In today’s fast-paced world of instant communication and fear of saying something that is politically incorrect, are school leavers ready for the daunting task of making the right first impression before they launch themselves into the big wide world of work or University?
The ability to communicate effectively and build rapport has never been more important, but also it is has never been so challenging as there are so many different forms of communication and different cultures with different communication styles.
In addition young people have grown up with a variety of communication technologies, communicating with their friends via Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, So how can they leave school and be ready to deal with the expectations of a world that is a mixture of analogue and digital? After all in the workplace and in University – despite all of the technologies – we still have to deal with people a lot on a face-to-face level.
But it’s not only the youngsters who might feel overwhelmed., we all live in this challenging and changing world and will find ourselves in new situations where we have to make the right first impression, so here are a few golden rules to help all of us.
- Smile – when dealing with people on the phone or face-to-face, remember to smile! This is easy if the person you deal with is friendly and communicative, but if they are not, just keep the positive vibes flowing and do not show annoyance or anger. Positivity really pays off!
- Eye contact and body language – school leavers often find this tricky as we all spend years at school trying NOT to attract the attention of the teacher! It is important to look at the person you are dealing with – once again this is different from culture to culture – in the UK it is regarded polite to give eye but try not to stare as this may be seen as intimidating. Regarding body language, sit or stand up straight and be as open and natural as possible.
- Confidence – the question here is preparation and knowing your stuff. Make sure you know what you are supposed to be doing and ask questions to understand as much about a new scenario or experience before you get there. Think of some respectful replies in advance to the usual questions you will get asked in a social or professional situation. It’s difficult leaving school and being thrown in at the deep end but sounding and looking confident is worth its weight in gold.
- Be a good listener – This is crucial in the world of communication – whether it be in interpersonal settings, cross-cultural scenarios or meetings. Use verbal markers such as “I see”, ” Exactly”, “Really” and “Okay” as well as non-verbal cues with facial gestures, it sounds simple, but it is so important. Also follow these up with probing questions based on what the talker just said, such as “Really? How did that make you feel?” Don’t forget, everybody loves talking about themselves, so by just listening and being interested you gain respect and trust. These are two important parts of building relationships.
- Be Interested. When you are meeting people for the first time approach them with a genuine interest in who they are. If you make a conscious decision to do this you will have better conversations and will lead to stronger connections because people tend to become interested in you, when you are interested in them.
Leaving school for the world of work or university is rather daunting and communication is so difficult at first – we have to strike a balance between using clear formal language and every day street talk, listening and emphasising with our contact partner. In the UK school system there is a big emphasis on writing, a valuable skill in many ways but at work and at university interacting with people is suddenly more important, we have to learn these skills as fast as we can.
So remember, be friendly and smile, look people in the eye, act confidently, listen and be interested, this will get better every day, and your self-confidence will grow too.
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