“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That’s what the reputation is. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.”
― Wayne W. Dyer
We’ve all heard that reputation is everything, and it is. As you navigate your career in digital media, it’s important to keep the old adage, “perception is reality,” top of mind. Your reputation is the “currency in the job market”.
On the job, it’s easier to be known for your mistakes than it is your successes, so understanding what kinds of behaviors are and are not acceptable in, and especially out of the office, is important. Here are some things to do or avoid:
Act With Integrity, And Do What You Say You’ll Do
Being someone who can be counted on, reliable, dependable, trusted, and honest is the highest priority for me when it comes to reputation. Giving and keeping your word in all contexts will shape how you are perceived, and that counts in business as well. It is part of what I call “taking the high road”. If you say you will get an RFP out by the end of the day, then do it…even if you work later than you hoped. If you tell a Digital Ad Agency about the capabilities and reach of your website, make sure it is accurate. If you tell someone you will follow up with them by a certain date, then follow up by that date.
Integrity in the broadest sense includes NOT participating in gossip, acts of greed/selfishness, thwarting a co-worker’s intentions or projects, etc. These acts work against you in ways you’ll notice and in some ways you won’t be aware of.
No one is perfect, and we all miss deadlines, forget thinks we’ve promised, etc. You can show your integrity in two ways: 1) if you know ahead of time you will miss a deadline or not be able to fulfill what you said you’d do, let the person know before the due date and make a new date, and 2) if the time has passed, apologize and take responsibility, and do what it takes to fulfill the task as quickly as possible.
Think of a person who does what they say they will do almost all of the time. Don’t you have a high regard for them? Don’t you want to do business with them? Don’t you view them as a person of character? BE that person in business and in life.
Don’t Come In “Too Fast, Too Furious”
When you’re the new guy or gal in the office, it’s easy to want to be asserting yourself in your role, pick apart all the inefficiencies, and build your reputation as a leader, all in the first week. While your initiative is appreciated, there are some very important things to consider before coming in guns-a-blazing.
- Do your research—If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Look into what’s been done, what’s been considered, and where there may be opportunities to improve. This means asking questions and assessing the needs of your co-workers and the business. Not only will you look proactive, but you’ll also truly be able understand where there may be opportunities, or “broken” areas that need improvement.
- Be considerate of legacy processes—Your innovative thinking to “make it better” may be overriding someone else’s hard work, so respect that and approach with caution, especially if that employee is still working in the same office.
- Use a gradual approach—Now that you’ve assessed the situation, and you’re ready to develop a plan, make sure you gradually introduce change. Your co-workers are used to a particular process, and changing too much too fast can create frustrations and resentments, and open the door for mistakes.
Having said the above, for Digital Media and Media Technology companies, change is a big part of life. If you are coming into a company in a leadership role where you are expected to make big changes quickly, then still be as considerate and inclusive as possible.
Avoid Overextending Yourself, But Be A “Can Do” Person
Whether you’re a new employee or a seasoned veteran of the company, it’s never a good idea to build your reputation as a “yes” person. But it is also not advisable to be a “no” person.
I had a conversation with a fellow manager about one of their employees who, when asked to do something that is a part of their job, they replied, “I can’t right now, my plate is full.” Bad idea.
Rather than being a “yes” or a “no” person, be a “can do” and a “willing to do” person. For example, if a lot of work is coming your way, it could be a time to ask about priorities. A better response for the employee above would have been, “Happy to do it. I’m working on project ‘x’ which is due today and project ‘y’ which is due tomorrow…is this new project a priority? Can we look to see what you’d like me to tackle first?” Maybe not exactly like that, but you get the picture. You are willing to get it all done; you just want to manage expectations. Your boss will most likely respect you for this, and appreciate your commitment to quality work and meeting deadlines.
Be In Communication
Being a poor communicator can be the kiss of death in some cases. If you’re in Digital Media or Media Technology, and you’re not communicating enough to a client on performance, or you’re simply not setting the right expectations, you could easily fall into a reputation rut that will be hard to dig out of. Poor communication skills can have many different effects on your reputation, including trust, respect, reliability, and more. So, over-communicate if you have to, but make sure your client and co-workers feel they know what the status is at all times.