Impression management is important to an extent, and it’s also a bit tricky to adjust that extent. On one hand, you want to have people form an accurate impression of you since it prevents any future disappointment or misunderstanding, but on the other hand you still want to make sure that they see you from an angle that highlights your best qualities. And you’re right to do so: many negative first impressions are wrong in their assessment, but the people who failed highlighting their best side will never have a chance to prove their worth to the people who evaluated them wrong, given how fast the whole process tends to be. And that’s pretty unfair, so it’s a good idea to work on your capabilities to charm from the first sight.
Once you’re already “in” at a new job or new collaboration, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your standing and make people see the value that you add to the common project, but first thing’s first: the problem is that a bad first impression might cripple your odds by never allowing you to get “in” in the first place. Making a better first impression is an art to be mastered so you improve your chances of access to a lot of opportunities. Working on this will help you get in, and then the rest is up to your good old hardworking skills and knowledge.
Tips for making a better first impression:
1. Be polished, but don’t over-do it.
If you seem too much as not yourself, or obviously dressed to impress, chances are that people might judge you as being fake, so it’s best to avoid that altogether. After you scan the environment where you plan to settle into, try adapting your outfit to the general norm, and if there’s a bit of room to vary the vibe, remain more on the casual side of things.
2. Learn to give a warm greeting.
Boxes to check: be nice, smile a bit, firm handshake, eye contact. All these while still being relaxed enough and open. If you manage to give off that vibe, it would be a great point to score and you will seem trustworthy and promising.
3. Don’t be late.
Even if this rule might seem slightly old-fashioned nowadays, you never know when you just find someone who still cares about this etiquette. Better be safe than sorry. And anyway, after a while of waiting, if you’re really, really late, even people who don’t usually take punctuality too seriously might begin to feel annoyed.
4. Be friendly and engaging, but still yourself.
If you manage to do this, not only you will have succeeded in showing involvement and open-ness and just the right touch of friendliness, but you will have done so without seeming the over-eager kid who will end up being bullied. Be warm and make the others feel good in your presence, but not in a way that puts you too much at their disposal, especially if they’re your peers.
5. Show a sense of humor within some limits.
Being able to take the edge off from some potentially tense situations is a perk that makes you likeable and reassuring and may even make you a potential leader, as long as you respect two basic rules. First of all, no inappropriate humor or jokes using themes that might make anyone present feel offended. Second of all, only use this touch of humor once in a while: you want to be known for other qualities first and foremost. Be the leader who can take or make a joke, not the court jester.
If you try to apply at least a few of these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making a better first impression. Good luck!