Alex: How to have them at ‘hello’

Successful stylist, brilliant blogger and empowering educator, USQ alumnus Alex Paterson has built a social media following she never could have imagined. As the stylish face behind What the Teacher Wears, Alex shares her fashion-forward 9-5 style with women across the world.

There are some things in life that you can redo. Unfortunately, a first impression is not one of them. As a student, there will be times when you have to go out into the field you are studying (whether that be business, education, nursing, law etc.) and put yourself forward as a professional in training. While your prac placements are a learning opportunity, trust me when I say that the people you’ll meet will be expecting you to act and look the part.

According to the Business Insider, you only have seven seconds to make your first impression. Just seven little seconds to try and communicate who you are as a person and what you have to offer. As a newcomer to the industry, you’ll want to make those seconds count! While we all know that it is what’s on the inside that really matters, the person you are meeting is not basing their first impression of you off that. They are taking note of your outfit, posture and tone because so far, that’s all they have to go off.

Ideally, they’ll then give you the opportunity to demonstrate your awesome attitude, professionalism and skills, but for those first seven seconds it is how you present yourself that determines what will happen next. You need to make the most of your opportunity to make a great first impression.  Here are some practical tips to help you get off on the right foot and make a positive, lasting impression.

  1. Choose an appropriate outfit – You don’t have to be wearing this season’s newest styles, but your outfit does need to be professional and appropriate to the environment you’re going into. Check out these tips for stylish and suitable work attire.

  2. Be sure your look is well polished – I’m talking outfit clean and ironed, hair brushed, shoes clean and even popping a mint or two before you get out of the car. Think your appearance through from head to toe and make the most of every opportunity to polish your look.

  3. Present yourself with great posture – stand tall and with open arms. Approach the person you’re meeting with a genuine smile and make eye contact straight away. Try to avoid any nervous fidgeting or playing with your outfit.

  4. Show enthusiasm for the opportunity - sound excited to be where you are and ask as many questions as you can. Showing a genuine interest in the other person, their role and the organisation in general shows that you appreciate the opportunity to meet them and aren’t just there to find out what’s in it for you. 

What the Teacher Wears

Whatever your style, take the time to polish your final look. Images courtesy of @whattheteacherwears

These are the things you want to avoid in those first seven seconds.

  1.  Tardiness - don’t be late to your first meeting. If you have arranged to meet at a certain time you must be there exactly at that time or even before. You don’t want to spend your first seven seconds apologising for your lateness!
  2. Over excitement - don’t talk over the person you are meeting. This often happens out of excitement or nerves, but can come across as rude. Take some deep breaths and focus on what the other person is saying.
  3. Poor presentation - despite the tips I provided earlier, throughout my career I’ve seen many people arrive looking like they just woke up. Set aside enough time for you to get ready without being rushed.

Meeting new people can be a daunting experience at times, especially when you are nervous about what’s ahead. I remember meeting my first ever mentor teacher, I was so nervous and excited that I doused myself in half a litre of perfume. My mentor teacher asked me what scent I had on, so I told her what it was thinking that she loved it, but she said it was making her feel ill and to tone it down for class.

Ok… so we can add that one to the ‘things to avoid’ pile as well.

Remember, first impressions only happen once, so make sure yours is memorable… for the right reasons. Putting your best foot forward in those first seven seconds will get your prac placement, or any professional opportunity, off to a great start!

Once you’ve nailed the first impression, use these free resources to develop your own fashion-forward and professional style for every day in the workplace.



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