How To Build, Solidify, Or Clean Up Your Professional Reputation

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Reputations can be fickle, no matter what they refer to. They may take years or even decades to build, and moments to fracture. We see this latter example quite commonly, when a celebrity or politician undergoes a scandal, or when a business is caught engaging in unethical activities to boost profit.

When working in business, running your own, or contributing to an intermediate or high-level team, you might not be a household name by any measure. But your professional reputation does count. It may open doors that you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. It may lead to networking with more skilled and reliable people. It could even build you an audience of followers who may be happy to pursue your work from one place to another – such as when a particularly celebrated journalist begins writing for another news franchise. Your professional reputation is important and you should consider everything from choosing to remove online articles that paint you in a bad light to putting positive information out there. Your reviews will tell everyone about you – and you want them to be shiny!

Professional reputations are important to take seriously, or at least sincerely; in this guide we will help you get a better grasp on yours:

Choose direct ownership over your business reputation:

A reputation about you, your work, and your priorities will form, even if subtly, over the years. Of course, this might not be a novel-length description of every decision you’ve made or every lesson you’ve learned. But if someone in the administration department can certainly rely on you to show up on time and report issues with clarity and haste, then you become the person they might go to.

As you can see, a reputation will build no matter what. For tha treason, it’s important to choose direct ownership over it, as opposed to letting it form around you. You’ll never be able to 100% control every thought about you of course, but you can avoid giving people a reason to distrust you. So – it might start with the simple things, like avoiding workplace gossip, which unfortunately takes place in many offices worldwide. 

Try to dress well, to show up on time, and to be affable. This way, you can always keep your professional image intact. If heading to the award ceremony at the end of the business calendar year – don’t drink too much. It’s little measures like this that help you persist capably over the years.

Admit to mistakes when you make them, and always present a solution:

Having a good professional reputation doesn’t mean avoiding mistakes or hiding them away as quickly as you can. As we’ve seen on the national level, the highest in the land, this can only lead to true embarrassment, skeletons in the closet, and a feeling of mistrust.

It can be healthy to admit to mistakes when you make them, to apologize, and to present a solution. If you can do that, then you’ll be able to properly reset on the right track, learning more from the experience. This is not some new concept that only applies to business of course, even the criminal justice system uses this righteous method of applying the correct punitive measure, even allowing for the postage of bail bonds where suitable.

If you can approach the problem first of all, admit fault, and then curate the solution, people are more willing to work with you. They look to the future and not the past. Even some businesses have had to do this, such as when Domino’s Pizza relaunched an entire new product line with the admittance that their previous food hadn’t reached the acceptable standard. If there’s one thing people love to talk about more than a downfall – it’s a comeback story.

Your word is your bond:

Professionals can, in many cases, come back from anything. You can move onto other companies, you can restart with a new brand name – but the one thing that you cannot outrun is dishonesty. This is why it’s important to make your word your bond.

Let’s consider an example. Any young professional or student will have heard of a local landlord who seems unwilling to give up their deposit to their tenants when they move out of the property. This can sometimes lead to court cases and massive fines, but it can also lead to full blacklisting from the property market and an inability to sign on new residents.

No matter how good the accommodation you provided would have been, how quickly you responded to maintenance requests, or even how you refused to raise rent despite energy bills going up; this is all anyone will remember. Now, you’re unlikely to follow this kind of egregious deception yourself. But it goes to show that often, misdirection, omission, or even overpromising can lead to professional stains that are hard to come back from. Remember that your word is your bond.

Underpromise, overdeliver:

If you’re competent, people tend to give you some rope in your working efforts, that is, they trust you to get on with what they hired you for, or what the team requires of you.

If you overpromise, however, it’s very easy for even your most hard-won efforts to go unnoticed. People just accept that you did what you promised to do. For instance, if you agree ahead of time that you’ll always take part in every single overtime shift in order to meet the oncoming deadline, then doing so will net you little credit. After all – you’re just doing what you said. In addition, overpromising always runs the risk that you might not be able to deliver, perhaps for entirely understandable reasons. But if you disappoint enough times, even though you meant well, this affects your professional reputation.

For this reason, while underpromising and overdelivering sounds like a tactic you’d read in some super cool influencer handbook, it’s just a good tool to use in order to help people. If you head to your friend’s house to help them move to another property, but also cook them dinner afterwards, you have overdelivered, and you can bet they’ll notice it. It’s measures like this that help tie people together, and solidify professional ties in kind.

Try to be positive and cherish teamwork:

It’s very easy to talk about ‘professional life’ as if it’s totally distinct from normal life, and perhaps even we have indirectly implied that in this article. But the truth is that professionals are people, and you’re still you when in work mode.

This means that people tend to respond to the worthwhile stimulus they do when outside of the office or the construction site – clear communication, fun dialogue, positivity and teamwork. If you’re 100% stressed all of the time, terse, and catastrophizing in the face of difficulty, you can bet that people will feel those emotions when working with you also.

We’ve all had a manager who acts this way, and it never inspires the team to work harder or with more clarity. So – while you don’t have to be Mr. or Mrs. Happy all of the time, try to be optimistic, and to engage with the team you’re part of. Simply being a reliable and upbeat cog in the machine can be enough to get far in the business world, in creative industries, or even in a sports team.

Aid others, you never know when it will come back to you:

“What goes around comes around” and “what you give, you receive” are pretty quotes that seem to work well in a nice font and uploaded to Instagram, but are they really true?

Well, in the professional world, they very well can be. If you aren’t afraid to help others, be that covering a reasonable shift from time to time, educating a team member you’re responsible for just a little more than the others if they need that extra support, or helping a colleague carefully and accurately document how they’re being mistreated by a manager, well, this positive aid can come back around one day.

It’s not guaranteed, and not worth ‘doing good’ for the sake of some vague reward that might not come back for decades, but when this does happen, you will least expect it. It might be that someone you managed has launched their own business, and now wishes for you to come and enjoy a cushy job developing the brand.

When you have a professional reputation of assistance and the willingness to help out, people wish to have you around. Even if you had a hard-won struggle to get there, and made mistakes, it’s that willingness that people remember.

Consider what professional you need to be right now:

The task you have in front of you today is unlikely to be exactly the same as two years ago. If you move up the line and have to manage individuals, then trying to be their best friend like Michael Scott or David Brent would can lead to your team members losing respect for you – instead of a buddy they often want to be managed, and feel they can trust their careers with you.

So – if you apply the correct professional measure now, you’ll see that in the future, people remember you for it, and your suitability for the role.

With this advice, we hope you can better build, solidify or even clean up your professional reputation.

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog,

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