Congratulations. You have just been hired, after an incessant job search and multiple job interviews. Now, the real work has just started!
Wondering how to build a positive professional image as soon as you arrive on the job and to sustain it throughout your whole career?
From your first day on the job, your colleagues will definitely be judging you and your capabilities as a leader, as a team member or as a threat to their current position.
Meanwhile your employer will evaluate your abilities to integrate the organization and to quickly adapt, to learn the job skills. You have to be ready to handle the pressure and to measure up to the job. And unfortunately, I learnt that there aren’t any do-overs when it comes to making a first impression of your professional image.
On the first day on my first job, I showed up on the first day with a negative attitude: I was anxious, unconsciously rejecting the fact that I had to work corporate and work for someone else. Therefore, in the long haul, I started involuntarily rebuffing the idea of getting along with people, learning new skills and focusing on my job. As a result, I integrated an unfavorable perception of my environment and I certainly believe that I left a negative impression of myself in the workplace. This stuck to me for a while until I quit the job and was able to start over elsewhere with a better knowledge of both corporate and leadership.
At the same time, to survive, I did what my elders told me: “work hard and keep your head down!”. But this brought on additional issues. Why? Because, according to Daniel Goleman, in Working With Emotional Intelligence, the “rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.[…] These rules have little to do with what we were told was important in school; academic abilities are largely irrelevant to this standard.”.
In order for you to steer clear from the same issues that I have experienced, to develop a leadership image from the start, follow the tips below:
Arrive to work early and leave late on your first day.
Arriving early to work demonstrate your motivation, your eagerness to learn and gives you more credit as a professional. In addition, arriving early will allow you to get a general feel of your new colleagues’ arrival time, schedules, morning procedures. It will also give you a time to which you will be expected to show up at work.
On your first day, at least, make sure to leave the office after a few coworkers have left the office and not before everyone else does.
Dress appropriately and to look your best.
Undeniably, your coworkers will make snap decisions about you without getting to know or understanding your core values. Subsequently, they will judge your book by its cover, no matter how you feel or what you say.
Dressing appropriately, without drawing attention to yourself, gives the perception that you fit in, that you are the right person for the job, and that you care about yourself and others. At your job interview, you had the time to consider the company culture and to take notes on the proper attire to fit in. Even on casual Fridays, groom yourself, do your best to look the part, and to dress for the job you want and not for the one you have.
Be confident, positive and prepared for a full-blown interview from your colleagues.
After the job interview, take heed of the coworkers interviews. Most likely, they will ask about your education, your professional experience, your professional competencies for the job, a description of your current position, and the members of your team. Prepare a short presentation of yourself to introduce yourself confidently.
Assume also that some of your coworkers won’t bother to get to know you.
So, you will have to take initiative and make the first steps. Extend a firm handshake, smile and proactively introduce yourself by using the short presentation about yourself and to control the message regarding yourself. Also, prepare a set of probing questions for your coworkers.
Observe your coworkers in return, their behavior towards one another, towards their boss.
Don’t be fooled, on your first day, most of your coworkers will be on their best behavior around you and will try their best for you to like them. Withal, you can discreetly notice the clicks and the areas and subjects that bring tension.
Pay attention to company culture.
Who gives orders, who is the unofficial leader, who arrives early and who arrives late, who takes coffee breaks and how often, who start the lunch process, where lunch takes place and for how long…does everyone work out? Should you go to the after works? Take a moment to understand the rules, on your own, without referring to any coworker just yet.
Remember the names of the people you meet.
I am not a name person but you should not ask for names that were already given. Wait a few days and someone will throw a name out there.
Cultivate emotional intelligence.
Even though your coworkers will be on their best behavior for the first few days, there is ALWAYS someone to come around and test you for fun. Your reaction to his or her obnoxious behavior will market your capabilities and your personal qualities, for future career success.
Communicate effectively, listen more than you speak and observe your body language.
Listen actively and with intention of asking probing questions. Ask for people opinions before you give yours.
Show interest in your new tasks.
The responsibilities that you are given on your first days are boring and minimal: you will most likely be reading job regulations, technical documents and implementing basic tasks. Nonetheless, ask pertinent questions, take notes, commit to the task at hand and don’t expect your boss or your coworkers to hold your hand.
Be open to correction, advice and guidance.
Even though you have some experience under your belt, stay humble instead of showing off your knowledge, listen to what your coworkers have to tell you. Thank people for their help and own up to your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know. Let me find out and get back to you.”.
Accept invitations for coffee, to smoke or to lunch with your coworkers.
Mind you, I don’t drink coffee, I don’t smoke and I only take lunch breaks alone during my working hours. But those breaks are essential to show that you are social and willing to integrate and share their habits. Use those breaks to your advantage to get to know your coworkers.
Don’t indulge in office politics and gossip on your first day or ever.
Avoid people who partake in gossip and employ aggressive methods of office politics. To not be implicated in the rumor mill, don’t expose your personal life. According to Daniel Goleman, pay attention to “what to say, what not to say, and what to call it” throughout your entire career.
Building a strong professional image and leader brand, as soon as you step into your new position, is detrimental to career success.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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