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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

There's never a second chance to make a first impression.

Several of you are heading off to summer jobs soon, and most of you will be doing your level best to impress those who've hired you for the summer (unlike this clueless soul--see here--who has managed to take snottiness to a new low).

Some tips to get you started:

(1)  Everyone who works where you're working is important.  Among these important people:  the administrative assistants; the Of Counsel lawyers; the paralegals; the folks in the mailroom; and your fellow clerks.  Treat any of your co-workers poorly at your peril.  You don't know who's friends with whom, and you'd be amazed at the internal connections within an organization.  There's no reason to be uncivil or disrespectful--ever--while at your summer job.

(2)  "Overdress" on the first day.  Maybe your organization is "business casual" (whatever that means).  But on your first day, when people are forming impressions about you based on all manner of things besides the quality of your work, err on the side of over-dressing, rather than going for a casual look, unless you've been given specific instructions to the contrary.  Guys:  this means ties.  Gals:  this means giving serious thought to pantyhose if you're wearing a dress (and that dress had better cover what needs covering).  We know; we know:  ties and hose are the tools of torturers.  But endure, at least briefly, until you've figured out the real dress code.

(3)  Pay attention to your organization's procedures.  You'll get training in your organization's policies and procedures.  It'll feel like drinking from a water hose:  lots of information, but no context.  Try to take notes so that you can refer to those notes when you get confused about such things as how to bill time, what format you need for memoranda, etc.  Helpful notes may include such things as (1) we bill in [quarter hours] [tenths of hours]; (2) we can find a form bank for memos at [insert part of firm's drive where the form bank is located]; and (3) a list of abbreviations for billing tasks is available at [insert where that list is located]. 

(4)  Make eye contact and give a good handshake.  Connect with your new colleagues.  Two of the best ways to connect are to look people directly in the eyes and give a strong but not bone-crushing handshake.  Please don't give one of those dead fish handshakes.  You know the type:  it feels as if you're holding the sushi form of sea urchin.  If you're shy, look people in the eyebrows instead of directly in the eyes.  That might be a little less unnerving for you, and it accomplishes the same thing.  Shy people, remember:  no one is spending nearly as much time thinking about you and how you're doing as you are, so cut yourself some slack.  We're both rather shy when we don't have established roles to play somewhere,* and we tend to cope by finding ourselves credible roles to play, such as talking to people who don't have others talking to them.

Watch this blog for more tips throughout the summer, and please ask us questions.  Oh, and that title for this post?  It comes from Nancy's dad, who has seen a number of entry-level employees blow their chances for first impressions.

*People who know Nancy well should stop laughing now.  She is somewhat shy.  She just hides it very well.

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