You Got the Position: Now What? Nailing that First Impression

This blog is the first of a two-part series called, “You Got the Position: Now What?” We’ll focus on what you as a millennial should do to maximize your position once you attain that awesome job or internship.

first-5-icon-07By now you hopefully have some interviews lined up or have even landed a job or internship for the fall! Hooray and congrats! If not, you should panic slightly, and then read this recent post about landing the last minute position.

So what happens when you finally land that job or internship? In this first blog, I discuss what to do starting from day one. Remember, this position could be the very launching pad you need for your overall career in government, so no matter how small (or unpaid) the position, make your first impression count with these tips.

Within the First Week
These seven days are pivotal to setting a strong tone for your job or internship. This is the time when you want to make the best impression and show you’re more than just your resume. They say the first 30 seconds of a job interview is the make or break moment. Consider your first week on the job in a likewise manner:

  • What not to wear: Some articles say that Boomers and Gen Xers have to dress down to keep up with millennials in the workplace, but this is not necessarily the case in government. If you want to be taken seriously, it really is better to overdress than underdress the first week, until you gain a sense of the culture at your new workplace. If you notice your supervisors come in Fridays in jeans and a T-shirt, feel free to join in on the casual Fridays. Just don’t be the most I always like to keep it a step up in professional dress (i.e. heels, nice pants and blouse, dresses, skirts) even though my workplace does not require this. I like to show I care about how I look and the impression I give for the organization. I’m not saying you need to wear a suit and tie or heels everyday if your office is business casual, but don’t be the intern everyone talks about with the shortest skirt, or the ridiculous shorts and tennies.
  • Learn names: One of the most important tasks during the first week is to learn the names of everyone in your department and outside your departments with whom you’ll have frequent contact with. This demonstrates that you’re a team player and care about getting to know your coworkers. For people outside the department, it’s important to know who’s well known and interacts frequently with your organization. It helps with answering phones and emails as well as networking at events. One place I worked at had certain “regulars” who called frequently that we needed to be able to identify right away, as they did not like being asked, “May I ask what the call is regarding?” Try and memorize the “VIP” list for your organization.
  • Create an IDP plan: The Office of Personnel Management defines an Individual Development Plan (IDP) as a tool to assist employees in career and personal development. Sit down with your supervisor in the first week or two and hash one out. As a millennial, it is especially important since we’re just starting out in our careers and IDPs focus on short and long-term career goals as well as means to improve job performance. Keep checking in with your supervisor after you sit down with her to see if you’re on track or if anything has changed. This also demonstrates that you want to grow and that you mean serious business.

Advice from Gen X to Gen Y
Recently, one of my colleagues at GovLoop, Doug Mashkuri, shared some extremely helpful insights from his professional experience about things he wished he knew when he had started his career. Here are some of his tips for millennials, like us, starting our careers:

  • Be early, stay late: Being early and on time should definitely be a priority during the first week and from there on out. That’s a given. Nothing turns off an employer like a person consistently showing up late. If in the off chance you are running late, always be sure to let your supervisor know. Sometime with commutes, being on time means having to leave extra early and getting to work early. While you don’t need to show up before the building’s open, aim to be at work at least 15 minutes early. It shows you’re dedicated and also shows respect. As for staying late, most government internships require you to leave at the exact close time, for legal reasons. In other cases you don’t need to be the last to leave the office. Just don’t be the very first person to jet out at 4:55. People remember that. Ask your supervisor if you should wait for them to leave or try and time it with others in the office. If everyone is out by 5:00, then feel free to leave by then. But sometimes it may come down to helping someone out at a late event, or helping your supervisor with last minute projects. Be willing to stay a little late to help.
  • Find a mentor, be a mentor: Seek out mentors in your department and mentors from other agencies where you might like to end up. GovLoop offers a mentors program that connects you with a public official and allows you to keep track of your career goals together. You may already have a job or internship at your dream government agency, but mentors are the ones who get you connections inside and outside your organization, and report favorably when it comes time for a promotion. They are also there for essential career advice. Ask other older coworkers to coffee for a one-on-one. They really appreciate being asked for their advice and insights. Stay in touch with each mentor. One great goal to aim for is to have one-on-ones like this at least twice a month. You’ll continue to grow as you seek expert advice from people who’ve been there. At the same time, you can help others by being a mentor as well. There may be some newbies who need help learning the ropes at your internship. Don’t be afraid to go out of your way and help them. Mentorship is all about give and take and it is definitely a two way street.
  • Contribute, but know when to listen: Doug described this as one of his “Meeting 101” points. It’s important to come prepared and on time to meetings, whether they’re team meetings, formal or informal, show you care about what’s going on at your agency and your readiness to contribute. Don’t multi-task, eat or drink (unless it’s a lunch meeting) or check phones and emails. Give the meeting your full attention and listen. It definitely helps to take notes to show you’re engaged. Contribute to the meeting by asking thoughtful questions. Speaking up should not be confused with being the kid in the classroom who always raises his hand. Be thoughtful about your contributions. Share and also be sure to listen and give others a chance to talk. Make sure it’s a balance.

A first impression is never fleeting. Make sure your first impression in the first week and month of your position is lasting. Keep these tips in mind as you become a veteran in your organization so your employers are just as impressed with the person you were going in as you are going out. Stay tuned for next week as we continue the series and talk about how to make the most out of your job/internship.


For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial


Photo Credit: Flickr/Alex France

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Brenda Dennis

Great tip about getting started on the IDP early! There was a great GovLoop virtual training a while back about making the most of your IDP and how to leverage it to get training and assignments you want.


Good advice. However what if the executive keeps coming late and leaving early and not dressing up but dressing down like a delivery driver.

Francesca El-Attrash

Thanks Brenda! Good point about the virtual training. Marcus, great question! I would tackle it like this: Usually executives have meetings with clients or organization partners and other priorities to tackle, so it’s pretty normal for them to come in at different times. As for dress, unless your executive specifically wants to set a casual image for your organization and asks employees to dress very casual, I would aim for business casual, at the very least, to be on the safe side. It’s always okay to ask if you aren’t sure. Hope this helps?