disrespectful or abusive, anyway!). Because then I become suspicious.
Why am I telling you this? Am I saying that first impressions don’t matter? Absolutely not — I’m explaining why they DO matter, even to someone like me. Maybe especially to someone like me.
So how can you pass that test? As a consultant, I have to pass that test all the time. Here are the tips and strategies that I’ve gathered over the years:
Likewise, wear what makes YOU feel the most comfortable. Obviously, don’t show up for a job interview in pajamas — or, in most cases, even in the T-shirt and shorts I mentioned in my example. But within the bounds of what is appropriate for the setting, wear something that you feel like yourself in. If you have to wear a suit and you hate suits, find some small way to modify what you’re wearing to make it more you. Otherwise you won’t feel free to be yourself — and again, you’ll set off those internal lie detectors.
Prepare for meetings in advance so you can focus. I don’t mean prepare by making sure that you know your facts — I am assuming you already do that. What I mean is, take time to center yourself before meeting someone. Take a few deep breaths. If possible, meditate. Do whatever you need to do ahead of time to get yourself into the best mindset for your meeting. Find a way to bring yourself into the present moment so that you can truly pay attention to the person you are about to meet. For the duration of the meeting, be present in the meeting, not thinking about the million other things on your to do list.
Point out your own flaws — don’t try to hide them. If you have obstacles to overcome, if you face your own unique set of challenges in a work environment, point them out. Explain what you’re up against and what your strategies are for overcoming these challenges. This way you’ve set the stage for honest communication, you’ve showed that you are being truthful and authentic, and you’ve let the person you are meeting know that you’re human — just as he or she is. That makes for a powerful connection. You don’t really want the people you meet to think that you are flawless and superhuman — no one can really connect with that, because none of us meet that standard.
Be aware that you get more than one chance to make a first impression. The fact is that while you may make a good impression on someone you meet in a social situation (which is essentially what a job interview is, for example), that’s a very different matter from having your work make a good impression. The first work that you do on a new job will make its own first impression. Your place of business makes its own first impression on everyone who walks through the door. Your business card makes a small first impression on everyone into whose hands it falls. Your web site makes a first impression. You get the idea. Make the most of each chance you get to make a new first impression.