That old adage "First Impressions count" has probably been trotted out by your parents on multiple occasions. It certainly was part of my upbringing where image and impressions were said to be half the job. Our parents were right about this, first impressions do count, people formulate their perceptions of you based on the first meeting. Sometimes, these may all be subconscious, people don't mean to judge you but it is something that just happens. So let's figure out how to work around this.
Be it whether you are going for a job interview or meeting a client for the first time. We all have a certain image that we are trying to project, be it one of assertiveness, confidence or competence. You may think that First Impressions are an outdated cliche that is not applicable in today's evolving workplace. Perhaps, you even think that judging someone straight off the bat is harsh.
Well I am sorry to say but tough luck, that is what job interviews are for, recruiters have a good knack of whether someone would be a good fit for the organization based on their first impression. I dislike it as much as you do but that's the game and is why job interviews are notoriously stressful.
But, hey we've all been there, pacing up and down in the corridor while waiting to be called in for your interview. The nerves are palpable. You start to feel sweat glistening on your forehead. So what can help to alleviate some of this stress? For one, knowing that you are all geared up to make a perfect first impression definitely helps to calm my nerves.
Overstated importance of First Impressions?
You may hold the view that the importance of First Impressions are overstated as there may be other opportunities for you to improve one's perception of you. But what if I told you that whatever subsequent impressions people have of you will always be guided by their initial perception of you? This is something we will discuss more further down the line. Hence, the importance of first impressions cannot be overstated as you do not get a second chance to make a first impression
This is none truer than in the corporate world, where optics are everything. If you turn up for a client meeting unshaven and in flip-flops, you can almost be certain that you will not be clinching that deal. Which is why many business people go the extra mile to bring their clients to high-end restaurants in an attempt to impress them. I have even heard of anecdotes where people rent luxury cars to impress a potential client. Yes, optics are CRUCIAL and the more you let this principle guide you, the better you will be at branding yourself. But is it unfair to judge so prematurely?
Well it probably is, after all you can't judge a book by its cover. I have met countless people of incredible substance but sadly do not conform to the societal norms of looking a certain way. Unfortunately for us, the workplace is one domain where impressions matter and judgments will be passed. It is part and parcel of the package, whether you like it or not.
What impression does your network have of you?
Think back to when you first met your colleagues, do you remember the image of yourself you tried to portray? Perhaps you wanted to come across as professional but to others you may have seemed cold and intense. Perhaps the first impression your colleagues had of you is entirely dissimilar to what they currently think of you? Maybe you were extra nervous on your first day and acted out of character, but it is important to remember that those first impressions still matter.
Personally, I have faced this exact scenario countless times, I introduced myself to my colleagues but have unknowingly come off as no-nonsense and serious. It is something that baffles me as those were not my intentions, I genuinely wanted to be my friendliest self to my new teammates but somehow projected myself inaccurately. I am sharing this with you this to show that I too struggle with projecting the image that I intend for others to have of me.
Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found that it takes about 100 milliseconds to make a first impression. A first impression that lasts in the mind of individuals well beyond a nano-second. In fact, research has shown that it takes 200 times the amount of information to undo a bad first impression as it takes to make a good one.
Given that first impressions are said to form after a nano-second, it points to image and appearance being the hallmarks of every first impression. What else can you be mindful of other than dressing appropriately?
Here are 5 additional pointers to take note of in the future:
Engage in Small-Talk
Remember you only have one chance to make a first impression, why not make it a good one?