You’ve got seven seconds to make it or break it.

Kirsty Milligan is a personal branding and style guru. Regularly appearing on radio and television Kirsty gives Executive PA Media an authentic take on how to impress and influence with more than just the clothes on your back.

First impressions are key. Everybody who was been interviewed for a job, or is sitting on the other side of the interview desk knows that impressions are vital for our understanding of who someone is, and how they will perform.

First impressions however, are not a perfect nor holistic representation of a person. Kirsty Milligan helps us understand first impressions, their flaws, and the tricks you can use to make the type of connections that you need.

“We make 11 decisions in the first seven seconds of meeting someone. Most of them are subconscious or unconscious decisions, and we file those away and we keep them. It’s never changed. We never go back to change that first impression”

“In fact we only just collect information to prove ourselves right; that’s in conjunction with our first impression. It’s called confirmation bias,” Kirsty outlines. 

These judgements are not insignificant either. They determine a person’s perceived capability, trustworthiness, education level and even sex or sexuality.

But, as the cliche goes, never judge a book by it’s cover. Right? According to Kirsty, it’s irrelevant whether or not the information gathered in these first moments is accurate. Due to people’s inherent confirmation bias, it’s very difficult or impossible to make someone change their opinion of you.

Thus, it’s essential that we use these seven seconds to our advantage, but that’s a lot of pressure, and leaves a very small margin of error.

So how does one know how to make the right impression? We learn why people come to those crucial 11 decisions: enter unconscious bias.

“How people make first impressions is all based around their unconscious biases. They affect how we make the decisions that form our first impressions,” says Kirsty.

“If I have an unconscious bias that men are smarter than women, and I’m being rolled into the ER, and I have the choice of a male doctor or a female doctor, I would choose the male doctor in an instant – based off my first impression and my unconscious bias.”

So in order to change some of our more impractical and misinformed biases, Kirsty suggests we must first identify them.

“Understanding the triggers in our brains for first impressions is one of the first ways of being able to be conscious of the things we’re thinking, the things that we’re thinking about other people, and about the way we want to present ourselves to the world.”

But identifying unconscious bias isn’t as easy as it sounds. The simple fact that it’s un or subconscious makes it nearly impossible to determine yourself. Tests and metrics do exist to help us understand what’s going on below the surface, but they are far from accurate. But opening a dialogue about what makes us tick will do wonders for your self-presentation, and might even land you that dream job.

Kirsty Milligan was interviewed at the 2018 Executive PA Summit in Melbourne. The Executive PA Summits are free tailored networking and professional development days for qualifying EAs. Kirsty is one of many fantastic speakers at the Summits, so apply for 2019 Summit’s to watch the best speakers in the business and make connections that matter.