If you have a career outside the home, you probably have a professional reputation. The question is: Do you know what yours is and what it says about you?
A professional reputation contains two main elements: what you say and what you do. As automaker Henry Ford once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
Did you enter this life with a professional reputation? Of course not! In fact, you didn’t start out with any kind of reputation whatsoever. A reputation–professional or personal–comes through experience.
You have to build your professional reputation over time. Furthermore, if you don’t consciously work to gain the reputation you want to have, you could end up with one you don’t like! Let’s say you want people to respect you as a wise leader and valuable contributor in the company. How do you achieve that? First, remember that people are more likely to respect you and follow your lead when you’ve proven they can count on you to deliver value. To do what you say you will. To keep your promises.
Companies need their products or services to be viewed as part of their trusted brand. Similarly, your on-the-job performance–the way you conduct yourself toward others at all levels–will play a major role in whether or not you are viewed as a trustworthy person. Yes, some managers try to govern through fear, but they will never gain trust that way.
When you act like a true leader, you give colleagues and your team a good reason to perform at their best because they see you doing it. Furthermore, they believe you will be upfront with them and not promise something you know you can’t provide. Become known for professional reliability and you’ve taken a big step in building a trust-based professional reputation.
In some ways, your personal and professional reputations mingle. In other words, the qualities you show in your work life probably appear in your personal life, too. Your honesty and integrity in dealing with people at work don’t stop once you leave the office.
However, keep in mind that the two types of reputation aren’t mirror images of each other. For example, faith might form a key part of your life outside work and play a more subtle role in your professional activity. That’s fine. You are who you are, but with suitable changes to fit the situation you’re in.
In short: You can build and maintain a positive professional reputation. It just takes focus and sustained effort.
P.S. To get more background on this subject, check out this article on professional values and ethics.