STUDIES show that first impressions are created within the first three to 10 seconds of meeting a person, and you are judged by your dressing and body language even before you utter your first words.

In a professional setting, it is important to look the part. You should project yourself as a confident, capable, reliable executive, not an anxious, disorganised person.

Right approach

Handshakes should be firm, positive and confident. Two extremes to avoid are the "bone crusher" and the "limp fish". Bear in mind personal space too - keep an arm's length distance between yourself and the person you are shaking hands with. Practise with friends till you get this right.

Make good eye contact when you're introducing yourself and pay close attention to the other person's introduction.

Ensure you get his or her name correct. Have them repeat their names if you didn't get them the first time. It's better to do that now and get it correct than to make a mistake later.

Introduce yourself

Prepare several soundbites for different situations. This is sometimes known as your "elevator" speech. Good conversation is a two-way street.

Find a way to keep the conversation going. Ask questions to draw out the other person. Show interest in who he is, where he's from and what he does.

If you are a newcomer at work, your introduction should include a brief background of yourself and what you used to do before you joined the team: "Hi, my name is John and I've just joined Sam's team. I used to work in ABC as an accountant. Would you be able to introduce me to the rest of your team? "

If you're at a networking event, a concise summary of your profession is usually acceptable: "Hi, I'm John. I teach at ABC High. What do you do?"

In a social event, you may want to get ready common information you can share or ask.

For example, if you're attending a wine tasting session, your introduction can sound like this: "Hi, I'm John. These events are always so interesting. What is your favourite wine so far?"

Look good

While we've always been told not to judge a book by its cover, the reality is that we are judged by our appearance, how we look and what we wear.

Show good judgment and keep in mind the corporate dress code and cultural norms when dressing. Here are some general dos and don'ts:

Do:

* wear some makeup for a more polished look. A minimum requirement is some blusher and lipstick.

* avoid extremes. Anything too tight (visible panty lines and unsightly bulges), too short (mini skirts and dresses), too high (midriff tops that bare the stomach), too low (low-rise pants) or too baggy should be avoided.

* pay attention to details. A missed belt-loop or missing button could cost you more than you think. Repair chipped nail polish.

* keep any facial hair neat. Trim off all excess hair from your nose and your ears. Watch out for dandruff. People will notice the little things.

* update your look. The large "uncle" spectacles, loud "auntie" blouses, pleated high-waisted pants, large structured shoulder pads and big hair belong in a bygone era.

* invest in a proper briefcase or quality bag. Retire old and worn-out bags.

* keep jewellery simple. A single strand of pearls or a thin chain and small earrings make you look classy.

* maintain good hygiene habits. Bad breath and body odour are major turn offs. The best way to find out if you have either is to have your friends be candid with you.

Don't:

* wear slippers, sandals and open-toed shoes. If sandals are allowed in your corporate dress code, do choose conservative styles, nothing outlandish or too funky. If you are wearing anything that shows your toes, please make sure your toe nails are clean and neat.

* wear sandals with socks or stockings. Don't wear stockings with runs, and don't walk around the office in your bare feet or comfy pink bunny slippers.

* show too much skin. If your colleagues can see your underwear, you're revealing too much.

* wear too much perfume. Overpowering scents can give others headaches.

Finally, do keep up your good grooming habits. Do not get too comfortable and lazy, and then decide to start dressing down.

If you want to wear the cute trendy dress you just bought to the office, remember that the big boss or an important client might just call a last-minute meeting and you won't be appropriately attired.

Save dressing down for the weekend. Always look the professional at work.