Looking back on my career as an Assistant I can pinpoint a few occasions where I definitely made a great first impression. For example, there was that time I absolutely nailed a first interview and later that day I got the phone call to say the Exec didn’t need to interview anyone else and if I wanted it the job was mine. There was another time I had just started at an organisation and was invited to their awards dinner where I would be sitting on a table with five board level directors. I was a complete nervous wreak but managed to come across as out-going, confident and interesting… sure alcohol did help with that one…
So yes, I can say in my time I have made a good first impression. But I’ve met loads of new people… practically on a daily basis. During my time as an assistant I was constantly meeting and greeting people. It was a huge part of my job to meander up to reception, find the person my boss was meeting and then walk them over to my boss’s office. Sometimes this walk could last quite some time, especially if there was an elevator involved. I must say, looking back, I didn’t give this much thought. It was just something I did every day. The person wasn’t particularly interested in me and I just had to be nice, polite and make sure I didn’t get lost on the way from the reception to my Exec’s office (this did actually happen once…)
There were also times I was in meetings with new clients and apart from the usual smiles and niceties I didn’t go out of my way to stand out. While shaking everyone’s hands, I was probably wondering where the teas and coffees were or thinking about the meeting notes I was going to have to type up later… We are all told that first impressions count, but it is bloody hard being ‘on’ all the time, especially when you have a billion other things to do! But what if I had given these every day task some thought? What if I had tried really hard, like I did during interviews and social occasions, to make a great first impression. What might have happened? Who knows, right? I might be in a completely different place right now.
Creating a great first impression
I’ve had a think about the times I did create a great first impression and here is what I did to make that happen.
I thought in advance about what I wanted to achieve. So for example, in an interview I wanted to get the job. This meant I came prepared and I looked the part. Thinking about my goals before the big interview meant that I was pretty focused during the meeting and was able to portray myself as confident and assertive. During social occasions I wanted to come across as interesting, but also interested in other people so I thought about what I was going to say and a few questions I could ask. This helped with any of those awkward silences. I wanted the other people at the event to remember who I was (obviously having a surname like Christmas helps ENORMOUSLY with this objective!) so that when I met them I could easily strike up a conversation.
Body language and posture
When trying to create a great first impression I would also think about my body language and my posture, which by the way are terrible unless kept under constant supervision! I found just being aware of my body language and posture was an improvement. Last but not least I made sure I felt important. During interviews I went into the room feeling confident about the role, I knew I would be good in that position and I could do the job. While out, wining and dining I was relaxed, enjoying myself and had as much to say as anyone else at the table… sometimes more to say, but as I said that was after a glass or two of wine.
There are so few opportunities that just materialise for assistants. We all know to get ahead we have to be incredibly productive and we have to grab every opportunity that comes our way. But saying that, we meet A LOT of important people and actually trying to create a great first impression is a really productive way of creating opportunity out of these encounters. You don’t necessarily have to spend your whole day being a bright shiny star, but just taking five minutes to think about the person you are meeting and greeting and how you want them to think of you before you make your way to reception will help you create a great first impression and as I said… who knows where that will lead!