Why first impressions matter

The tricky thing about making a good first impression is that industries and workplaces have different cultures

Most of the time, it won't matter too much what kind of first impression you make on others. But when it's the first day of an apprenticeship or a new job, it can matter a great deal. If your workmates or boss jump to the conclusion that you're lazy, unintelligent or arrogant, it could significantly affect the way they interact with you.

Adapt appropriately to your environment

The tricky thing about making a good first impression is that industries and workplaces have different cultures. Turning up to your first day of work with green hair might be no big deal if you're manning the till at a record store, but it's not likely to go down well if you're a teller at a bank.

Being loud and extroverted is not going to be held against you in an office full of salespeople, but it might not be appreciated at the local library. Do some research, including visiting your new workplace before you start there if possible, to get a sense of what's expected when it comes to hairstyles, clothes, jewellery, personal grooming, levels of formality and acceptable behaviour.

Err on the side of caution

As a newbie, you'll be on a steep learning curve. If you're ever confused about what's appropriate – and you will be – take the safe option. If you're unsure of what to wear to a work event, opt for something more rather than less formal; if you're not sure if a risqué joke will go down well, don't tell it, and if you're not sure whether to bother double-checking something, go ahead and triple-check it. As a general rule, be polite and professional towards everyone you come in contact with.

Keep up the good work

Important as first impressions are, you'll ultimately be judged by how you perform over the long term, so don't fall into the trap of being on your best behaviour for a few weeks then thinking you can slack off. Whether it's positive or negative, the first impression you've made on colleagues and supervisors will sooner or later be replaced by a more realistic assessment.