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Life after graduation

10 steps to make a great first impression at work

Learn how to put your best foot forward at a new job or internship.

You've probably heard that first impressions are important. But what does it mean to make a good first impression at work—and how do you do it? We've outlined a step-by-step guide for you to get your new job or internship off to a great start.

Get enough sleep

You may have received this advice when prepping for a big exam or event. Getting a good night’s sleep will make all the difference in how you show up at work. You’ll feel better, have more energy, and be able to concentrate. Appearing tired or sluggish at work won’t be perceived well by your coworkers.

Dress appropriately

Be sure to ask about the office dress code. Unless you’re working in law or finance, you probably won’t need to wear a suit. However, you should still have a neat and professional appearance—especially when you’re starting out. That means you should avoid anything that is meant for the gym, is ripped, or shows too much skin.

Pay attention to what your coworkers and manager wear to help guide you. The same goes for remote work—be sure to look pulled together on video. If you want to rock sweatpants, just make sure they’re not visible when you’re on camera.

And remember, it’s always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.

Be a little early (or at least on time)

Sounds simple enough, right? Don’t be late to work. Showing up a few minutes early, or right on time, shows your employer that you’re dependable and responsible. And that’s the impression you want to make.

Set an alarm and give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Research your travel time if you’re taking public transportation or driving. Then, add in a little extra time to account for any unforeseen delays or traffic. It’s better to be early than late—and you’ll have time to get settled in and grab coffee before you start the day.

Smile and make eye contact

When you're meeting new coworkers, always smile and maintain eye contact as you're speaking with them. This will help you appear friendly, and will give them have a good impression of you. Plus, a positive attitude is contagious—so bring good vibes into the office!

Introduce yourself

It can be intimidating to be the “new person” at work. But just remember that everyone at one point was the new person. Your manager may bring you around for introductions, but if not, take the initiative and introduce yourself to your team members. Be friendly, share a little bit about yourself, and tell them you look forward to working with them.

Additionally, be sure to say hello and meet other people in the office—in the kitchen, before a meeting, or even waiting for the elevator. Whenever you come across a new face, be polite and introduce yourself. If you’re not great at small talk, ask them if they have recommendations for a good lunch spot.

Take advantage of any office networking or social events as well. Meeting other people and building connections will make all the difference in your work experience.

Take initiative

If you’ve accepted a new role, chances are you’re excited about the opportunity. Be sure to show your team this enthusiasm when taking on new projects. If a coworker asks for your help on something, you should say yes—as long as you have the bandwidth to help them and finish your own work. This will help you be seen as a team player—and they’ll likely be willing to help you in the future.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions—that’s how you’ll learn at a new job. Even after new-hire onboarding and training, you’ll likely have to ask for clarification or guidance as you go.

Your coworkers probably aren’t aware if they’re leaving out information you need. They’ll appreciate it when you ask questions, because it shows you want to learn and perform your job well.

Listen and take notes

Treat your first few weeks in a new job like a course at school. Taking notes is the best way to remember the deluge of information you’ll receive. It’s a good idea to keep a notebook and pen handy and bring it with you to every meeting.

Even after the first few weeks—it’s always best practice to actively listen and take notes! So start early and set up good habits for the future.

Put your phone away

It seems like we’re on our phones 24/7, but resist the urge to check your phone at work. You don’t want to look like you’re distracted or not working—especially if your boss walks by. If you receive an important call, excuse yourself and take your phone out of the office. Otherwise, save your scrolling for lunchtime.

Be friendly but professional

Interacting with coworkers is different than interacting with friends, family, or classmates. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly and get to know your coworkers. Start by keeping your conversations to work-related topics, and eventually you’ll build comradery with your colleagues.

Your best bet to is wait and see how your colleagues interact. Some may have more casual conversations and be open to sharing about their families and personal lives. But others may prefer to keep their personal lives private. If someone asks you about your hometown, school, or family, then you should feel free to share what you like and ask them similar questions.

Learn more do's and don'ts for communicating in the office.

Photo courtesy of Jason Goodman via Unsplash

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