Sometimes the idea of “Reputation Management” seems like a big business thing, but each one of us has a reputation, right? Your reputation is not based on who you actually are or what you actually do. Reputations are what other people say you do and who they think you are based on what is being said.
Why Are Reputations So Important?
Reputations are important because they either limit us or allow us to grow. A reputation for always doing a good job is going to be pretty helpful when a prospective employer checks your references, but if you never finish what you start, that may be what keeps you from being hired.
With all the technology we use today, reputations are global. You might need help with your online branding or you may think you have it under control, but the reality is that nobody controls what people are saying about you by clicking a button and making them stop. What happens is influence of opinion based on data collected over time.
Job candidates are viewed in light of all the data that can be compiled about them. That includes references, past employers, and anything that comes up on the internet via social media sites and search engines.
What Can You Do About It?
First, be someone who has integrity and actually is the kind of person you hope people see you as. Next, look at what your track record is and do what you can to fix anything in your power. Some things cannot be changed, so be prepared to show how you will be different because you learned your lesson.
You see this in the public arena quite often: the politician or celebrity makes a gigantic error in judgement. The way they handle the fallout determines how the public discourse about it proceeds. On a private level in the workplace, people who know you will give you the benefit of the doubt if all the other things they know about you are positive. Online, the strategy has to fit the scenario, but the idea of keeping the most recent information positive is usually the best idea for reputation management. Your career and your reputation are intertwined and cannot really be separated, so it’s important to be aware of how others view your contributions.
“Branding” has become a buzzword, one that is losing meaning for many people tired of hearing it.That doesn’t change the importance of what “branding” actually is: your reputation.
It’s all the little pieces of information someone has about you wrapped up in their perceptions about that information. It’s important because it directly affects your career. Your reputation can get you the job or get you on the “do not call” list. People’s understanding of who you are can get you promoted or get you fired. With the internet and social media, there’s just a lot more information out there to be aware of. Who you are, the choices you make and the way you do your job are part of your brand even though it happens off-line. Think of it as being the spokesperson for your personal brand. The best way to deepen relationships is to face time, and it happens best when you are not on a screen (although videoconferencing is becoming a popular substitute, it doesn’t work for everything). So step away from the computer and go to workshops and seminars. Do the volunteer community service. This gives a huge chunk of information to your branding because it is as big as you are.
Online, your brand is also made up of pieces of information. You have control over most of them if you are diligent about privacy settings, security, and consistent postings. Many are even choosing to have their own site with their name.com in order to be first in a search. LinkedIn profile and online branding development is so important that you should invest in research and possibly coaching to make sure your online brand is professional and current. Your brand is not just the history of who you are.Your brand is the hope of who you aim to be. It’s your reputation and your potential all in one package, and you can choose what that looks like.
Just recently one big pharmaceutical company was fined 1.2 billion dollars for failing to disclose possible serious side effects of one of their FDA-approved drugs. Some companies take these fines in stride as the cost of doing business. Other potential employers realize that there are risks of employing someone from a company who repeatedly breaks the law. Think hard about how one of these companies will look on your resume before you accept a job. Protect your professional reputation. You are a perceived liability to future employers when you work at a company with major infractions – so major that they are paying out big dollars in fines. If the company thinks it’s okay to do business this way, then you as their employee may be perceived as someone who bends or breaks the law at work, when in reality you actually are a very ethical employee. But today’s employers are not only concerned with what you do on the job, they also want to ensure that their employees represent them well outside of the workplace. While many people feel that their personal and professional lives should be separate, in today’s social media-saturated world, what you do outside of work could also affect your chances of being hired for a new job. The recent rash of people faking their educational credentials on their resumes has employers doing full background checks, not just on educational credentials, but credit checks, Department of Motor Vehicles checks, drug screenings and anything else that can turn up infractions or crimes. Your best option if you have DUI’s on your record, or if you have served jail time, is to admit to it up front on a background check. You may still be able to work for the company that wishes to hire you, especially if you will not be driving or handling money or other valuables while on the job. However, the best way to protect your reputation is to not engage in any behavior that will disqualify you on a background check in the first place.