My family and I have just returned from a college tour of New England.  It was grueling, fun, informative, and alternately boring and thrilling.  It’s amazing how similar each presentation is and yet you can get a feel from each college.  For those of you unfamiliar with the latest methods of college admissions presentations, they usually consist of a tour and an information session.  The order of which one comes first is random and in some places, up to you.

Tours are conducted by students and they take you to a residence hall (you usually see a dorm room), a dining hall, an academic building or two (you’ll see a classroom), the library, and a few other unique features of each college.  It’s amazing, but somehow you get a “feel” for the place on the tour by seeing the place and the students who go there.  Some places seem friendly and open, some stuffy and exclusive.

The greater variety (within a very unvarietal setting) is the information session.  For the larger schools, they are done with a combination of talking by an admissions officer and some Powerpoint slides.  Some have students do some of the talking about their personal experiences and their impressions.  These tended to be more interesting, informative, and useful in getting to know a place.  At the smaller, more exclusive schools, the presentations tended to be drier (with one notable exception).  At one Ivy League school, the admissions officer went on so long about how students would be challenged by other students and forced out of their comfort zone that it scared the crap out of my daughter.  Unfortunately, this school may lose some qualified applicants because some snooty admissions officer wants to make the place sound more intimidating than it probably is.

The whole thing made me thing that the presentations are completely lacking in creativity and any really good way of presenting a college to prospective students.  More to the blog’s topics, it also made me think about ways that I’ve presented myself and companies present themselves to the public.  There are things that large companies and smart individuals do to cultivate an image.  Mac computers are for free spirited, independent people.  All financial institutions are conservative, sensible, and reliable, and they have your best interests at heart.

Small companies – and software companies are often small – often want to present an image of being large and stable.  Web sites for them will be polished and give the impression of dozens or hundreds of people at your service, even if there are only 1 or 2 people in the whole place.

On a personal level, you have the ability to present an image of yourself at work as well.  Are you hard or easy to contact?  Are you difficult or easy to talk to?  Do you respond to requests quickly or do you sit on them for weeks?  If you work with lots of other people, do you dress like a crumpled pile of laundry or at least look neat?  Do you smile or scowl most of the time?

In addition to the code you write, you have the ability to make impressions that are far more important to your growth or survival in a company.  It all depends on the image you want to present and this is within your control.