First Impressions

Opening question from a coaching call a few months ago: “I have an interview for a dream job on Wednesday and I really want to demonstrate my credibility for the role. How do I make a good first impression?”

I will come back to this conversation in few paragraphs. Before we address the issue of first impressions, however, notice how an attitude of servitude has already crept into the question. The candidate’s intention is to “demonstrate his credibility”. His earnestness to do so will enter into his tone of voice, his body language and his thinking. Within minutes, the intensity of his desire for this role will be all too obvious to the persons interviewing him.

There are more exciting things to do in the world that to “demonstrate our credibility”. If we want to make a good first impression ¬— at sales meetings, interviews and all manner of presentations — it often serves us well to drop this limited objective. If we approach assignments and jobs in terms of partnership rather than servitude, we can reform our intent in more useful ways: such as…

  • Capitalising on an opportunity
  • Avoiding risks or pitfalls into which others have fallen
  • Achieving two objectives at once
  • Identifying near-term benefits, that will engage others
  • Learning from other sectors
  • Rethinking the need from a fresh perspective

Professionals naturally desire to demonstrate their credentials. Service is a noble value, but servitude is a recipe for indentured slavery. The more you try to please your prospective client or employer, the greater the risk of being taken-for-granted, re-tendered, asked for more while being paid less, or passed over in favour of professionals with more self-worth.

In our call, my client revised his intention. He reshaped his intention in terms of “making a success of this new role: learning the lessons from other supply-chains”. Now we could usefully rework his opening lines in terms of the insights he wanted to bring to the meeting: in this case, the opportunities and risks from doing a similar role in another sector. There was no need to demonstrate his credentials: they were wholly implicit in the insights that he brought to the meeting.

So, what happened? He’s now several months into the role and loving it. It is indeed his dream job. As is so often the case, dream jobs come to those who get out from the shadow of their own self-preoccupation and have sufficient self-worth to focus wholeheartedly on the client’s need.

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