8 Ways to Go Above and Beyond the First Impression
If you’ve made it to the moment when you’re worrying about the first impressions you’ll make on day one at a new job, congratulations! You should be walking into your new role with confidence, because you’ve already made an positive first impression throughout your interview process. Now that you and your company are both ready to give this new relationship a label and get LinkedIn-official, let’s lay the foundation for a successful relationship.
First, get rid of the idea that the “first impression” is the only thing that matters. It’s important, yes, but creating a consistent reputation will mean more than the snap judgement made by someone who met you on the day they got no sleep, are still looking for their first cup of coffee, after sitting in hours of traffic, just to arrive at work and find an overflowing inbox. Those kinds of first impressions are mostly outside of your control (and never really about you anyway).
What is in your control is the authentic reputation you build over time (or your personal brand). You’ve got four to six weeks at the start of any new endeavor to do it right, so focus on the things that can make a positive impression stick:
1. Listen in.
(Like leaning in, but listening instead.) We never learn anything new by sharing what we already know, and your first day in a new job is not the place to start showing off. Most millennials believe skills will be learned on the job, anyway, so let’s give those lessons the time and space they deserve. Listening will help you conquer the learning curve early, which will do wonders to solidify how you’re perceived beyond your first day.
2. Challenge yourself.
Be the best version of yourself each day, whether you need to load up on caffeine—or not—to make it happen. For me, that can sometimes mean I’m better organized, better prepared or a better team member than I was the day before. Find ways, each day, to keep improving. When you look back at the end of those four to six weeks, you won’t believe how long people remember the people that worked hard and never stopped improving.
Take pride in the process of becoming the professional you want to be, and assure yourself failure is an inevitable part of learning and growing. The people who are willing to be on the ground to help solve the problems are the people who continue to get opportunities; and there’s something amazing about knowing your best is yet to come. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a break if you need to, but make an effort to not be “too busy” to take on new challenges at work—or you might find yourself without the opportunities to challenge yourself at all.
4. Come prepared.
Preparation is doing everything you need to show up at your best. Structure your morning routine to make that happen. Once you’ve arrived at work, be ready to both ask and answer tons of questions; show you can take ownership over the role you’ve accepted and who you are as an employee; and don’t forget that curiosity shows you’re serious about understanding your work on a deeper level. Make sure your new team will see that trait in you.
5. Network consistently.
Set up time to identify a good way to meet one-on-one with your new manager. They will ultimately be responsible for measuring and evaluating your success on the job, but they’re not the only one who can help. Keep an eye out for good mentors, to whom you can reach out once you’re more settled. Chat with each person you meet and find commonalities to bond over. Introverts may find this a little outside their comfort zone, but there are a few guidelines that can set everyone up for success. Never underestimate how important it is to meet these people early and start relationships off strong.
6. Stay positive.
No matter how hard you try, not everyone will like you, but you can maximize how many do. Being the new person can be hard, but find time to be grateful for the opportunity you have to create a fresh start, take on a new challenge (or just make more money). Avoid office drama. You worked hard to get to where you are and there’s no reason to let anyone else’s negativity—or your own—hurt your chances of success.
7. Understand expectations.
Dress appropriately and find ways to cultivate executive presence. Find ways to integrate your new role into your current life. Knowing where to show up versus where you can take a break and where your personal life fits in will be important in the coming months. If your new role is remote, make sure you know how to hold yourself accountable at home, too. If you have any planned PTO (pro tip: you should) share those dates with your new boss. Do everything you can to make it clear you take this role seriously and that you know where your boundaries lie.
8. Be authentic.
All the advice in the world is simply recycled personal experience—with a dash of research—and it all might turn out differently for you. If you can take all the above advice and not lose your genuine self, you’ll have a lasting reputation that can’t be easily torn apart, no matter what the water cooler gossip says.
It’s taken many trials (and many more errors) to figure out what works for me when I’m the new person. I’ve learned that more often than not, there is no one trick to showing up in an impactful and positive way. First impressions are made in less time than it takes to pour yourself a glass of wine at the end of a long day—and they’re forgotten just as fast. Set yourself up to build a strong and consistent reputation and you’ll never need to worry about whatever “first” impression you make.
Hillary works as a Senior Strategy Consultant at IBM. She found her passion for her new job in the two years she took off work to pursue a full-time, Global MBA degree at George Washington University in Washington DC. She is driven by her constant curiosity and her truest love is for travel and adventure. Having moved to California in early 2019, outside work you can find her planning her next trip, exploring her local beaches, reading a book, or wandering along a new hiking trail.