The Haught guide to first impressions

Overdressed

First impressions. In a perfect world there’d be no such thing and we could all be judged on a well-considered, thoroughly-in-context third or fourth impression. But as anyone who’s ever crossed the road to avoid a menacing 18th century pirate only to realise it’s a perfectly genial hipster with nautical tattoos, a voluminous beard, a cutlass, a tricorne hat with a massive feather and a king parrot on her shoulder knows: the world isn’t perfect.

I started a new job a few years back and was unclear about what the expected office dress standard was. First impression anxiety kicked in and I ended up erring on the side of caution. I turned up on my first day in a tuxedo and tap shoes.

I panicked just before disembarking from the lift and removed my cummerbund, which I thought might be considered showy.

It ended up being a jeans-and-T-shirt deal but I don’t regret my choice; my miscalculation became a brilliant first-day ice-breaker (mainly because everyone under 35 had never seen brown velour before and wanted to to touch it).

The moral of the story is avoid hedging your bets.

If you’re not sure about what to wear, either dress for the ballroom or nude up.

If you’re vacillating on how to make your entrance, either sneak in through a back entrance or hire a four-piece band and come in singing Mariah Carey’s ‘When a hero comes along’.

If you’re not sure whether to shake hands with those you’re introduced to on Morning One, either reject their hand or go the full Mark Latham.

If you can’t for the life of you remember your boss’s name, either take wild stabs like “Storm” and “Quincy” or don’t say a word until week eight.

When it comes to first impressions, don’t mess with Mr In-Between. Unless he’s wearing brown velour.

 

An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

You can read the column – Benign to Five – in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the BusinessDay section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)

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