The First 6 Months Part 1 – Perception

So you’ve landed yourself a job. Huzzah! You’re likely excited and nervous at the same time, which is completely understandable. The first 6 months in any job is the most crucial to your success, because that 6 months is essentially your first impression. Sure, if you walk in on day one, offend a whole lot of people and generally come off as an obnoxious jerk, then that single day is your first impression. For most of us, people will give you a few chances, like when you forget their name and such early on. That’s why you want the 6 months to go right from day one – here’s how to do it.

What you need to know is that a large part of your reputation at work is perception. You can be incredible at your job, but you’d be surprised at how easily that doesn’t matter if people in the office don’t like you. I’m sure this is not the world you want to live in. That you think people should just see you as you are and appreciate the work you do. Well, welcome to reality. People bring with them their own emotional baggage and hang ups, which they will saddle onto you. This is why part of being successful is managing other people’s perceptions of you. This not only goes for your colleagues, but your bosses as well.

Firstly, you need to be congenial, I think that’s fairly obvious. No one likes a downer, and from a management perspective, they’ll think you don’t want to be there. Take it a step further than being congenial though, be openly positive. Being a positive employee means that you will energise other people around you. Managers will like your enthusiasm. This means when someone says “how are you?” you reply “fantastic”! Ok, you don’t have to be that positive, but never say anything negative or half hearted. Avoid things that can be said with a bit of a sigh, like “not bad, yeah ok, doing alright”. It makes it seem as though the world is on your shoulders. Stick with something positive like “great, doing good, fantastic, killing it, wouldn’t be dead for quids”. People feed off that energy, and you know what, it makes you more energetic too.

Managing perception also comes down to how you do your work. If you want to be seen as a go getter, you have to do something that everyone dreads – working longer. This doesn’t have to be as bad as you think though. As I said, it’s about managing perception. I can’t stay back late in my job, because I have outside interests that conflict with that. So I get into the office about an hour early, which means I beat the morning traffic and I ease into the day, catching up on my own professional development and checking a few of my favourite websites before I start. Here’s the thing, you can use the time that you’re staying back to do stuff you’d do at home anyway, and just make it look like you’re getting more work done. It’s all about perception. Be perceived to be doing a lot of work, even if you aren’t, and you’ll look like a go getter. Obviously this requires some care – if you work in cubicles and the office is still pretty well staffed after official hours, it’s not a good idea to be sitting around and casually checking your favourite websites.

Dress is obviously a big part of how people perceive you, and you have a lot of power here. Most guys dress for work as though it’s an inconvenience, or like it’s a hip hop video – they wear a baggy shirt and trousers because they think that’s cool, and they wear cheap shoes they don’t think twice about. You need to wear clothes that actually fit you and show the shape of your physique (and if you’re overweight, it’s time to change that, but that’s a topic for the future). Even if your office is just a pants and shirt affair, you can do better than other people. Buy a decent pair of work shoes, something like this style, and make sure they are always well shined. Invest good money in your shirt and pants too, and again, make sure they fit well.

It’s also important you aren’t be seen to be standing around chatting to colleagues too often. You definitely want to be friendly, but you don’t want to be caught having a 5 minute chat about the weekend’s football scores too often. Even if you’re talking casually about work, you’ll be seen as just shooting the breeze when you’re supposed to be working, and that’s not a good look. Finally, move like you have a purpose. I had a friend at my old job that walked everywhere like she was responding to a crisis. People always remarked to me how busy she must be, how capable and confident she looked, and that she must be really good at her job. All of this came merely from how she walked around the office.

Perception is everything.

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