5 Ways To Make A Good First Impression In Your Professional Life

“The better you make the other person feel, the more they’ll be inclined to have a positive impression of you."

Your very first interactions with people can say a lot, so you may be wondering how to make a good first impression.  In your personal life, someone may be more inclined to open up to you or not depending on the impression you leave, but when it comes to your professional life, a first impression can hold even more weight as it can make or break potential deals. Fortunately, there are certain things you can do in professional settings to ensure you are putting your best foot forward. 

While body language, firm handshakes, and eye contact are all classic strategies for making a positive first impression on the job, professionals must look beyond the obvious if they wish to succeed. Here are five simple tips that will empower you to approach meetings with confidence and clarity:

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1. Break the tension with a friendly greeting.

Great first impressions typically start with simple introductions. It's how you build upon these initial few words that can set the tone for your inevitable working relationship.

"You want your first seven seconds with somebody to be productive, so it's great to throw in a verbal introduction as you meet with people," Jeremy Goldman, founder and CEO of Firebrand Group, writes for Inc. "Even something as basic as "great to meet you" after they greet you can break the tension, and stop you from getting off into a tangent. If you have a hard time remembering names, the intro is a great place to reinforce the name of the person you just met. It doesn't have to be too involved: when your contact says, "Hi, I'm Amelia," reply with a simple, "Great to meet you, Amelia. I'm Jonah," instead of just saying, "Hi, I'm Jonah," in response."

Using the individual's name also demonstrates your capacity (and willingness) to listen up front, which can be refreshing in today's distracted world.

2. Don't force interactions when you're having a bad day.

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong? If you're in the middle of "one of those days," you might want to avoid any potentially pivotal networking events, as your attempt to connect with other professionals might backfire after your mindset has been compromised.

"People who go to cocktail events or mixers after having had a bad day typically continue to have a bad day," YEC Women writes for Forbes. "If you are in a depressed or anxious mood, others will pick up on this from your facial expressions, comments and body language. If you're having a bad day, stay home! Otherwise, find a way to snap yourself out of your bad mood. I find working out or watching funny YouTube videos before events often gets me in a more social, feel good mood."

Accept the fact that you can't always be at the top of your game and sit one out whenever you're not feeling top notch. You'll thank yourself later--and you won't spend days rehashing what you could've said, either!

3. Develop rapport through memorable conversation.

Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, tells Rebecca Knight of Harvard Business Review that the most people think they have to impress the other person with their vast knowledge in order to make a great first impression. However, Clark insists that, instead of trying to "wow and dazzle" this new acquaintance, people should attempt "to create a conversation that's memorable" and engaging by trying to draw out the other person and listening to what they have to say. 

"The better you make the other person feel, the more they'll be inclined to have a positive impression of you," she adds. 

Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Workalso notes that people love to talk about themselves. Therefore, asking thoughtful, open-ended questions such as, "What are you most excited about right now?" will allow "you to tap into what the person is passionate about." There's also "a lot of power in having a very good conversation around your respective areas of expertise," Johnson tells Knight. "The camaraderie develops naturally."

4. Disregard all your electronic devices.

People are constantly glued their electronic devices, especially their smartphones. However, if you wish to make a positive first impression, your gadgets cannot be part of the equation.

"If you need to use technology to deliver a presentation, that's one thing. But unless you're projecting your computer or tablet screen to present to the entire room, turn off sounds and vibrations on your mobile devices, and put your screens away," Jacqueline Zenn writes for HubSpot. "Give your complete and undivided attention to the people you're meeting for the first time to convey your commitment, focus, and let's face it, your good manners.

It's downright rude to engage someone else while splitting your attention with a screen simultaneously. You can't maintain that ever-important eye contact if you refuse to look up.

5. Dress to exude confidence and competence.

Maintaining a profession appearance can enhance your personal brand, as the more "put together" you appear, the more likely you will leave a positive impression. Oftentimes, if you look the part, you will feel the part, thereby exuding more confidence in the process.

"You don't have to purchase expensive designer suits to look your best," Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, writes for Entrepreneur. "Instead, invest in timeless classic pieces to create the foundation of your wardrobe." 

Whitmore also suggests dressing in ways that complement the given client. "Always dress for your client's comfort, not yours," she adds. "If you're meeting with a group of bankers, a dark suit is most appropriate. Some occasions, however, call for a more creative approach. It's okay to show more of your personal style if you work in an artistic career or when you meet with a group of designers. Be sure your wardrobe consists of clothes that fit and flatter your body shape."

Cover image via José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash

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