I’ve hesitated to share this story because this is not to highlight my involvement in how this played out but it’s just too good and impactful not to share. 

I talk quite a bit about first impressions and how much impact one can make. I am also very quick to admit that for a lot of my life I may not have always made the best first impression due to my tendency to be reserved, especially in unfamiliar settings. Even as an adult I constantly have to work to fight my natural tendencies and remember the power of a first impression.

I also talk a lot about how being a female golfer and making connections along the way can be so important for the future. You never know who you might meet and how they might be able to help you down the road (or you help them). That is actually a big reason I recently launched This Girl Loves Golf, to give girls a way to start those conversations and show their love and pride for this game.

But this story begins 6, maybe 7, years ago when I first met Ashley Sloup at a PKBGT tournament. She walked up to me on her own and introduced herself. She gave me one of the most impressive, firm handshakes with a big enthusiastic smile on her face and engaging direct eye contact. I honestly don’t really remember much about our conversation that day, we talked a little about her college recruiting, but from that point on I never forgot the impression she made. Her energy, excitement, and appreciation was so impressive.

Don’t get me wrong, a first impression is more than just a handshake, eye contact, and a smile on your face. But I kept up with Ashley off and on as she finished out her junior golf career and went on to play college golf at Winthrop. I knew she was doing well just based on her updates and she always conducted herself in a respectful manner on any social media. At the end of her senior year at Winthrop, she reached out to me about getting into college coaching after she graduated and she knew I had a lot of contacts with college coaches. At that time, nothing really popped in mind tho.

Fast forward almost 2 years later after she had gone to Michigan to work as an assistant at a DII program, Ashley reached back out about an assistant position that she was interested in where I knew the coach and wondered if I could help. Ironically Coach Hull at Furman had told me a few days before that he was looking for a new assistant but it was not made public yet. Based on what he described he wanted in an assistant and what I knew of Ashley it seemed like a perfect fit.

Even through the contact Ashley made with me via a Facebook message, I could sense her enthusiasm, respect, and maturity about taking on the position that I didn’t even hesitate to give her a good recommendation to Coach Hull. I am sure I was just one of many people she reached out to during that time and who helped her get the position, as anyone with the determination she has knows that contacts and connections are crucial when searching for jobs and opportunities. But as both a Furman women’s golf alumni and someone who respects a young lady like Ashley, I was thrilled when I got the update that she had gotten the position.

Now please don’t let the message that you take from this be that if you simply learn how to give a firm handshake, have good eye contact, smile, and make a good first impression that people should be willing to pass along a good recommendation for you. I can promise you that I have had many other “good” first impressions that over time proved to be no more than a simple act and not a reflection of on-going character. Anybody that is going to make a recommendation for you, especially for a position that requires a great deal of maturity, respect, and hard work, will do more than base it off first impressions or you simply asking them for the recommendation. 

But I can guarantee that if you make a bad first impression, it will be very difficult to backtrack on months or years later. And more importantly, if you don’t reflect the necessary character traits and good representation of yourself, then you can expect hesitation when it comes to asking for recommendations and references. Keep in mind, when I say “bad” first impression I am talking about things like slumping in your seat, being on your phone, having a bad attitude, wearing inappropriate clothes, being disrepectful to others, being rude, rolling your eyes, being distracted, acting like you have better things to do, your social media being inappropriate, etc… Most people understand that many young girls can be a bit shy or nervous when meeting adults they don’t know. So while you may not make a “bad” impression you also are probably not going to make a “good” one either if you don’t really make the effort to speak up and show your excitement and enthusiasm.

So start by taking some time to work on making a really good first impression when you meet coaches, tournament staff, volunteers, tournament hosts, rules officials, golf course staff, university alumni, and anyone else that you meet. But be sure that you reflect the kind of person that they would want to recommend in EVERYTHING you do! Keep in touch with people you meet who may be able to help you later on. Write thank you cards. But don’t always approach requests for what that person can do for you, consider what you might could do for them as well. 

Hi! I am Brandi Jackson, a college recruiting consultant for my companies Brandi Jackson Golf and This Girl Loves Golf and as a partner of the PKB Girls Tour. Through these avenues, I provide the guidance, resources, connections, and solutions for female golfers all over the world to help them find the right college golf fit. I am a Furman University golf alum and former LPGA player, and I have been working in the college recruiting world for over 9 years.