First impressions can be lasting impressions – The Employee – Part 1

Do you ever wish you could press the ‘rewind’ button on the remote control of your life? Like the poor person who turned up to work on his first day at work to find out half way through the day that his fly had been undone the entire time?

Our brains have to process thousands of pieces of information at any given moment and this includes decisions about people. Snap judgments about other people – rightly or wrongly – are easy to make. Regrettably when we start a new job, it is very easy for mistakes made early in the piece to create lasting impressions with our employers and colleagues.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the speed with which we “size up” people we meet, in his 2005 book “Blink: The power of thinking without thinking”. Our brains have developed in a way to enable them to process information quickly – this is a mechanism that serves us well in dangerous situations but not well in social situations or in situations requiring us to exercise good judgement.

So here are our top tips to make sure you make a great first impression with your work colleagues instead of a bad lasting impression:impressions

  • Avoid giving work colleagues a nickname in your first week. A nickname is an intimacy that has to be earned so try to resist calling people “mate” or adding an “o” to John’s name to make him “John-o” or calling someone whose name is Sharon “Shazza”.
  • If you have a nose ring that you took out for the interview, it will be considered a deception if you turn up to work with it visible, especially if the organisation has a dress code that limits visible piercings. The same goes for tattoos.
  • Beyond time – nothing says “slacker” as someone who is disorganised enough to be late on the first day of work (severe weather events excluded).
  • Avoid saying “in my last job” ad nauseam. No one cares. You’re in this job now and unless you are specifically asked what your previous employers did in a certain situation, keep it to yourself. In any event if there is a better way of doing something it’s best people think it’s your idea not something you’re copying from your previous employer.
  • Smile – even if you’re feeling nervous. Smiling will reduce the stress that you’re feeling and basically tells people (whose brains don’t forget are making thousands of tiny decisions every moment) that you are friendly and approachable.
  • Always shake hands when you’re introduced to someone – regardless of whether that person is a peer, a superior or a junior colleague. Shaking hands (and don’t forget to smile) is a very quick way to establish a friendly rapport.
  • Dress professionally – most recruiters know that what job seekers wear to an interview is generally their best effort, and employers are starting to know this as well. Don’t underestimate the message you send when you turn up to work. Although there is a growing trend for people to wear thongs (shudder) or sandshoes (shudder again) to work and then change into work shoes, we don’t recommend that you do this on your first day.
  • Repeat back people’s names as you’re introduced so that you can try and remember them. If you don’t remember someone’s name the next time you see them, it is okay to say “I’m so sorry I’ve forgotten your name” rather than letting it go 6 times by which stage it’s too late to admit that you’ve forgotten.
  • If someone tries to engage you in gossip, avoid it like the plague. If someone is prepared to tell a new colleague gossip about someone in the office, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be talking about you just as quickly.
  • Say thank you to everyone who helps you along the way – gratitude is a much underrated virtue and showing genuine gratitude to people who assist you along the way will make you go far.
  • And unlike the fellow in the opening paragraph, double check everything is as it should be with your clothing

Your first few days in the job may determine how others perceive you. Make it count.