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We all know the importance of a good first impression. I once read that we form and use first impressions as a way of processing and filtering information more quickly, based on our past experiences, rather than having to learn anew from every single encounter.
First impressions therefore count. And are not only important when finding a new job, but after obtaining one.
Unfortunately, sometimes things, out of our control, just go wrong. So what do you do when “life happens”, particularly when you’re new on the job, to salvage the bad first impression you’ve just made?
Let me give you two examples.
Late to Work on My First Day on the Job
Years ago, on my way to my very first day at a new job, my car battery died at a red light, leaving me stranded on the road. Now this story pre-dates cell phones, so there was no way to quickly contact my new employer to let them know what was up.
I remember slogging through several inches of new-falling snow to reach a business down the street, and asking their assistance in letting me call a gas station for a jump start.
Having already imposed on them once, I also called my employer, but with the switchboard not yet open, I could only leave a message in the company’s general mail system, and wasn’t quite sure whether or not my boss would get the message before I could make it in to work.
I therefore did the only thing I could do… I left the message, hoped it would be delivered before I arrived, and got myself to my new place of employment as quickly as possible. I eventually did make it, about an hour late, covered in dripping wet snow.
I apologized profusely, explained what had happened, and assured my boss it wouldn’t happen again… except could I please take an extended lunch to replace my battery, while I was at it… so as not to get stuck on the road, in the dark, on my way home?
Of course, at that time, my employer had no idea of my real personality or work ethic, and no doubt wondered if they hadn’t made a huge mistake in hiring me. The good news is that I did keep my job, for over 20 years in fact, and went on to become a valued and trusted employee, who not only regularly showed up early, but stayed late… often to the tune of 12 hours a day.
Recently, I heard a related story… this from a new acquaintance that I’d met at one of the many networking events and classes I’ve been participating in. His story goes like this…
Got Sick…Now What?
Ten months after being laid off, my friend finally found a new job.
His job search had not been easy and had taken its toll on his health. He had interviewed for positions far and wide — some requiring a daily commute of over an hour, each way. He’d encountered recruiters promising one wage, only to find that when the offer came through, the salary was much lower than originally stated.
One company — with whom he had a scheduled appointment — actually had him, inexplicably, wait outdoors in their parking lot for over half an hour in the extreme summer heat, before allowing him to enter the building. Then, they took one look at him, all wilted and soggy, and told him they actually had no open positions. He nearly sweat to death that day and, after that episode, became despondent at his job prospects.
Suffice it to say that he was overjoyed when he recently was hired by a great company for a position that was a good fit for his skills, and was offered a challenging career, nice people to work with, and excellent benefits and salary package.
Then, Two Weeks Into the Job…
Then… the unexpected happened. Soon after joining the company, my friend developed some serious health issues, most likely from all the stress of worrying about paying bills and chances of re-employment. The end result? Several weeks of doctor-ordered bed rest.
Although his company pays short and long-term disability as well as medical coverage from day one, he was concerned that his newfound position might be in jeopardy. While there are laws that make it doubtful that his employer could have let him go for health reasons, still, many companies hire on a trial basis, or have “at will” policies enabling them to let an employee go without having to validate the reason why.
“I’m afraid my new employer will be looking for a way to terminate me at the first opportunity”, he lamented. “What should I do?”
Here’s what I suggested:
“Worth a try”, he said. “A lot of our company’s documentation is web-based, anyway, so that may just work out!”
Today, I heard back from my friend. He says, “You were right. I asked my boss if I can study from home while sick and he kind of melted. He now knows I’m serious about being a model employee, and I hope to start things over on good footing when I return to work…”
Of course, at this juncture, I’m not certain how things will go, but I have every confidence that he will soon return to full health, and that he has done what he can to pave the way to earning his new boss’ respect and trust.
So, Bottom Line
Hopefully, you’ll never be in such a situation. But if you find yourself in a similar position, be honest and upfront with your employer. Let them know that you’re appreciative of the opportunity they provided when they hired you, and that you want to do everything you can to be successful on the job.
Then prove it, by going the extra mile… whether it’s putting in longer hours when you do return to work, or inquiring what opportunities may exist to allow you to continue to be productive during the temporary period that you’ll be out.
Bottom line, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Particularly in this all-digital world that we now live in, it’s easier than ever to stay in contact, make calls from the road, and/or do research, training, work, whatever, online. First impressions may count, but there’s usually a way to make second impressions count, too.
Have you had a similar new job experience? How did you handle it, and how’d it work out for you?