So it’s your first day at the academy. You’re laughing, joking, and meeting new classmates. You’ve all talked about your past experiences and what you’re expecting to come your way. If you’re like me, you might be listening to something like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to keep your mind occupied. As you roll up to the academy site, you can see your instructor waiting to address your class. This is where first impressions can be a really big deal. Here’s how to not make a name for yourself on the first day:
(See tips 1-5 here)
Show up looking like a professional. Don’t roll in there looking like you slept in your clothes. If you’ve passed your interview, hopefully you’ve already figured this out. An untucked, wrinkled polo with khakis that don’t fit is no way to make a first impression. I’ve seen it more than once. Most often, you’ll be instructed to dress in business attire or business casual attire. Always err on the side of being over-dressed. If you’re unsure how to dress, take a few minutes to do a little research. It will be well worth your time.
Don’t try to be the class comedian. There’s only one Bill Murray and this isn’t Stripes. There’s going to be a class clown and you’re all going to love him or her. But not just because they make you laugh; it’s because they take the attention off the rest of you. If you want to be the one who gets all the attention from the instructors, then go for it. Just be ready to run a few extra miles and do about a thousand extra flutter kicks.
Show some confidence but don’t be overly confident. If you walk in there slouching, looking down, or appearing nervous, chances are you’ll get noticed. If you show up looking cocky and full of yourself, that’s going to be a problem, too. If you carry yourself with confidence, but show that you’re eager to learn and you’re open to instruction, you’ll be on the right track.
Pay attention to detail. Nothing drives an instructor more nuts than a new guy not paying attention. You’ve got a lot you need to learn. If they give you a 10-minute speech and the first words you actually hear are “OK… move!” you’re going to have a problem. Picture 20+ trainees running around with luggage trying to find their rooms after not listening to directions. Pay attention.
Don’t be fooled by the instructor’s nice guy routine. On my first day at the academy, the instructor boarded the bus to greet us in a very laid back manner, doing his best to put everyone at ease. It wasn’t two seconds after he kindly told us to start filing off the bus before it changed to, “MOVE! MOVE! Are you wasting my —-ing time?!”
Bonus: Relax and enjoy the experience. Remember, there are very few people out there getting paid to shoot guns, learn to defend themselves, and drive in emergency pursuits. If you’re lucky, you may even get paid to learn Pursuit Intervention Techniques (P.I.T. maneuvers). So try to keep it all in perspective.
Your first day at the academy is going to be stressful, nerve-wracking, and a totally new experience (unless you’re a veteran who’s been through basic training, but don’t expect everything to be the same.) Just remember what my dad told me before I left: “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”