Lots of people tell you to try to make a great first impression on others. I don’t disagree with the standard advice of good eye contact and a firm handshake. What I’ve discovered over the years, though, is to distrust the first impression. The creepiest people often make great first impressions. Con men and swindlers learn to make that great first impression, relying on the fact that once you assume they are good folks, you’ll stop paying attention to what they actually do.
The first favor impression matters much more to me than the first impression. As a young engineer and project manager, I remember working for High Construction, part of a group of companies. A guy from High Steel or High Concrete would call and ask a simple favor. Perhaps they needed a beam sized or a quick budget for a project they were considering. These tasks weren’t in my job description, but I knew they mattered. These guys didn’t know me well and this was the first time they had asked for a favor.
I tried to make these first favor requests among my highest priorities. I knew that I’d develop the reputation of being competent and reliable if I quickly helped them with their problems. Other opportunities came to me, people recommended me for projects and jobs, because I’d established myself as a can-do guy. You must manage your reputation if you want to advance in this business.
Recently a young man offered to help me on a simple home project, but then never followed up. I remembered my concept of the importance of the first favor impression. This fellow now belongs, in my mind, to that large group of people that talk but don’t effectively act. Which group do you want to be part of?