Starting a new job: Why first impressions count

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Joining a new firm has always been a nerve-shredding experience, but accountants now have more than ever to worry about on their first day.

Your first day in a new job can be bad enough without the added stress of wondering whether your new employer will like you or worse still, whether you will make a fool of yourself.

New research from 4imprint has found that 43% of those working within accountancy and finance roles have experienced a terrible first day in a new job.

The 3,000 accountants and finance professionals surveyed offered examples of first-day embarrassments such as forgetting their new colleagues’ names and not having a desk or computer to work at. One rather excruciating incident that appeared in the top 30 list involved a new starter accidentally sending a sensitive email as a 'staff all'.

Other examples that feature on the list are somewhat common for a new starter, such as forgetting the passcode to the office – embarrassing, but expected in a new job – but one awkward incident that didn’t crack the top 10 list involved a deflated finance professional being told they weren’t the ‘first-choice candidate’ for their new role.

If you peruse the top 20 first day nightmares list at the bottom of this article you will see a similar trend: many respondents spoke of the stress of dressing appropriately. This confusion may come from the vague and indefinable ‘smart casual’ dress code or simply traversing the ‘tie or no tie’/ 'heels or no heels' thin line that any office environment or function presents.

The tie and heels debate erupts routinely on Any Answers. Last year, for example, AccountingWEB reader Scribes799 batted the question from a staff member whether ties are a necessary part of the work uniform. “Part of me wants to agree that they are probably a bit formal in today’s world – but isn’t that what is expected of ‘professional,’” concluded the member.

On this point some AccountingWEB members fell into the ties are for “weddings and funerals only” camp, while others like Marks opts for branded polo shirts. AccountingWEB member Dib put forward a tip they learned while working in a Top 10 office: “dress to or to the level above the client”.

Whether the dress code uncertainty theme was by design (since the survey was conducted by a corporate workwear retailer), the responses demonstrate the importance of preparation and the role your wardrobe can play on your first day – all which are components of making a good first impression.  

That’s why 58% of the survey respondents recommended arriving early as a way to suppress any first impression fears.

Client impressions

But first impressions are not just important on the first day of a job, it can also be pivotal when trying to win over a new client. It’s true, according to a 4imprint spokesperson, as “a decision can be made about a person within 26 seconds of meeting them”.

The embarrassment caused by first impressions gone awry was driven home by an Any Answers thread from the always irreverent AccountingWEB member Mr Hanky. In a lively discussion titled ‘a client insulted my car!’, Hanky reported how his old but perfectly functional 2002 car was on the receiving end of a barbed client insult: “Oh, you’re not driving round in that clapped out old thing, are you?”

Of course, the image you project is important. DJKL’s father, for example, would run a modest car for fee-sensitive clients and a better car for high roller clients.

The key lesson here is realising that first-day nightmares will happen – there is often no way to escape the fact that you will forget a colleague’s name or may inadvertently damage office property – but as with other examples that pose potential pitfalls, you have to be prepared.

And whether knowing if you should wear or tie or not really matters in the grand scheme of things, at least it’s a start to get over those first impression nerves.  

Here is the top 20 nightmares list

  1. Learned someone's name then immediately forgotten it
  2. Got someone's name wrong
  3. Was just too nervous
  4. Finding I had no computer / desk to work at
  5. Said something stupid due to nerves
  6. Arrived at the wrong work address
  7. Turned up completely overdressed compared to everyone else
  8. Worn shoes that ended up being agonisingly painful by the end of the day
  9. Had to have something simple explained numerous times
  10. Got there late due to traffic
  11. Being told I wasn't the 'first choice candidate'
  12. Forgotten the code to get in or out of the office
  13. Got there late due to public transport problems
  14. Put your foot in your mouth during a conversation with someone
  15. Turned up completely underdressed compared to everyone else
  16. Been over friendly
  17. Accidentally sent a sensitive email as a 'staff all'
  18. Made someone's tea wrong
  19. Said something inappropriate to a new colleague
  20. Got there late due to other reasons

Have you ever had an embarrassing first day? Perhaps you spilt tea over yourself or mistakenly took an extra-long lunch? You’re amongst friends here, so it’s time to release that long-suppressed first-day shame. 

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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By chatman
18th May 2018 10:08

Why does a polo shirt have to be branded?

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18th May 2018 10:32

* - other mint flavoured sweets are available....

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