This blog was written by Heather, our University of Notre Dame Campus Ambassador. If you attend Notre Dame and would like to blog for us, comment below.
Any first day can be really nerve-wracking, whether it’s your first day at a new job, at a new school, or just meeting new people. How do you make a good impression? How do you find that balance between humility, professionalism, and friendliness? Mostly – how do you make sure you don’t embarrass yourself on your very first day?! Sadly, my first day on the Notre Dame campus, I told my new acquaintances about how people love to do plays on my last name, Eaton. This earned me the nickname Burger. (Heather Eaton a Burger – my friends are really funny, I know).
Done out of love? Yes.
So, from me to you, here are a few tips to survive your first day anywhere – no matter what happens, and no matter what nicknames you’re given.
The most important thing is to always, always smile! Even if you are painfully shy and don’t want to do much talking, a big smile can make up for it! A smile, even without words, shows that you are engaged and interested in what the people you are meeting have to say. I know it is cliché, but the first thing people notice about is your smile. Make your first impression a good one by flashing those pearly whites!
Along those same lines, pay attention to your body language. It’s your first day, and I doubt you are feeling completely at ease. Make a conscious effort to see that your body language doesn’t convey that. Crossed arms show that you’re uncomfortable or angry. Wandering eyes or harmless yawns convey that you don’t care about the people you are with. Ladies, try not to play with your hair too much and avoid repeatedly touching your face – it’s a sign of nervousness, and it makes you seem vain. Also, manners, manners, manners! I cannot say enough about being polite!
Repeat everyone’s name back to them and try to use it at least once more in the conversation. Twice more if you’re bad with names. This will help you to remember it in the future, which makes you seem really on top of your game. Not only that, but people just subliminally love to hear their names used. So why not do it?
Find a connection. If you can, always look for something you have in common with the person you are talking to. More than anything else, this will help them remember you. Find that connection and explore it at length! Yes, that will probably be what that person tries to make small talk about every time they see you, but at least it’s better than talking about the weather.
Ask questions! Ask questions in conversation with new acquaintances, and ask questions if you are confused on where to go or what to do. I’m a big believer in being resourceful and figuring things out on your own (thus showing that you take initiative), but no one is going to be upset with you for needing help your first few days. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Less is more. You want to display that sparkling personality and show that you are easy to talk to, but if you have doubts about telling the story about “that one time you and your friends pulled the best senior prank ever,” err on the side of caution. There will be time for everyone to get to know all those details about how fun and outgoing you are. Besides, talking too much and not listening enough is a huge turn-off. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk. Some of the people you meet your first day are going to be people you rarely interact with again. That means that this encounter is how they will think of you every single time. Do you really want to be remembered as “the girl who would not stop talking about how she threw up on that boy in the second grade,” or worse, as Heather Eaton a Burger? I think not.
Now, if things don’t go as smoothly as you might wish, see that paragraph on smiling. The best thing you can do is show that you can roll with the punches. Smile, laugh at your mistakes, make a joke if you can, and continue with your business. Will you get teased about that faux pas for a long time? Maybe. But showing that you are laid-back enough to not let it bother you can sometimes do more to build your good reputation than just doing it all right in the first place! So don’t stress out. Enjoy yourself, embrace this new experience, and look forward to what the future might hold!