First impressions are really important. When I started my first job, I was nervous because I felt that the first impression people would have of me may turn into long-term perceptions and opinions. I wanted them to have the ‘right’ impression.
My first task was to help in recruiting participants for a social research project. I learned how to organize my time in a fast and efficient way, so I could talk to as many people as possible within a short period of time. The experience made me more familiar and confident with learning new skills, being punctual and dressing appropriately according to the dress code. These early and basic skills have stuck with me into other jobs.
Another valuable aspect of a job is the people you communicate with, such as colleagues, superiors, or even the cleaning staff. Despite my best efforts, I caught myself judging others in one way or another. It might be over small things, for example, a co-worker who took too long of a lunch break. Or it might be over bigger issues, such as a colleague who behaves selfishly, or is rude and hurts the feelings of others at work. I once had to interview a corporate attorney who showed up wearing jeans and sneakers. He said he wears the same outfit at work, but that this did not reflect or affect the quality of his job. It made me realize how often I judge people, based purely on their appearance - their clothes, their looks and the way they carry themselves. In time, I learned to interview people out of the work environment, for example over dinner. I discovered more about people in a relaxed setting.
In order to know how to deal with judgment, I wanted to learn more about why we judge people. In his book Confidence, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explains that the main goal of every person is to understand what motivates others. Motivation determines where we direct our behavior. As a result, behavior or reactions always have to do with our own self-judgments and feelings of inadequacy or strength, not so much with the other person. I knew that from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, people are instinctively hard-wired for survival. This could explain why, when I once saw a colleague being angry or frustrated, I felt threatened. In such a situation, I usually go into a fight or flight mode, which in turn makes me unable to see the possible reasons for another’s behavior. I get tight and defensive; nevertheless, the key, as I grasped much later, is to pause before I act out of this mode.
Although judgment is a natural instinct for people, I tried to rephrase the critical internal thought into a positive, or at least a neutral, one. I was trying my best to understand one’s motivation to act in a certain way, which was important for conflict resolutions and a positive work environment. Another way of dealing with judgment was to depersonalize my reactions. For example, when someone disagreed with me, I kept reminding myself that it is typically not so much about me, but more about their pain or struggle, as we are often struggling in one way or another, but some people are better at hiding it than others. A good approach I found of coping with this issue was to reframe my own view. For instance, when a colleague of mine did something I did not like, I thought of it as they are simply solving a problem in a different way than I would. Or maybe they had a different timetable than I did. This helped me to be more open-minded and to accept their behavior. And finally, I came to the realization that judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who I am. Sometimes, I was judging someone for something that I did not like, but I did myself or had done in the past. Being self-aware of my own actions proved to be valuable not only in my interpersonal relationships but in the work environment, too.
All in all, being the newest member of the organization was both challenging and exciting. I was faced with a myriad of difficulties and opportunities. My final goal was to make the most of all situations. I learned that I should not worry if I do not make a perfect first impression in those early days on the job—few of us ever do. The most important thing I did was to relax, keep my mind open, get to know my team members, and do my work. These things helped me to go far in making a positive and lasting impression at my first job. Nesrin Nazlieva