My husband and I are addicted to this new, smart TV show on USA – Suits. It’s about two lawyers – Harvey, a hot-shot, young Senior Partner, at a prestigious law firm; and Michael, a “good will hunting” type, smart-mouthed Associate that Harvey just hired. Michael has a photographic memory, but no official law degree or experience. Harvey is tough on Michael, but is also grooming him for the fast track in the Law firm.
In a recent episode, Harvey makes this amazing speech to Michael about what it takes to be successful. I think it’s important for anyone who wants to fast track in their career to watch this clip. It focuses on why and how making a good first impression is critical to success.
- A mentor is key to career success - Harvey is that mentor to Michael. Harvey knows the inside workings of that firm — who makes it, who doesn’t, and why. Harvey is passing on this information to Michael, because if Michael succeeds, it also looks good for Harvey. We all need a career mentor like that in the company we work for — someone more senior, politically savvy, and interested in our success. If you don’t have one already, find someone you respect and ask him/her to be your mentor. That mentor will hold the key to what it takes to making a good first impression and be successful in that company. They can also pave the way for you to get there.
- “Getting it” means more than doing good work – Just like Harvey says in the clip – “Doing good work isn’t the whole job” – doing good work alone will not be enough to make a good first impression. “Getting it” means also means understanding the office politics and cultural dynamics of a company, and what attributes outside of hard skills are critical to success. Every company has office politics and a defined culture. It’s important for all of us to understand it to navigate the career ladder there. Our mentor will build our understanding if we can form the right relationship with them.
- Self promotion is more important than just hard work - It’s interesting — Harvey said “When I got here, I dominated. They thought I worked 100 hours a day.” Obviously, he didn’t actually work 100 hours a day, but he probably made every effort to broadcast his hard work and ability to deliver the impossible. When you effectively self promote your abilities when you first join a company, you can make a good first impression and gain a great reputation that lasts.
- A good social reputation goes a long way - Part of “getting it” is understanding that your social standing at a company makes a big difference. In the case of Michael, hosting a cool “Rookie Dinner” will be key to his success. He didn’t get it, but Harvey did. Later on in the episode, Michael got some help and was able to host a really swanky Rookie Dinner. All the other Associates and the Partners were impressed. Who would have known that would be so important?
Every company is different when it comes to which factors contribute to making a good first impression, but one thing is for sure: people like to promote people who are like them. It’s important for you to figure out the social dynamics of senior leadership, and figure out how to represent yourself socially if you want to move up in that company.
- We have one chance to make a good first impression - Just like Harvey said, “If you start behind the 8 ball, you’ll never get in front.” The first 90 days on the job are critical to making that good first impression, so work hard and smart in the beginning. Even if you need to put in extra hours in the beginning to work, socialize, and build key relationships, it will be worth it. Once your reputation is established the way you want it, you are set on the path to success.
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