By Carolyn Landesman
How important are you? To your family and friends, extremely important but to others you’ve just met – not so. That’s why making a killer first and lasting impression is invaluable to your career, business and future prospects.
When you first start out in a new role, take on a new job, attend a networking event or even start up a new business, you want to make a killer first impression. It only takes a few seconds for others to evaluate you when you meet them for the first time.
Not only will you be evaluated by your appearance, body language, your mannerisms and how you are dressed, you will also be evaluated by what you say.
The way we communicate today is different from 10 – 20 years ago. Younger people are brought up with the internet, texting and smart phones. However, words only represent 8% of all your communication skills and you may find yourself in a workplace where there is a generation gap. You have your style of communication and others have theirs. Bridging that gap, and quickly is a great way to make a good first impression.
Here are nine handy tips on how to make a good first impression regardless of the age different in the workplace.
Step One: Present yourself appropriately
If a picture is worth a thousand words, dressing to make a good first impression is critical to your success. It’s very difficult to undo another person’s first impression of you therefore it’s important to dress appropriately. Presenting yourself appropriately does not mean you must have model looks. It means you must dress for the occasion.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover yet that is exactly what most people do. The cover is what attracts them to pick up the book and scan the back or inside cover looking for clues if it’s something they would like to read. It’s the same with people. How you present yourself is usually the first clue they have into your character.
Dressing appropriately does not mean having to wear a suit and tie or a business suit if you are a woman. There are plenty of options depending on the nature of the meeting. Ask yourself, what will the people you are meeting with likely to be wearing? Suit, smart casual, corporate uniform, casual uniform, jeans and tee shirt?
Many tech companies have a very casual dress code where employees wear jeans and tee shirts to work. In this scenario, a pin striped suit would be out of place. On the other hand, jeans and tee shirts would not cut it in a formal business environment. If you are unsure about the dress code, do some research.
Regardless of how you dress, your grooming is equally important. For men, it’s a neat haircut and shave or a well-trimmed beard. For women, subtle make up and conservative jewelry. Women should also be mindful of what their dress says about them. Something too provocative can give the wrong impression.
Dressing appropriately doesn’t mean you must lose your individuality. Because you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. You can always change things up as you get to know more about the work environment, culture and their dress code.
Step Two: Create a winning smile
There is nothing like a winning smile to create great first impression and immediately build rapport. When you smile, you are likely to get one back. As the saying goes, smile and the world smiles with you.
When you smile, its important to smile with your eyes as well as your mouth and it must be genuine. A fake smile is not as easily hidden as you might think. If you are smile challenged, this is something you may need to practice. A confident genuine smile is what will instantly put others at ease when you first meet them.
Be careful not to overdo the smile as you could come across as being insincere.
Step Three: Master the handshake
As with all initial greetings, introductions and handshakes are part of making a good first impression. Your handshake says a lot about you. Nobody likes to shake hands with a wet fish and equally nobody likes to put their hand out to be greeted with a bone-crushing handshake. Your handshake should be firm enough to exude confidence in the person you are meeting for the first time.
If you are unsure of what your handshake says about you, practice with someone you know until you achieve the right amount of pressure that gives you an air of confidence.
Step Four: Practice the power pose
Starting a new job, attending a networking event, attending a job interview can for some be quite nerve racking. When you meet others for the first time, it’s quite natural to feel nervous however, you don’t want your anxiety to show. Your body language ideally should be comfortable as well as confident.
As you meet others, keep your shoulders back, chest high and look them in the eye as well as give them that winning smile. Amy Cuddy says it best in her famous Ted Talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, strike up a power pose before meeting others to give yourself more confidence. The power pose tempers the stress hormones in your body activated by anxiety and increases the anti-stress hormone oxytocin. By adopting a power pose to increase your confidence levels before meeting others, you are far more likely to make a confident first impression.
Step Five: Listen before speaking
The famed martial artist, Bruce Lee, had a great desire to be trained by a local Master. At the time, Bruce had an extensive background in martial arts training along with significant fight experience. He approached the Master, and after making the customary bows, asked him to become his teacher.
What Bruce then did, was talk about his experience in the martial arts world and rambled on and on about how many fights he had won. The Master listened to him patiently and then began to make some tea. When it was ready, he placed a cup in front of Bruce and began to pour some tea.
As Bruce continued to talk he watched the master pour the tea into the cup. The cup slowly filled with tea but the master didn’t stop pouring and it began to overflow on to the table and then on to the floor. While trying to be respectful Bruce watched on until couldn’t hold it in any longer and shouted, “Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can’t get any more in.”
