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How to make a good impression on a new boss

Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder

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Eager to start things off on the right foot with a new boss? Leave your nerves behind and focus on these simple yet effective strategies for making a good impression:

Master basic professionalism

It may sound obvious, but supervisors prefer workers who practice office etiquette. Show up on time, dress appropriately for your workplace and keep your work space clean.

"And unless you need it for your job, please put your cellphone away or turn it off," says Carolyn Yencharis Corcoran, assistant director of the Insalaco Center for Career Development at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. "Your boss or co-workers will probably see texting or checking calls as offensive and distracting."

Project confidence

Let's face it: From the college graduate dealing with her first "real" boss to the workplace veteran reassigned to report to someone he's never met, virtually everybody gets a bit nervous in a new situation. But shaking those jitters can set the tone for a good working relationship.

"Bosses still like people who look them in the eye when they say hello or shake hands," says Alan Vengel, a consultant on workplace issues and author of "Twenty Minutes to a Top Performer" and "The Influence Edge." "This translates into 'I have confidence in myself.'"

Listen more than you talk

Another casualty of nerves can be talking too much. Whether rattling on about every detail or trying to prove competency by showing what they know, many employees would be better served by listening and processing rather than vocalizing.

"It sounds simple, but it is challenging to listen more than talk when you want to impress people," Vengel says. "But displaying good listening skills is the best way to demonstrate respect." This does not mean that you shouldn't talk at all. Rather, Vengel says that summarizing your boss's instructions can help clarify information and demonstrate that you really do understand.

Ask questions and be eager to learn

Sometimes workers avoid asking questions for fear of looking bad, yet most supervisors would rather an employee ask than do something wrong. Likewise, posing intelligent questions about the company or field shows that you have an interest in your job beyond your paycheck.

"Display an eagerness to learn. Be constantly curious about the industry in which you are now working and ask questions," Corcoran says. "If your job happens to have a little lag time, instead of just sitting at your desk, think of ways you can productively fill it in. Ask if you can help a fellow co-worker with a project, or even ask if you can interview some other employees in the company to get a more rounded picture of your organization and what it does."

Adds Vengel: "Prepare a couple of good questions to ask, and not just 'What do I do next?' Bosses need to believe that you have a real interest in the work. Remember, they may still be thinking if they made the right decision in hiring you. So, in the first two to three weeks you need to keep making that good impression."

Embrace mistakes

Try as you might, mistakes are a fact of life. While your first inclination may be to avoid your boss or to assign blame for your error, taking responsibility when something goes wrong shows trustworthiness.

"If you make a mistake (and you will), let your boss know that you'll learn from it and will bounce back from the setback," says Carol Roth, a business strategist and author of "The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks and Rewards of Having Your Own Business." "Own up to your mistakes, and be honest about what you don't know."

Experts tend to agree that a simple, yet genuine, "I'm sorry" and perhaps a short explanation is most effective. Being overly emotional or offering a lengthy reason as to why something went wrong is likely to make the situation even more uncomfortable.

If possible, alert your supervisor before a problem occurs. Doing so maximizes options -- such as getting a deadline extension or having a co-worker lend a hand -- and shows that you are concerned about the well-being of the organization, not just making yourself look good.

Act like you want to be there

Finally, remember that enthusiasm is contagious. Showing up with a positive attitude and a willingness to help out can prove that you're a team player the boss will want to have around. Your demonstration need not be grand, just heartfelt. Corcoran's simple strategy: Never eat alone. "This is a great way to meet people, become acquainted with your workplace and show your boss, 'Yes, I am happy to be here, and I want to be a member of the team.'"

Last Updated: 02/05/2011 - 3:36 PM

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