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5 Ways To Make A Great First Impression (Career Advice)

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Research findings show that a firm handshake characterized by strength, good eye contact, and a completeness of grip, leaves a positive impact.

By Kelly Studer (Career Stylist, Kelly Studer Consulting)

At one point or another, we’ve all had an experience meeting someone new and not have it pan out the way we thought it would. Without even realizing it, we may have left a poor first impression and it’s hard to change someone’s mind about us once this has happened.

Whether it’s a networking event, giving a presentation to potential clients or investors, or meeting someone at a party, it’s important to make a good first impression.

If you keep the following five principles in mind, you’re bound to make a good impression every time:

Tip #1 – A firm handshake matters

Research findings show that a firm handshake characterized by strength, good eye contact, and a completeness of grip, leaves a positive impact. Apparently women with firm handshakes were viewed more positively than men with comparably firm handshakes. So ladies, give ‘em a firm grip! If you’re not sure how your handshake comes across, ask a friend to critique it.

Tip #2 – Smile and lean in

No matter how nervous or uncomfortable you might feel prior to meeting someone, make an effort to smile and show your enthusiasm for meeting them. It will put them at ease and give the unconscious impression that you find them appealing or interesting. Even the just the act of smiling will put you at ease too and boost your confidence. Additionally, leaning in towards someone while smiling is an even more powerful combination. Imagine you’re in a loud club and trying to catch every word they are say.

Tip #3 – Be like them

During a first interaction, it’s important to find common ground, not try to demonstrate how unique and different you are. I’m sure you’ve met someone before who immediately dropped in “impressive” details about themselves, such as where they went to school or their job title. Were you impressed or turned off? In fact, you were most likely looking for a quick escape.

Easy ways to find common ground are to notice something that’s going on in your shared environment (e.g., music playing, the art on the walls), the weather, news event, a mutual friend you share, etc. Try saving what makes you unique until after you’ve established a connection.

Tip #4 – Be positive and in the moment

Imagine if you were running late to an investor pitch meeting. You enter the room looking flustered and out of breath. To account for this, you mention the ridiculous traffic, how slow they were in the parking garage at helping you, and that the receptionist wasn’t very helpful. There’s not much anyone can say but there’s no doubt that the overall impact is “negative.” You’re seen as someone who complains, gets flustered easily, and can’t control themselves. Within minutes, you calm down and give a fantastic presentation but unfortunately, they don’t feel inclined to invest with you due to their initial first impression.

Research has shown that people weigh initial information much more heavily than later information. Not only that, negative information is weighted even more heavily. It can take many repeated positive behaviors to override that initial negative impression. When in doubt, take a breath, gather yourself, and wipe any negative thoughts out of your head. Walk in with a smile on your face.

Tip #5 – Look good

The way you dress, groom, and carry yourself is the first thing someone sees when they meet you. When you feel good about the way you look and are comfortable with your appearance, it takes the pressure off and allows others to focus on you as a person. Not unlike the concept of finding common ground, dressing in a way that is more similar to those you’re interacting with can make a difference in a first impression. I’m not saying you shouldn’t project your own sense of style but recognize what story you are telling to others with your physical presentation.

There are so many factors to making a great first impression but if you begin to practice and apply these five basic principles, I think you’ll find your initial interactions become much more enjoyable, rewarding, and positive. No matter what though, don’t force anything that doesn’t feel authentic to you.

Photo credit: Erica Kawamoto Hsu.

Women 2.0 readers: How do you make a good first impression? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Kelly Studer is a Career Stylist at Kelly Studer Consulting, transforming careers and images for ambitious, career-minded professionals and executives at Fortune 500 companies and startups. Kelly brings 15+ years of experience at some of the world’s best companies (Google, Salesforce.com, Sapient, and Accenture) to her clients, defining their personal brand in order to transform their professional presence and image to match. Obtaining that elusive “executive presence” is one of her specialties