The master stopped pouring and turned to Bruce, “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas and opinions. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you will have to empty your cup.”
Often people are so full of their own ideas and opinions, they become trapped by their conditioning and fill themselves up to the brim and nothing new sinks in.
To make a first impression, empty your cup and actively listen to others as you are introduced!
Step Six: Remember Names
Listen very carefully to the names of the people you are being introduced to. As Dale Carnegie says, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest most important sound in any language.”
Remembering someone’s name is a mark of respect. It’s a poor excuse to say – I’m bad at remembering names!” This is an attitude and it means you don’t care enough to make the effort to remember their name. Remembering names is a skill that when practiced becomes a habit.
By remembering a person’s name, you immediately make a good first impression. What you are in fact telling that person by remembering their name is that you are genuinely interested in them. Being genuinely interested in others will make not only a good first impression, it will make a lasting impression.
Step Seven: Become genuinely interested in others
If you are aloof, stand offish, full of your own importance and give an impression that you don’t care about others, you will make a lasting impression, just not the one you were hoping for.
As a new comer to an organization, others have already formed alliances, friendships and working relationships. They are part of a team. You are the outsider and before being accepted into a team, even a team of two, you must be able to build trust and rapport. One of the quickest ways to do this is to become genuinely interested in others.
People are far more responsive when you show a genuine interest in them. Nobody cares about you until they know how much you care about them. As with the Bruce Lee example, find out about others before talking about yourself unless of course someone asks you the question. “Tell me about yourself.”
It’s natural when you introduce yourself to want to sell yourself, your ideas, your background and your accomplishments. However, for so many, it goes all wrong and you spend the next three to six months trying to rebuild relationships you lost in the first interaction you had with others.
The main reason it all goes so wrong, is that you get in your own way. Yes, you may be an expert at something which is why you are in the role, and because of this, you judge others which keeps you from learning the essentials of effective communication. One of essentials of effective communications is the art of asking questions. Not just any questions, the right questions the right way.
Step Eight: Ask effective questions
Once the initial introductions are made, there is a second stage to making a lasting good impression and that is how you continue to interact with others in the workplace. No one likes a smart ass or know it all personality. Even if you did make a good first impression, your boss, work colleagues and customers can equally change their mind. You will quickly become known as a difficult person to work with.
Yes, you have expertise, Yes, you have experience, Yes, you have the right qualifications and background but that doesn’t always translate into your new role. That’s because every work environment has a different culture and a different way of doing things. The quickest and easiest way to find your feet and make a lasting impression is to ask effective questions.
Encourage others to share their experiences, what works and what doesn’t. Ask questions about their background and how long they have been in the role. Not only does this give you a greater insight into how things work, it also makes them feel important.
Step Nine: Make the other person feel important
The quickest way to get alongside others and make a killer impression is to make the other person feel important. The key is to do it sincerely.
When you smile confidently, listen intently to others, use their name, talk in terms of their interests, you make them feel important. Others will react positively when shown respect and treated with dignity. Give your new boss, colleagues, prospects and customers your undivided attention and do it sincerely.
Think of making a killer impression with others as having an emotional bank account. Stephen Covey talks about this in his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Effective People. When you manage a regular bank account, you make deposits and withdrawals always looking to build a positive bank balance. If you take out more money than what’s is in your account, you go into overdraft. If you go into overdraft too often, or run up massive debts, you eventually go bankrupt.
Interpersonal relationships are the same. If you keep taking from others in those first few weeks – they will experience an emotional overdraft and back away. It is far more important to keep making emotional deposits into the relationship account and build up trust so that one day when you need to make a withdrawal by asking for something you have enough in your emotional bank account to sustain the relationship.
Step Ten: Follow up
It’s easy to think now that you’ve made a great impression, you can relax and enjoy the ride. Not so. To make a lasting impression, follow up with those you have just met. If you promised to get back to them with an idea, a link, a coffee, whatever it may be, ensure you keep your word.
If you had an extensive conversation with a particular person, you might even drop them an email with a brief recap of your conversation which demonstrates you not only listened to what they had to say, you heard them.
You might also want to connect with them on social media or share something they have written such as a blog article or something else of interest.
On a final note
When you make the effort to make a good first impression, you immediately form a lasting impression that will serve you well in your future.
In a Nutshell
To make a killer first impression:
- Present yourself appropriately and dress for the occasion
- Create a winning smile and smile with your eyes
- Make sure you have a firm and confident handshake
- Practice the power-pose to increase your confidence levels
- Listen before speaking and listen to understand
- Remember the names of the people you meet
- Become genuinely interested in others
- Ask effective questions and listen carefully to the answers
- Follow up and keep your word
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