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Entry by Pat Patterson

Regardless if you are at a networking event or a friend’s cookout, you are likely to meet new people, perhaps someone who will lead you to your next internship or job.  Whether you will continue to keep in touch with new contacts depends on how favorably they remember you.

A great first impression will increase your chances of continuing a relationship with someone you meet.  Especially for those internship and job seekers at career fairs, making a great first impression may determine whether or not a recruiter decides to toss your resume aside or keep it in the pile of potential candidates.

In Kevin Eikenberry’s blog, Leadership and Learning, he provides ten valuable tips on how to make a great first impression:

  • Relax. This comes first, especially if the situation is one where you feel you need to make a great first impression. You want the new client, you want the job, you want the date – whatever the situation is, take the pressure off of yourself! Relax and just be yourself. Think about it, you can tell when people are anxious or nervous, right? Does it make you more attracted to them? Your answer is the same as everyone else’s. Relax.
  • Smile! Few things are more attractive than a real smile – it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, smiles make a difference. Whether you’ve spent thousands on your pearly whites doesn’t matter. Let people know you are happy to meet them before a word is said. The best way to do that is with a smile. The old line that “smiles increase your face value” is an old line because it’s true.
  • Use a good handshake. While I grew up taking this for granted, and have written about it in more detail, this one simply can’t be overlooked. A good handshake says things about you that words never can. Learn to give a great handshake. Practice it. Make it your habit.
  • Make eye contact. In most parts of the world, this is incredibly important. Everyone has heard it, everyone “knows” it, but far too many people do it. This actually is good news for you – because when you do make eye contact consistently – you will stand out.
  • Be genuine and real. Be . . . yourself. Be . . . natural. After all, you want their impression to be of who you really are not some mask you have created, right? Enough said.
  • Be interested, not interesting. This turn of words is very powerful. Often making a great first impression is equated with impressing people. While that is true, most think about impressing people as being about showing what we know, who we know or what we’ve done. You will make a more powerful and lasting impression when you don’t try so hard. Which brings me to . . .
  • Ask more, say less. You will show your interest in the other person by asking more questions and talking less. When you ask you are signaling your interest. Asking helps you learn about the other person, and who doesn’t like it when people want to know more about them?
  • Be confident. Being confident coupled with being relaxed leads to a projected self-assurance that is both interesting and attractive. Don’t try too hard, and don’t take confidence as your lone tip (notice this doesn’t say over-confident or cocky) – but when coupled with the other ideas on this list you will not only be more confident, but your confidence will work well.
  • Be present. Being present means not looking for the next hand to shake, not thinking about your own issues or deciding how to move on. It is about being with the person you are meeting, for however long you are engaged with them in conversation. Many of the other tips on this list will happen naturally when you are truly in the moment with the person.
  • Remember it isn’t about you. Make the encounter as much about the other person as possible, and you will make great first impressions most of the time. If you are especially nervous in networking situations or if you are reading these tips before an especially important meeting, remember this tip and apply it. It is all about the other person. As paradoxical as it may seem, making a good impression will come easiest when you focus not on yourself, but on the other person.

Need an example of how to make a great first impression?  Next time you meet someone who makes a great first impression on you, note their behavior and why you liked them, and use such information as you make your next acquaintance.

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