It’s a tired trope in the professional services world—first impressions really matter.

To be honest, I never really thought about it—the way that I was perceived at work.

Sure, I stuck to those lessons I learned growing up—dress appropriately, be polite—but mostly my instinct is to do good work and let that work speak for me.  I learned that as a political staffer — where the culture rewards people who deliberately fly under the radar, and doesn’t usually reward people who showboat.

But the truth is that’s not always going to work. Particularly not in business.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

Most of the work I’ve done has come through my professional network—the awesome people I’ve worked with in the past who think highly of me and my work.

That reputation I’ve unconsciously built is out there, working on my behalf. That’s true for most people in business.

But when you get referrals, most of these folks don’t know anything about you, other than that someone you both know seems to think you can provide services they need.

This isn’t a unique conundrum—we make first impressions with strangers every day. They could be people we want to work with, stakeholders, people we want to persuade, critics, or supporters who’ve never met us, and we need to impress them right away.

So how do you show a stranger that you’re the real deal?

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up:

  • Suit up – Even though many of us spend our days in t-shirts and sweatpants these days, dust off that blazer and a nice shirt for your first professional meeting with someone, even if it’s over Zoom. I find it doesn’t just change how people perceive me, but how I perceive myself. #LookGoodFeelGood

(P.S. LRC offers best practice training for great Zoom meetings and presentations – check it out here)

  • Make it pretty – Anyone who’s worked with me knows I like making things pretty. Take some time playing with fonts, spacing, colours and adding photos to make your work easier to digest. Or better yet, hire professionals like us to spruce it up! #ShamlessPlug
  • Show me, don’t tell me – Even if you’re really great at something, nothing gives someone confidence that you can get the job done like showing them you’ve done it before. This is part of the work I’m doing right now — showcasing our ability to create social media, graphic design, and simple video content by putting it on Twitter and Instagram for everyone to see.