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Student smiling while sitting on a chair in an office
May 10, 2022
4 mins read

How to make a great impression when starting a new role

Heading into a new work or volunteer position?

If you’re feeling anxious about all the connections you have to build from scratch, say goodbye to your worries! Here are some strategies to present yourself in a likeable and sincere way:

1. Know what to expect—and what is expected of you

Exercise due diligence, even before your first day. Have you submitted all the paperwork HR needs from you? Prepped the materials you need (e.g. new notebooks or tech)? Reviewed what the dress code is, when and where to show up, and whom you’ll report to? On your first day, be on time—if not early. 

2. Check your appearance (and surroundings)

Your appearance is a pretty huge part of the impression you make. So, make yourself look tidy! Comb your hair and dress nicely—avoid rumpled clothing.

If you’re showing up virtually, make sure that your physical appearance and background are professional. Choose a quiet area.

If you’re going to work or volunteer on site, really pay attention to your presentation. Physical distancing doesn’t mean you should go into the workplace looking like you rolled your way there. Do you have dandruff? Are your glasses clean? Yes, it’s up to you to make yourself look presentable—and maybe think twice before wearing heavy scents.

Student interviewing virtually

3. Pay attention to your body language

When meeting everyone, show your excitement and gratitude for being part of the team!

If you’re meeting virtually:

  • Maintain a good posture (sit upright!)
  • Smile and wave to help yourself look friendlier

If you’re meeting in person:

  • Mind the sounds and movements you make (e.g. yawning and bouncing your leg)
  • Smile; the muscles around your eyes can show you’re smiling even if you're wearing a mask
  • Maintain a safe distance

4. Observe more, listen more

During group discussions or meetings, take notes on the kinds of ideas and questions your teammates share, and how they communicate them. This way, you can learn how to contribute your ideas meaningfully. If you’re ever asked to weigh in, first support what others have said—then make your point. 

If you have questions, check that they’re relevant to the topic at hand. Try to avoid raising questions at the end of the meeting, when your teammates are wrapping up. Also, if you have a sense that your question might touch on something a little sensitive, maybe save it for a one-on-one with your supervisor.

Additionally, when speaking to others, be an attentive and inquisitive listener, and try to let others enjoy the spotlight more. As Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People

“Remember that the people you are talking to are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems.” 

To help keep a conversation going, you could ask for advice—for example, tips on prioritizing projects. You’ll probably find that your teammates have lots of useful information to share!

Finally, you might have heard that “mirroring”—that is, imitating someone’s body language—can make you seem more likeable. Use it carefully, though, as it can backfire if your mimicry is too obvious.

5. Communicate carefully

Here are two elements of communication to keep in mind:

What you communicate

Whenever you’re speaking with someone, try saying their name every now and then to help create feelings of connection

You could also use words that convey certainty. According to Lewis Losoncy, author of If It Weren't For The Customer, Selling Would Be Easy, using “definitely” and “always” can help you sound more confident and dependable. Of course, only use them when what you’re saying holds (or will hold) true; if you’re making a promise, remember to fulfill it.

In addition, when you’re given assignments, show your understanding by recapping what you’re told. Go one step further: Verbalize and rationalize how you’re prioritizing them. Say at least one “Thank you for [specific action]” to express your gratitude.

Your wording matters, too. Let’s pretend you’re a Pokémon trainer; which of the two Pikachus below would you choose?

Pikachu 1: “Can you please read this over?” 

Pikachu 2: “Can you please help take a look at this?” 

Don’t you agree that the second Pikachu’s tone sounds slightly more agreeable? When making a request, consider using words like “help” and low-barrier language; “take a look” sounds quicker to do than “read over.” (For more tips on wordsmithing, check out one of my favourite books: Herschell Gordon Lewis’s On the Art of Writing Copy.)

How you communicate

If you’ve noticed that you have a naturally loud voice, try to tone down just a little. Speaking loudly can be seen as disrespectful...even when you don’t mean it. To help make yourself appear calmer and more thoughtful, maintain eye contact, be careful not to interrupt anyone, and pay attention to the inflection of your voice.

Finally, here are 3 things to avoid:

  1. Saying “yes, but” or “however”—this kind of language shows direct opposition. Instead, if you don’t feel so on board with something and want to suggest a counterpoint, preface with “I wonder if...”
  2. Repeatedly negotiating the terms of the position (e.g. switching hours around, asking for additional breaks)
  3. Discussing nonwork-related topics (e.g. gossiping)

Remember that from now on, you’re representing your new team—so be sure to keep up the image you’ve created for yourself. Stay humble, polite, and friendly!