This guest post was written by Katie McCune, a Career Development Assistant at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s also a Career Assistant at MIT.
Not too long ago, I was getting ready for my next big adventure: moving cross-country from my home-state of Colorado to New England. We all experience starting something completely new at different phases of our life whether it’s first coming to college, going on a new co-op, getting our first job, or even moving cross-country. With each new change, there are also opportunities to meet new people. There are a lot of great ways you can make good personal and professional impressions, but here’s what meeting a lot of new people has reminded me:
A smile goes a long way.
My “big move” was for school, so like many of you when I first arrived, I was meeting peers, professors, and administrative staff as well people through clubs and sports teams. The people who I initially developed connections with were the ones that smiled. Yep, simple as that, they smiled. Research has consistently shown that body language is a major factor in how we interpret somebody’s words. With one nearly effortless action, you can demonstrate to your new co-op boss (or anyone else) that you are friendly, confident, and invested in them.
Always follow through.
Think about a time when you were just getting to know somebody, set up plans with them and then they flaked out. How did this affect your opinion of them? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you didn’t end up becoming besties–It feels crappy when somebody misses a meeting with you or doesn’t get in touch when they say they will. Why? Because it can signal that we’re not a priority in those people’s lives.
Before you agree to something, whether it’s sending an email, showing up for a 9am meeting, or taking on a big project, be sure that you can actually do it. By doing what you say you’re going to do, you will demonstrate that you are reliable, organized, and respectful—all qualities that are helpful in any professional or personal setting.
Be a good listener.
A lot of times when we think about meeting new people, we focus on what we are going to say. For example, if you’ve practiced for an interview, I bet you went over your answers, but did you think about how you were going to show the employer that you were listening? While presentation skills are important, listening skills can be just as important, if not more. By asking good questions, remembering what people say, and actively listening, you can make the other person feel valued and demonstrate that you’re present and ready to learn.
All interactions reinforce or undermine the first impression.
You’ve probably heard that first impressions matter—and they totally do! But it’s important to remember that the first time you meet somebody isn’t the only time you’re making an impression with them. If you forgot to smile this time, do it next time. If you followed through this time, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to do the same next time.
It can be intimidating to make new connections especially in a professional setting, but remember that it’s just like all of your other interactions. Be the person that you would want to meet, and you’ll be golden! Share with us, what are other things people have done to make positive impressions on you?
Katie is a Career Development Assistant at NU with a background in sociology. A teacher at heart, she loves leading workshops–in addition to the career workshops, she’d gladly teach you how to hula-hoop, how to organize your house/office/desk, or how millennials can make great employees. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.