Years to build and moments to lose. What am I talking about? Your reputation of course. How others view us is one of the key reasons why we succeed or fail, both in our personal and professional lives. Perception is more important than reality because if no one knows that you predicted the economic crisis, this clairvoyance is irrelevant. While this is harsh but true, it is not difficult to build and maintain a reputation. A great reputation will help you achieve your goals, so here are some basic tips to get you started.
1) Decide who you want to be seen as. Are you the best technical specialist in your field? Or do you have a network that people could benefit from? It is better to focus on two to three key points than attempt to make the whole world love you. We all want that, but it is not realistic and attempting it is too time consuming. A good way to start is to think about whom you admire and pick the best qualities of your heroes. (My favourites are Larry Summers’s intellect, Bill Clinton’s charm and Jay Z’s commercial instinct).
2) Define your audience. Is it your peer group at work? Is it a community group? It could even be your family and friends. Once you know whom you are trying to target you can work out how to reach them.
3) Overcome the self-promotion dilemma. In his book “Power”, Stanford Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer says that while we need to advocate for ourselves, self-promoting behaviour can lead to people not liking you, or worse, not believing you. The solution he proposes is to get other people to tout your achievements. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues, recruiters and friends in high places to help you. Generally, if you ask nicely and give people clear instructions of what to say and to whom, people will be happy to help.
4) Take care of your appearance. This is not about being a supermodel, but about looking healthy and well groomed. In the age of marathon careers, demanding working hours and long haul work flights, you need to look like you can handle the pressures. Even academic studies back up the idea that grooming is used to signal our ambition and social position, and this study demonstrates that looking after one’s appearance can lead to higher earnings. A well put together outfit, neat hair and a good physique indicate that the individual has self-control and pays attention to detail.
5) Be proactive. Invest at least a couple of hours every week to enhance your reputation and build a body of evidence which establishes you as an expert in your chosen area. In the age of social media, this is not hard to do. You can start writing a regular blog, speaking at industry events and joining organisations which will help enhance your visibility. Even asking an intelligent question from the audience at an industry talk will get you noticed in the right way.
A good image cannot be based on PR alone and if you are establishing yourself as an expert, you do have to be very good in your chosen field. However, in a globalised competitive environment, no one can afford to be the world’s best kept secret. If you don’t highlight your achievements, someone else will highlight theirs and beat you to the finish line. And surely you’re too clever to let that happen.
This article was originally posted on Forbes.com