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There are a few situations when it’s worth your while to go above and beyond at work. If you find yourself joining a new company, starting in a new role, working with a new manager, or meeting a prospect for the first time, these are instances when you’re making a first, and lasting, impression.

Someone decides their initial impression of you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. This is based on factors such as tone of voice, appearance, attitude, and body language. But there’s another, more meaningful “first impression” that’s often overlooked in the workplace: the first substantive time you work together.

People decide if they want to bring you on to projects in the future based on their first experience working with you. There are three ways to set yourself up for a successful first impression:

  1. Be reliable
  2. Anticipate needs
  3. Convey enthusiasm

Be Reliable

Reliability is an essential quality of a great colleague. Exhibit reliability by delivering consistently excellent work ahead of schedule without overlooking the details.

One tip to hold yourself accountable to be reliable and complete work ahead of schedule is to set an internal “due date” for yourself. If you know an assignment is due EOD Wednesday, commit to completing it by 12 pm Tuesday. This allows for buffer time in case something goes wrong (things always go wrong).

To ensure the small, yet important, details don’t get missed, it’s helpful to go through your notes from the meeting and cross off all of the completed to-do items. You’ll quickly catch something you were supposed to do as your ticking through your original notes.

Finally, communicate the status of your progress. A simple email goes a long way. Try something like this:

Hi Hashish:

I’m about 75% through drafting the motion to dismiss. We need to have it to the client by EOD Wednesday, so I plan to have the finished product to you by 12 pm Tuesday. We should have plenty of time to make final edits before sending it off. 

I’ll let you know if this timeline changes for any reason. 



Anticipate needs

Young professionals often focus only on the specific role they’re playing in a broader assignment. They forget to think big-picture. 

You’ll make a positive, lasting first impression by considering what the manager or partner has on their plate. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Ask how your work fits into the bigger project (“How will this research be used?”)
  • Consider how you can take on additional responsibilities (“Beyond this assignment, what else can I do to be helpful?”)
  • Offer different perspectives (“I was doing some research and found some data points that could impact our hypothesis. Have we considered…?”)
  • Identify potential obstacles (“I was working on a similar project last year, and we ran into the issues of XYZ. Is this something we should prepare for with this assignment?”)

Convey enthusiasm

Perhaps the most underestimated way to make yourself someone others want to work with is by having a good attitude about the work. There are going to be plenty of assignments you really don’t want to do, and the key is to accept the work with a smile. 

Express gratitude for the opportunity and approach it with the same zeal you would for an assignment of your dreams. 

Put it into action

These tips are applicable at every stage of your career, and are particularly important when making a first impression. 

Here are three action items to exhibit the adjectives of reliability, initiative, and enthusiasm:

  1. Set an internal due date by which you commit to get the work done ahead of the final due date
  2. Identify one way you can add additional value to a project
  3. Accept all assignments with a “thank you”