Are you a newbie wondering how to get a competitive edge at work? If so, consider two words: first impressions. First impressions are critical to how you are perceived and can play a significant part in you being seen as a leader and reaching the next level in your career. According to body language experts, not only are first impressions created in the blink of an eye, they are lasting. Studies show that once formed, a good (or bad!) impression can last for months.

Here are five simple tips to help you make a good first impression. As you read through the list, think about an admired leader in your workplace. Chances are good that she/he uses many (if not all) of these tips!

1. Make Eye Contact.

Show confidence and make a connection by making eye contact. Give others your complete attention and resist the urge to glance at your mobile during face-to-face conversations.

2. Don’t Skip the Handshake.

How you shake hands can signal that you are trustworthy and even that you are competent, so don’t skip this step. A good handshake is firm – not too tight, not too soft. Your goal is to create a confident, yet inviting, handshake.

3. Repeat Names.

Show that you are listening by repeating names during introductions. For example, you can say: “It’s nice to meet you, (insert name).” If the other person is senior to you, it’s a good practice to address her using the honorific “Ms.” and her last name until she invites you to call her by her first name. Of course, if the senior person is a man, you will use the honorific “Mr.” with his last name.

4. Dress for Success.

You’ve heard this tip a thousand times, but it bears repeating: Dressing like you are a member of the team will help your boss and colleagues to think of you as credible and competent. Whether you work in technology, finance, legal, etc.—be sure to dress for your particular industry. (For more tips on cracking the business casual code, see chapter 2 of my book Modern Business Etiquette for Young & Fabulous Professionals.)

5. Ask Engaging Questions.

Try to establish a personal connection before diving into business by asking engaging, but appropriate questions during small talk. In the American business culture, appropriate conversation topics include hobbies, travel, and positive current events. It’s counterintuitive, but showing genuine interest in others creates a good impression of you!

At Spencer Crane Etiquette, our mission is to help you achieve career success on your terms. We think you are pretty great just as you are, but we know that mastering business etiquette skills can give you confidence and an edge over the competition. Your success is our passion!

Stayce Wagner is the author of Modern Business Etiquette for Young & Fabulous Professionals, available at, the iTunes Store, and other major outlets. Stayce is the founder of Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC, where business etiquette and authenticity are partners, not rivals. Our many services are designed to help you to achieve success on your terms. We invite you to contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your business etiquette needs.