“Hi there, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jack, the new guy. I like to draw neat stuff, my favorite food is pizza, and I’m seriously afraid of disappointing you. That’s me in a nutshell: drawing, pizza, and fear. No, wait—I mean beer! Drawing, pizza, and beer! I’m really cool, I promise! And now it’s awkward.”
I call that the conversation equivalent of going in for the hug, then realizing with horror it was supposed to be a handshake all along. It’s my specialty. Thankfully, I work at Swanson Russell, where being real (a.k.a being my genuine, awkward self) is literally an expectation. Here, we know a first impression is just that: a first. Countless impressions inevitably follow, and it’s the cumulative lasting impression that really matters. So, in hopes of helping out any fellow rookies, here are some ways I built my first impression into something lasting over the past few years.
Long live the new guy! I don’t think anyone should ever lose that sense of newness. Approach every situation with a student mentality. Even if you think you’re already the best (you’re not), you can always get better, and chances are, somebody knows something you don’t. Besides the practical benefits, being teachable probably means you’re nicer to work with than Pat Knowitall, which means more awesome projects and more chances to show your value as a team member.
If the “neat stuff” isn’t actually neat, it’s just stuff. Whatever your craft—drawing or writing, talking or typing—it’s important that you give it your utmost. Make the quality of your executions unparalleled, and soon enough your reputation for good, clean work will precede you.
Sketching and eating come naturally to me (especially eating), but so many other things are decidedly more difficult. Though it’s important to keep improving what’s already great, it’s perhaps more important not to settle for what is easiest. If the thought of doing something scares you, you should probably do it. It will show that you’re hungry for progress and expand your skillset, to boot.
So you misspoke? Your plan failed? Your great idea didn’t really pan out? Working here taught me that’s okay. Admit it, take responsibility, and move on to saying what you mean, making a better plan, or going a different direction. I don’t mean you should make yourself the community scapegoat—I mean you should be solution- and action-oriented instead of bogged down by mistakes. In this way, even when things go wrong, you’re a resilient, focused asset to your team, not an asshat.
I bet you are cool, but you’re not really that cool. Be confident, but be humble. I really think this takes practice. It’s important to practice confidence—choosing to believe in your own talents and contributions even when you doubt yourself; and it’s important to practice humility—remembering that you’re only a single part of something much bigger than yourself. Both are necessary in doing good work and developing good working relationships.
So, it’s easy to make an awkward first impression. We here at Swanson Russell get it, and in fact, we’ve all been there. That’s part of what informs our Real Connection™ philosophy—we’ll take real, with all its bungled introductions and hug-shakes, over fake any day. We believe in the greater importance of a lasting impression. So don’t sweat the embarrassing beginnings—just focus on putting your best foot forward, over and over again, and it won’t matter that it was ever in your mouth.
Does Swanson Russell sound like your kind of workplace? Check out our open positions if you’d like us to meet the real you.