A few years back I created a philosophy about work and life that helped me understand why people find themselves in jobs that they have no passion for, and why there always seemed to be this urge in people to unlock their potential. I called this philosophy the discovery of natural alignment. A couple of years later I read a book by Stephen Covey called the 8th Habit, in which he described a similar model. He calls it the natural intelligences model in which he describes the link between mind, body, heart and spirit. In both our philosophies there is this underlying belief that unless you can bring the elements into alignment you will seldom reach a level of personal life satisfaction.
I’ve always been led to believe you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Sounds obvious enough and in most cases it’s probably one hundred percent true most of the time. But then again, I’ve also learned over time that although you cannot go back and make a brand new start, you can really make a brand new end. It simply means that just because something happened in the beginning, it doesn’t have to remain that way, or define how things turn out. You see, first impressions are the point at which people form perceptions about you. It’s almost an instinctive thing, where people create this impression so that they learn how to deal with you in the future. If you come across as a nice friendly person in the beginning, they’ll expect you to be like that most of the time, and therefore will act accordingly towards you. If however, you come across up front as untrustworthy or slack, chances are you won’t get a very welcoming response from others. So that’s a very basic idea of why first impressions are important.
Impressions though are nothing more than what they are defined as. Take a look at most definitions and you’ll see impression described as, “an effect, feeling, or image retained as a consequence of experience.” It doesn’t say that an impression is reality. It is more likely a made up image of something. The problem comes in when we start to believe impressions as the only reality. This is when a person does something, and we form an impression of them, and we start to categorise the person without giving them a fair chance to prove or disprove the impression. If it’s a good impression it will work in your favour until you screw up. If however, you start off with a bad impression, it’s a really tough job to get people to accept that you are better than what they think.
Look at this thing practically. Right now, whether you’re a sports fan or not, you’ll recognise that certain sport stars have a reputation for anything from being cheats, to being fair players or sometimes even thugs. Every time they run onto a field, we almost expect this behaviour from them. Chances are they’ll try and tell you they are different, especially if they are seen as thugs. But you can’t deny that others, especially referees take note of these impressions, perceptions and reputations, and they act towards these sports stars with that in mind. A player with a reputation for being a thug is more likely to be penalised than one who is not seen that way. Even if they may be somewhat innocent.
Now think of this in your job situation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for a new job, or even if you’re just trying to make a good impression in your current job. The question is, do you have a good idea of what other people think of you? Have you made a good, positive first impression? Or are you going to have to work at turning around a negative perception of yourself? The answer to these questions is going to require that you do some work on your image. In the job interview example, you need to be aware of how you come across to others. Are you confident, assertive and knowledgeable? Or are you very nervous, unsure and hesitant? Pay attention to yourself, and adapt your behaviour so that you can change the outcome of the interview. In your current job, find out what others think of you. Hearing from your colleagues is a good way to learn about yourself. Maybe you’ve done something once that is affecting how they see you on every occasion? Does this need to change? As soon as you learn about how others see you that is the time to start working on your image.
There is one very important thing to remember in all of this however. And that is, you cannot create a lasting impression built on something that is fake. You may be able to get away with it for a while, but chances are you will not be able to sustain what will be demanded of you. So it’s always better to carry yourself in any situation as authentically as possible. There is always a second chance to improve your image. Make sure you take your chance at every opportunity.
CREATING THE RIGHT IMPRESSION
- Are you being sincere in the way you behave?
- Stick to the things that are true to your values and natural style.
- Be consistent with your behaviour so that others can get the right perception of you.
- Do not fall victim to any negative perception people have of you. Change it immediately.
- Learn how others see you. Welcome feedback and honest impressions.