The Art of the Introduction: Making a Positive First Impression
Educational leaders who have the power and influence to hire you will want to be confident that you can fulfill one particular goal: that you can provide the best possible learning environment and opportunities that their students deserve. When you are leading a classroom of students, each of whom has a different personality, background, intention, etc., it's important that you demonstrate your ability to have control over whatever situation you might be presented with. To the person you are meeting, how you handle your introduction speaks volumes about your confidence in your ability to jump into a new role and have a positive influence in your students' lives.
Making an introduction isn't about quickly spouting out as much information about your qualifications as possible with the hope of impressing the person you are meeting. It's about demonstrating that you can be trusted to know how to handle the situation you are in, as it comes.
As we continue this series of posts to help build your confidence in putting your best foot forward, here are some short tips for making a lasting, positive, first impression. The list might seem like a lot to take in all at once, but review these suggestions and recognize that they are valuable habits you might already possess or, if not, are ones that you can develop as you build your professional presence and network.
- Dress the part - Taking time to look polished not only feels good, it shows you know how to present yourself in a professional setting (see recent blog post It's a New Year...Presenting You!).
- Arrive early - You won't have to worry so much about catching your breath or appearing rushed, allowing you to be relaxed and mentally ready.
- Give a firm handshake - It demonstrates that you have confidence and control of the moment.
- Be aware of your body language - All of these tips are important, but I wish I could put extra stars next to this one. Make consistent eye contact. Listen to the person you are talking to. Be aware of your tone of voice. Have good posture. It projects confidence, warmth, awareness, and encourages positive energy...all attributes that go a long way in building trust.
- Be interesting and aware - Have reading material on hand for when you have extra time waiting for an appointment. It reflects your desire to be knowledgeable and aware of current events in your field...and can be a great conversation starter when someone greets you, easing the unknown of the situation.
- Have business cards - Have your own and ask for theirs...it gives the person you met a professional takeaway and provides you with the opportunity to follow-up easily.
- Follow-up and express appreciation - Send a short note thanking the person for taking time to meet with you. Refer to something you talked about and encourage an opportunity to meet again. It shows you cared about and listened to the person you met and that you appreciate this opportunity.
- Keep the phone away...and off - It shows that nothing is more important than the person you are currently with.
- Your online presence is part of the introduction - Be honest; you likely do this yourself. If you know you are going to meet someone, you likely "Google" them to see what they look like, get information about what they are interested in, etc. Or, if you just met someone, you might follow-up and do the same thing to learn more about this person to validate your initial impression of them. It's normal. And, the majority of hiring professionals do it as part of their candidate review, too. If your online presence doesn't reflect the professional image you tried to demonstrate in your first meeting, all of that hard work you put into making a positive first impression is gone, because you've lost your credibility.
At the end of the day, most of these habits have been drilled into many of us since we were very young. The difference is that the stakes are much higher now. The etiquette you demonstrate as you grow as a professional will undoubtedly help get you get closer to achieving goals you could only dream about and prepare for...until now.
Duquesne University, School of Education