A couple of months ago, one of my clients reached out to me in a state of shock. He had just started a new job and noticed a high turn-over of leaders around their one or two-year mark of employment. He wanted to avoid experiencing a similar situation. “I’ve heard first impressions are everything, Dr. Nadine. I want to set myself up to do a great job. What should I do?”, he asked me.
Here are some tips to help you make a great impression when starting a new job.
1. Start relationships by learning and listening
When meeting a coworker for the first time, resist the temptation to dominate the conversation. Instead, start the relationship by listening and learning. Effective listeners project more positive impressions and are perceived as more trustworthy, friendly, and understanding during first interactions.
In making your first impression, it’s crucial to ask a lot of questions. I recommend arming yourself with a set of five questions that you can pose to your new coworkers. Consider the following:
1. What do you do?
2. How will we interface with each other?
3. What is my job, in your eyes?
4. Describe the spoken and unspoken culture here.
5. What is the company’s strategy as you understand it?
As your co-workers respond to your questions, ensure you are actively listening and taking notes. Being an active listener is the surest way to making a positive first impression. Active listening is also a sure-fire way to deepen your understanding of your new company. Use the opportunity to pick your co-workers’ brains and gain unique insights into your new role.
2. Perfect your “elevator pitch” or personal brand
In order to maximize your time for listening, it’s important to perfect your “elevator pitch” or personal brand. This introduction should emphasize your value and character rather than your personal accomplishments. You want to avoid coming across as a bragger.
Try to describe yourself as a solution to a problem, listeners want to know how you can help them. Maybe include an interesting personal fact. The objective should be to engage and intrigue your new coworkers and incite them to want to learn more about you.
3. Slow down
When embarking on a new job, executives tend to be too eager to please and prove their worth. This eagerness often prompts them to prematurely make important decisions and large commitments. Dial back your eagerness. You’ll quickly lose credibility and respect if you attempt to make big changes that will inevitably disrupt the culture. It’s important to gain credibility first. You will make your contributions to your organization in time, but not until you gain credibility with your teammates — and you’ll have to earn that through your actions.
When making a significant decision as a newcomer, it’s important to prepare an assessment that is grounded in extensive research and insights gleaned from your interactions with relevant stakeholders. Your ability to make effective decisions depends on countless organizational-specific factors, including the culture and value system. The worst kind of new co-worker to have foisted on you is the kind who already knows their entire plan before they start the job, because it is the same plan they have implemented at every other job they’ve held.
After you’ve prepared your assessment, take the time to outline a strategy, accompanied by targets and implementation timelines. In communicating your strategy, present it to your manager or Board of Directors first before sharing it with your executive team. Clearly describe your role and function as part of the delivery. Ensure that your presentation is collaborative and interactive by posing two or three questions to your audience related to strategy and/or implementation. Doing so will not only encourage them to participate and contribute, but it will also allow you to reiterate that the strategy is still in the proposal stages. Once you’ve secured buy-in, it’s important to continually refer back to your plan of action and assess your performance. This will enable you to achieve top marks when it comes time for performance reviews.
It’s difficult to recover from a poor first impression. Your first impression at a new job is critically important. As J.K. Rowling once noted, “A good first impression can work wonders.”
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner