10 Tips to Make a Good First Impression
Have you ever struggled at a networking event or conference to get to know other participants? Have you wondered — and worried — about the best ways of making a good first impression?
Networking sounds simple. All you need to do is to start with a positive interaction and make a good first impression. Networking is about building relationships. If done right, it can make you a standout and play an important part in finding a job, landing a sale, or getting a promotion.
Whatever your goals, networking is important in today's business world. But for many people — whether it's because they're shy, an introvert, or just not comfortable with small talk — the idea of networking can be uncomfortable at best and stomach-churning at worst. Just like anything else, though, you'll get better at networking by practicing. Here are seven simple ways to make a positive impression, and three things to avoid if you don't want to make a negative one.
First the good:
- Be authentic. Think about it: there's no bigger turnoff than when someone is perceived as faking an interest in you. Don't do it to other people. Show real interest, and they'll show it back. All the other suggestions here come back to this: If you genuinely care about someone or are genuinely interested in them, that will show in your interactions with them.
- Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that can be answered "yes" or "no." You want to start a conversation. The best way to do so is to ask questions that are open-ended and require longer answers. Do you understand? Yes. Oops.
- Maintain eye contact and smile. If you're looking over the shoulder of the person you're talking to in hopes of finding someone more "important," or otherwise looking bored and not making eye contact, then you're sending a clear signal that you're not interested. The person you're talking to is likely to show you the same (dis)courtesy.
- Listen. This seems obvious enough, but if you're in the midst of a group, or thinking about other things it might be hard to really take in what someone is telling you. But it'll be obvious if you're not paying attention, so focus in. Make the person you're talking to feel important and relevant.
- Follow through. Even if you're networking because you're on the lookout for a new opportunity doesn't mean you shouldn't help others in the same position. Did you meet someone who might be a good fit for a job opening in your company? Did you tell someone you would follow up with that name of an electrician? Make sure you follow through to make a good impression.
- Do things you enjoy. Networking isn't just about meeting strangers in your industry. You can network anywhere, at any time. If you are uncomfortable at traditional network events, branch out. Join professional organizations, or clubs where professionals meet to do activities together like volunteering, tennis playing, or dining. You will be surprised at the types of people you meet and the natural way in which you interact when "networking" isn't the ultimate goal.
- Say thank you. If someone helps you or does something for you — no matter how small — write a thank you note. That small effort will make you a big standout.
Then the bad:
- Ask for a job.That kind of request puts a lot of pressure on the person you're asking. Instead, make the person you're talking to an ally in your job search by asking them for insight and advice. If you do this, then it might very well be you they think of when they have an open position.
- Hit and run. A hit-and-run networker is someone who connects, gets what they want, and then disappears, never to be heard from again. Or at least until the next time they need something. Instead, follow up, tell them thank you, and offer any reciprocal help you can.
- Avoid talking to the "little people." Everyone is important. No one deserves to be ignored or treated poorly, no matter their job title. The most junior member of your department? She will remember the length of her career how you treated her. The secretary? He knows before anyone else when a position is about to open up. The guy who mops the floors? Learn his name. You never know when you will need someone's helping hand, and you'll be surprised at where that help comes from.
Want to learn more about networking? Find out more at CTU's Career Services.