We take our careers very seriously. We pour a great deal of energy into cultivating relationships and growing a network of professionals we either work with or hope to. We spend countless hours combing through our online resumes and LinkedIn profiles, carefully ensuring they convey the utmost professionalism. We want to be taken seriously and be considered credible and influential at work. We look the part, practice our presentations, fine-tune our communication skills and polish our presence online and in person.
But, what happens when we are off the clock? How is our behaviour when we are at a restaurant with friends, on vacation with family or simply out of the office? How many times have we run a personal errand and bumped into someone unexpectedly?
Our reputation is built on us – both in and out of the office, in person and online. Professionals often forget that credibility is built on consistency; we can only be consistent in our behaviour when we are mindful every day and in every circumstance. Professionals too often become lazy when the spotlight is turned off. We don’t realise that people are watching. Employees, customers, prospects and peers are everywhere.
Here are four common mistakes professionals make, which call their reputation into question:
1. Social media socialises the real you
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more – these online social media platforms create a way for us to communicate with those we are connected to. We fail to realise that our reach doesn’t stop there. These mediums also communicate to the entire world who we are. Just because we sit behind a screen doesn’t mean we aren’t seen.
A 2017 study found that 70 percent of employers use social media to review potential candidates. This number has increased 11 percent in the past 10 years, proving now more than ever that professionals who wish to manage their reputation must be mindful of what they post.
Political commentary, strong opinions, excessive personal information and activities may cast our reputation in a negative light. Even when we have the best intentions, posts and comments can be easily misconstrued. If there is any doubt, don’t post it. Posts should be informative, educational or inspiring. If they fail to convey a message kindly, refrain from sharing them altogether.
2. Personal time is just professional time off the clock
We all deserve to let our hair down when we step out of the office. We must remember, however, someone is always watching and that we must protect our professional reputation. Behavior that causes others to question our authenticity can jeopardize our professional reputation. For instance, loud and rowdy behavior with friends during happy hour doesn’t convey professionalism but may leave others wondering who we are.
Credibility is built on consistency. When your behaviour is consistent in and out of the office, people will trust that is the real you. We’ve all heard the old saying, “It’s a small world.” It feels even smaller the moment we are anything but our best self and we run into someone we wish to impress. Be mindful and know that everyone is everywhere.
3. You’re in the spotlight even when you’re not on stage
Communication begins before you step on stage. Others determine who you are based on collective experiences and interactions with you when you aren’t in the spotlight. How you communicate in the office and in casual conversations is what will shape your reputation, not the moments you step on stage. How you behave and interact with peers determines your level of influence and the trust they have in you as a professional.
Did you know 92 percent of people act upon the recommendation of others – even if they don’t know them? People talk, and others listen. How you treat your employees is how they will treat your customers. If you fail to communicate with consistency, those you influence will fail to do so, too. Be clear and concise in all communications – whether it’s a high-stakes meeting or a casual hallway conversation. Focus on your body language and be an active, intentional listener. When you make others a priority, they will do the same for you and those who matter most to your success.
4. It’s not a brand management campaign; it’s a way of life
Our modern-day world doesn’t allow us to compartmentalise our lives. In today’s age of online observation, our reputations are broadcast for the world to see, which directly affects our bottom line. Consider some highly regarded corporate names. It’s likely their reputations are well managed. They are consistent in their messaging and delivery. They walk their talk throughout all aspects of their brand: from online profiles to customer-facing employees. Now consider companies that have struggled with their reputation. They have likely suffered from inconsistencies in their customer experience, marketing campaign, executive behaviour and employee interactions.
Individual professional reputations are no different than major corporations. In fact, they are one of the most significant concerns major companies face. In a survey of executives, 87 percent said the risk to their reputation was a higher priority to their bottom line, more so than any other strategic danger their company faced.
Fact is, professionals cannot manage their reputation through a one-time branding campaign. We must develop it through consistent behaviours that create trust in those who know and observe us. We can’t just say something is important; our actions must reflect it. We can’t tell employees to invest time and energy in customers but then fail to do the same for them. Reputations aren’t built on a “do what I say, not as I do” mentality. Consistency is key to credibility.
This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com.