How to Make a Great Impression at Work in English

February 1, 2024
By Jasmin Anderson
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression?’ ‍

It means that when you meet someone for the very first time, they begin to form opinions or ideas about your character, who you are, and if they want to spend more time with you…

And they make all these judgments in a split second!

Whether it’s fair or reasonable, those first few moments can define your future relationship.  

First impressions are very hard to change, so when it comes to meeting someone in a professional setting - whether it’s at a networking event, on your first day in the office, or at a job interview - you need to be sure that your first impression is an excellent one!

No one wants to feel embarrassed or look dumb during a job interview, when meeting new colleagues or clients, or even just chatting with a new workmate in the break room. So I’m sharing 5 tips to help you walk confidently into any professional setting and make a GREAT impression in English - one that will set you up for lasting relationships at work. Keep reading!

1. Have your professional introduction ready to go!

No matter the specific workplace scenario, when you meet someone new, you will need to introduce yourself. And you want to come across as confident, even if you’re a little nervous!

How you introduce yourself sets the tone for the rest of the conversation, so it’s important to get it RIGHT. Don’t just fluke* your self-introduction; prepare and practise it!

*to fluke (something) means to achieve it by luck, rather than skill.

When creating your introduction, start with the basics: your name, and depending on the situation,  perhaps your title, role, or the department you work in. When meeting a new colleague you might say:

‘Hello, I’m Jasmin. I work in the marketing department. What about you?’

Keep your introduction short and sweet and try to end in a question that invites others to give their introduction or keep the conversation going. This will help you start to build relationships and connect with those around you.

When introducing yourself during a job interview, they probably already know your name, but you might thank them for inviting you by saying:

‘Hello, it’s so nice to meet you. Thank you for seeing me today.’

Remember, we want to convey confidence when introducing ourselves and the best way to do that is practice! Practise saying your introduction in front of the mirror until it sounds natural and comes out easily. You can even record yourself and listen back!

Want help creating a powerful professional introduction that makes a great impression? Watch this video & download the fantastic workbook to follow our proven 3-step method!

2. Listen, show interest and ask questions

Although it has the word ‘small’ in it, knowing how to make small talk is a big deal! These short, informal conversations help you start to build rapport* with your customers or colleagues, which will lead to strong professional connections and relationships.

*rapport (noun) is a good understanding of someone and the ability to communicate with them.

When making small talk, choose simple and easy topics to discuss, like hobbies, the weekend, or even making comments on present situations like the weather or traffic conditions (Check out this mmmEnglish video for 50 English Phrases for Small Talk!)

Like all conversations, small talk is a two-way street! That means both people need to be active participants in order for the conversation to be successful. Responding appropriately to others is just as important as what you say.

A simple way to respond to what people say is using phrases like ‘that sounds/how + adjective.’

  • How interesting!
  • That sounds nice!
  • How cool!

Phrases like this not only show that we are listening, but also show that we are interested in what people say. After using one of these expressions, keep the conversation going by including follow up questions. Asking further questions also takes some of the pressure off of you to keep speaking.

Just like your introduction, it’s important to practise these expressions and questions. This is the best way to ensure that you sound sure of yourself and won’t make mistakes when speaking.

3. Give genuine compliments

Giving compliments is another great way to make a positive, meaningful and lasting first impression.

In professional settings, it is generally better to praise someone because of their performance, skill, or a positive characteristic they have, rather than their appearance.

You might comment on how well someone put together or gave a presentation. If you admire someone’s public-speaking ability, tell them! Giving compliments is a great way to strike up a conversation and you might even get some advice or tips from them.

While most people like receiving compliments, it can seem fake if the compliment is too general. Rather than saying, ‘Great work today!,’ think of something more specific. Try ‘Great work on organising our meeting today!’ instead. Genuine praise will be far more appreciated and memorable than a generic compliment that could be applied to anyone.

Authenticity is key!

4. Don’t forget body language!

When thinking about how to make a great first impression, it is easy to focus on the language you use.

However, it is also crucial to think about your body language too. It takes people less than a second to make judgments about us, and much of that comes from our body language!

A friendly and inviting smile goes a long way in putting others at ease and makes it more likely that they will be open to speaking with you.

Try to avoid fidgeting with your hands or bouncing your leg up and down. Small repetitive movements can make you seem nervous or agitated. Think about your posture, or how you hold your body. Don’t do things like cross your arms, as this can make you seem ‘closed off’, uncomfortable and unapproachable.

Using body language to our advantage is a great way to appear confident - never underestimate it!

5. Be prepared

My last tip is a general one, but it can be applied in just about any professional situation… Always be prepared!

  • If you have a job interview, research the company beforehand. You can even look up key people on professional networking sites like LinkedIn.
  • If it’s your first day of work at a new job, review the employee handbook and be ready to ask questions. If the company is on social media, have a look at their latest posts so you know what’s been going on.
  • Going to a networking event or conference? Plan ahead! See if you can find out who the other  attendees or speakers are and think about topics that might come up. Just a little bit of preparation will show that you are well-prepared and enthusiastic.

Being prepared also gives you talking points to fall back on if you run out of small talk or can’t think of something else to say in a conversation - particularly when English is your second language!

So, are you ready to make a great first impression? Using these five tips, you can walk confidently into your next job interview, your first day of work, client meetings, networking events and professional presentations - and make a GREAT first impression!

Which one are you going to try first?

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