Making that first impression

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As we begin the third quarter of 2017, DAV has hosted more than 65 traditional and five virtual career fairs.

Our career fairs are ideal places for veterans and spouses to take advantage of a unique opportunity to make that critical first impression on a potential employer. Studies show that introducing oneself to a stranger is often stressful and intimidating. I’ve spent a great deal of time observing veterans introducing themselves to employers and wanted to explore the importance and impact of an introduction.

“At job fairs you’re doing yourself a disservice if you hug the walls and have your head down into your iPhone,” says branding expert Lida Citroën, author of “Your Next Mission: A Personal Branding Guide for the Military-to-Civilian Transition.” “Project the confidence that comes with military service, and seize the initiative to put others at ease by introducing yourself.”

Citroën advises to shake hands with warmth, friendliness and confidence when meeting new people, make eye contact and be prepared to ask your own questions in addition to being asked about your background.

In his book, “How to Get Anyone to Do Anything,” Dr. David Lieberman says, “The No. 1 tactic for generating a favorable first impression is the easiest to do: Smile!”

Lieberman says smiling conveys confidence, happiness and enthusiasm, and it shows acceptance to your environment and other people. This may be counter­intuitive to the lessons of the military, where a different type of confidence and bearing are projected to convey strength. However, showing that you are affable and cooperative in a civilian environment puts a potential employer at ease right away.

“Regarding first impressions, there is something called the primacy effect—the process whereby our first impression of another person causes us to interpret his or her subsequent behavior in a manner consistent with the first impression,” Lieberman says. “In English, this means that our first impression of someone is so crucial because everything we see and hear afterward gets filtered through our initial opinion.”

Citroën says knowing how the primacy effect works can be an advantage for disabled veterans.

“People internally tend to see future images of others through their initial first impression,” she says. “So if a disabled veteran leaves a first impression coming from a position of strength, confidence and conveying a genuine smile, their chances of a potential employer remembering them at the end of the day is greatly increased.”

We have 62 traditional and five virtual career fairs left from July to the end of the year. I encourage veterans, especially disabled veterans who are unemployed or underemployed to get out there and make those strong first impressions to connect with employers seeking the unique talents offered by veterans.

The complete career fair schedule, including our virtual career fairs and other employment resources, are always available at jobs.dav.org.