The hard truth by 'Z': First Impressions Last

Embrace change, keep your promises, be yourself

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Think “new” for a second. As in: new job, new company, new colleagues.

When it comes to handling newness, there are two kinds of people. Some folks love change—they welcome chances to meet people and consider fresh ideas.

Others dread it. They tense up when the status quo is shaken. They like predictability and find any disruption threatening.

 When you’re in a new situation, force yourself to enjoy it—even if you secretly yearn for a safer, easier past. Show enthusiasm and remain open to experience. Convince others you’re able to take it all in stride.

How? Fake yourself out. If you grab hold of one good thing about the change, you’ll convince yourself it is good. The easiest way is by focusing in on what’s in it for you.

 Pass the “new job test”

When you’re starting a new job, others judge you from Day One. They’ll notice your appearance, mannerisms, accent—everything.

Years ago, my boss introduced me to a new hire whose wild red hair, baggy pants and pimply face made him look like a freak. I stamped him a “crazy” from the get-go, only to find that he was not only smart but reliable.

Early on, he promised to do some research and get back to me. He did. In fact, he found some great information that I used to improve a report I wrote for the CEO.

That made me realize the importance of doing what you’ll say you’ll do when you’re new in town. So, soon after you arrive, make a series of small commitments to your co-workers. Then follow through promptly. When they see that you keep your promises—when you could easily blow them off—you earn their respect.

Stay natural

Once I gave an old friend a tour of my new company. When we were alone, he told me I was acting “fake” with my new colleagues. He couldn’t believe how much I was nodding and saying what others seemed to want to hear.

“If I met you for the first time today, I would see right through you,” he said.

That stung. But he made me see I was playing a role. I pretended to admire everyone, laughed too hard at their jokes and reinforced even their most idiotic opinions.

I vowed to act more naturally, to let my real personality out. That meant thinking independently and voicing occasional disagreement. I felt more comfortable being true to myself, and I made a better impression. Soon I earned a reputation as the “straight-shooting new guy.”

Moral: When you’re in a new job, be yourself. Imagine your best friend is watching you, keeping you honest.

“Z” offers insights into what it really takes to get ahead. This 25-year veteran of the corporate battlefield has climbed the ranks to head a $100 million information services company. We have agreed to protect Z’s identity in return for his promise to hold nothing back.

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