Whether you know it or not, you and I are constantly building our reputations. The good news is that we have a great deal of control over the effort we put into this process; not always achieving the results we’d like perhaps but, the effort invested is entirely ours to give. Consistently delivering results is also a key factor for many in establishing their reputation.
Those we work with, those we come into contact with on a daily basis; we’re all building our individual reputations throughout the day. We may not always have our reputations foremost in our minds, but the words we speak and the actions we take which others observe adds to or diminishes how we are perceived. And it’s not just one or two things we become known for; we gain a reputation for numerous things. Hence we become known for always arriving early or being late, contributing our fair share in group projects or riding along on the strong work of others. We can have a reputation for having an optimistic outlook, being authentic, exercising patience, extending ourselves to help others or always saying, “Yes”.
What we become known for and how we are perceived can have a tremendous impact on our success or lack thereof. If you’ve got aspirations of advancing in an organization, your reputation for the quality and/or quantity of work you produce will influence the decision-making process in whether to promote you. Have a good reputation and you’re impressing others while a tarnished reputation could leave you out of the running when you want to get ahead.
So when does building a reputation start? It starts when we first interact with others be that in-person, in writing or correspondence, by association with others and when we come into the awareness of those around us. Initially it starts as a first impression, then with each bit of information the other person takes in about us, their perception of us is reinforced or changed. This is why first impressions become of such critical importance in the hiring process for example. From the first inquiry, the cover letter and resume or CV, interview(s) and follow-up, we only have a limited amount of time and exposure to make a good impression on the decision-makers in the organizations we wish to work with. We do our best to build on that initial impression, all the while establishing our reputation with these people.
Making an error in a job interview therefore could be critical as we don’t have the benefit of time to give the interviewer(s) pause to re-evaluate us and see that error as out of character with our reputation. Anyone who has ever said something they realize they shouldn’t have, or who made a joke of something that didn’t go over well and wishes they could take back knows of what I speak. We don’t want the impression we create to be one of being flippant, insensitive, having poor judgement or not being a positive influence in the workplace. It is for this reason we feel anxiety in interviews; the slightest error we might make could negatively alter the other person’s perception of us and we fear not having the ability to change their initial impression which could ruin our reputation; leaving us ultimately rejected.
Those that fear interviews and long to just be given a chance to show an employer what they can do are typically the kind of people who are banking on their ability to perform a job to enhance their chances. They know that the speed or quality of their work and adherence to safety on the job would impress the people seated across from them, but sitting and answering questions isn’t their strength. In such situations, the strategy they might be best to use than would be to provide tangible, concrete examples of what they’ve done, how others benefitted and yes, the reputation they’ve established for high quality work, a good attitude etc.
Providing references, sharing what others have said about us is another way we hope to transfer our good reputation to these people we are just meeting in the interview. So a Home Builder will for example invite a potential client to speak with the owners of homes he or she has constructed, show photos of work performed and the classic before and after shots. They home that their good work and good reputation with one home owner convinces another home owner to contract their work. Your reputation is something you can and should pay attention to. It’s a big part of your personal brand and with every interaction you have with others, that reputation is reinforced or possibly re-evaluated.
Suppose today you sat down on your 15 minute break and thought about what you’d like your reputation to be. What would you like to be known for? What are you doing that backs up and gives you credibility with respect to this goal? Now ask yourself if your actions, words and performance achievements enhance or detract from this reputation you’d like to have. If it’s important to you, you’ll do more of what builds your reputation and less of what works against it.
So what do you want as YOUR reputation? Expertise? Communication skills? Physical fitness? Helping others? Give some thought to this; you’re building one regardless so it makes sense to determine what you want.