Taking the time to manage your image will improve the odds of making a positive first impression in those initial three to five seconds — and will help you exude confidence in almost any situation.

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Did you know it takes only three to five seconds for someone to form a first impression? And while you might wish that opinion were based on your intelligence or experience, most studies show that first impressions are shaped by what can be seen or heard in those initial few seconds.

What impression are you creating?

“I knew I was going to be sitting at my desk all day working on paperwork, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal if I wore jeans to work,” my friend said while we sipped coffee. “Then the president of the company walked through our department introducing herself. Almost everyone else was wearing a suit, and I was so embarrassed about how I looked that I could hardly get my own name out of my mouth. I can only imagine the awful first impression I made.”

One way to ensure a positive first impression is to focus on managing your image. Here are five tips:

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Analyze your attire. Do your clothes project an appropriate personal image? For example, if you’re trying to cultivate an executive presence in a fairly formal industry and company, do you dress the part by wearing suits? If you want people to view you as creative, do your clothing (and jewelry) choices reflect your individual creativity? Personal shoppers and stylists are great resources to help you upgrade your wardrobe and overall look.

Role-play your verbal communication. Do you speak clearly, professionally and at an appropriate pace and volume when first meeting someone? Ask a friend to role-play and look for ways you can modify your verbal communication to create an improved first impression.

Evaluate your nonverbal communication. Do you shake hands like a limp fish? Practice your nonverbal communication, such as shaking hands firmly and establishing good eye contact, to ensure you aren’t doing anything that could damage a good first impression.

Examine your attitude. Do you smile when you meet someone, even if you are busy and have other things on your mind? Are you focusing on that person and giving him or her your full attention? If not, you might be harming your image.

Scrutinize your grooming. Does your hairstyle (and makeup, if female) project the appropriate image? Maybe it’s time to consult a hairstylist or makeup artist to create a different look.

Taking the time to manage your image will improve the odds of making a positive first impression in those initial three to five seconds — and will help you exude confidence in almost any situation.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.