Gaining Respect As A Workplace Rookie
Work + Life Balance

Gaining Respect As A Workplace Rookie

by Lulu Xiao
Photos Joe Kathrina | November 17, 2014

IT PAYS TO BE PURPOSEFUL ABOUT BUILDING A SOLID REPUTATION AND EARNING OTHERS' TRUST IN THE WORKPLACE.

On the first day of my “real-person job”, I arrived on the client site, eager and ready to make a positive impression. I had only been chatting with members of the client team for a few minutes before the dreaded question came up.

“So,” someone asked, “How long have you been with your company?”

I flushed and squeaked out, “Um, it’s actually my first day.”

Immediately after admitting my newbie status, I felt discredited. I had suddenly lost the client team’s respect. My company was hired to lead the implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and we had been chosen specifically because we were seasoned experts in the field. “We”, as the client team now knew, however, not including yours truly.

As a new hire, I didn’t actually have experience implementing ERP systems and the client team—the team that was expecting me to be capable and experienced—was now fully aware that I was a rookie. I had hoped to learn quickly and feign confidence in the client team’s presence, but that strategy was clearly no longer an option.

There are a lot of things you can do to make tackling a new job easier and you can read great advice on what to expect when you start your first job, but—unavoidably—the respect that you earn from your colleagues is often based on your successful track record. So, what do you do when you don’t even have a track record to show yet?

Don’t worry, all is not lost! Even if you don’t have years of experience behind you or haven’t built up a positive reputation yet, there are still things you can do to garner respect from your co-workers.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY

This is an easy thing to do, but makes all the difference. I’m 5’1” on a good day and don’t exactly command a physical presence to begin with. It’s incredibly easy for me to look like I’m 12. Which doesn’t help my case when I am trying to gain respect. In the right clothes, however, I can look older (and wiser). A simple fitted blazer does wonders.

But, regardless of your height, the way that you dress can signal a certain maturity level. If you come to work in ripped jeans and crop tops, you will likely fight an uphill battle to gain respect. However, if you dress neatly, you can immediately exude an air of sophistication. This doesn’t mean that you need to completely give up your sense of style. There’s no need to come in a pantsuit every day, for example, but you can find clever ways to reflect your personality and still look put together.

Sure, we aren’t supposed to judge a person by first impressions, but we inevitably do. And yes, some people pull off jeans and sweatshirts, but it’s safer to err on the side of professionalism. Especially as a newbie.

ACT PROFESSIONALLY

Though this is a broad statement, there are some basic things you should (or shouldn’t) do. For example, be on time for meetings. Prepare for presentations in advance. Be a good listener. Maintain a good attitude even when things get frustrating.

Don’t give people a single reason to doubt your competency or question your qualifications for the job.

Since you’re on the way to building your reputation, the way that you carry yourself is incredibly important. Don’t give people a single reason to doubt your competency or question your qualifications for the job. If you aren’t sure if you are acting professionally or in a way that’s aligned with the office culture, ask your boss and colleagues for feedback.

BE AWARE OF YOUR BODY LANGUAGE

You might have heard that your body language affects how people perceive you in the workplace. It’s true. Assuming a power stance makes you seem more assertive. Slumping signals disengagement. Strong eye contact demonstrates attentiveness. The list goes on. There are numerous articles on body language tips that will help you succeed in the workplace. The way you physically hold yourself influences how people regard you and embracing the appropriate body language can work in your favor.

Plus, there’s a bonus! Power posing can positively affect how you think and feel about yourself. It can boost your own confidence (something that is helpful as a newbie).

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For better or for worse, it takes time for people to trust and respect you. It takes time to build a positive reputation and gain experience. However, if you go about it skillfully and purposefully, you’ll soon be on the fast track to gaining respect in the workplace.