How to Make a First-Rate First Impression

Start a collaborative relationship with purpose and personality

Carl Thompson of the Duke Career Center.

They begin with a first encounter which, when done right, sets the tone for a positive connection.

Here are some ways to make your next first impression a success.

Add Context to Your Introduction

Dr. Nancy Weigle, Associate Professor in Family Medicine and Community Health, often meets new patients with medical students by her side. She advises students to introduce themselves to patients and mention that they’re a student and explain their role in the encounter. The extra information clears up any confusion and puts people at ease.

“Sometimes we assume people know who we are,” Weigle said. “But being clear with an introduction can go a long way.”

Offering context extends beyond the patient room. When making an introduction, fold in details such as where you work and your role to help new acquaintances know where you fit in their network.

Duke Associate Professor Dr. Nancy Weigle.

Add a Human Element

With many workdays consisting of virtual meetings, Lora Griffiths, a Research Award Manager on the remote Campus Award Management team, appreciates that her colleagues know one another as more than just email addresses.

Since the pandemic, her team has hosted regular Friday Zoom get-togethers known as “tea times.” In these meetings, new employees introduce themselves and are encouraged to share bits of their of their lives outside of work with colleagues, who do the same.

“This helps everyone know that we’re all just normal people,” said Griffiths.

By offering a glimpse of your life and personality, colleagues can find common ground and add a human element to work interactions.

Get Networking Tips

Take Dorie Clark's "Networking the Right Way" course on LinkedIn Learning, available at no-cost for Duke employees.

Be a Good Listener

Author and Fuqua Business School Instructor Dorie Clark said that one way to leave a good first impression is to turn your focus away from yourself and toward the other person.

By being a good listener and asking questions about the other person and what they do, you learn about them and show your interest in the connection.

“It’s surprisingly rare in contemporary society to be a genuinely good listener,” Clark said. “We will, by default, make a good impression of the other person if we are just thoughtful listeners and really try to draw them out and get to know them. That will cause them to want to get to know us.”

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