional yet stylish- and that sometimes that pair was worth the slightly higher price tag. That it made a difference when I carved money out of my budget to go back to acting coachings- they upped my confidence, and coupled with professional presentation skills, made a difference.
I say this not to sound like Midas. (I'm not him.) I'm certainly not saying that it is all about the Benjamins (something I very firmly do NOT believe),or that I'm referencing spending multiple Benjamins, (a word I'm starting to question my understanding of...), or that I always had the extra Benjamins to spend. (See: Ramen reference above.) However it would seem that, somewhere along the way from my early 20s to- well, to wherever I am now- it began to sink in that to be at my best as a professional, whether on stage or doing presentation skills training and consulting, I may need to spend a few extra dollars making ME possible. Not millions, but a few when necessary.
I can hear the hands-slapping-foreheads as we speak. "Well, sure!" some of those voices attached to the hands might say, "This is nothing new! We've heard about this for years." I share it because, for me, it IS new. It took me a long time to realize that my professional skills were improved when I felt good about my overall professional presence. (Bearing in mind that "professional presence" is not simply about appearance- it's about how we interact with our professional world.) Or that it was OK- nay, not OK, worth it!- to occasionally jump in a cab if it helped me arrive places a bit more centered. That small financial expenditures were worth the investment, as well.
The Meisner technique of acting works on the idea of building a character and performance from the outside, in- that finding the honest physicality and actions of a character leads to the honest emotional life underneath. (I'm sure Amy Cuddy would agree!) I like to think that I'm investing in a bit of a Meisner approach to my professional life- working at times from the outside, in, helping me mentally and emotionally evolve professionally. So far, so good. I'll keep you posted.
What have you discovered is worth the small financial investment? Have you experienced a professional boost from the outside, in? Let us know in the comments below- we'd love to hear about it!