How do people perceive you at work? Does it matter what your colleagues think about you? Should you be concerned about your reputation?

People generally want to be perceived and portrayed at work as someone who is professional, reliable, ethical, trustworthy, open-minded, adaptable, flexible, and willing to learn, along with many other similar qualities and characteristics. This is a significant aspect of developing a long ranger career reputation, which serves as a representation of a person while they are at work, on the job, and while they are developing their career through new jobs and opportunities.

From a personal perspective, many people are not seemingly as concerned about the reputation they have as a person. As a society we are cataloging our personal lives, sharing details through posts, profiles, and photos. Private moments are being shared, along with personal beliefs, opinion statements, and sometimes intimate details through social media websites. For some people, they are providing a chronological overview of most of their waking moments. A question to ask those who are so actively involved in the use of social media to document their personal lives is this: Would you go up to someone you do not know and share all of this information?

The same question needs to be asked about providing the same type of personal information to an employer, and more importantly, to a potential employer. If an employer, hiring manager, or recruiter were to conduct an Internet search now and find a person's photos, posts, and profiles on social media websites, would that influence their perception? For anyone who is attempting to build or develop a career, especially those who are seeking a new job, they must absolutely be concerned about their professional reputation and the influence of their personal reputation, which is significantly influenced by online (and easily accessible) websites and other similar sources.

The Influence of Your Personal Reputation

Before starting to develop a plan for managing your professional reputation, first consider your personal reputation. Begin by asking yourself how you want yourself to be portrayed by others, including your present employer, if they were to conduct an Internet search now. It may not be a concern for your friends and family; however, do you post information or photos that could have a negative impact on your career if viewed by employers or recruiters? There have been several incidents in the news over the past few years related to people who were fired from their jobs due to personal messages and opinions that were stated on social media websites such as Facebook.

Also, consider the specifics of your profession and what someone in your line of work is expected to demonstrate as a person. For example, as an educator I am expected to have strong ethical values and anything that is publicly posted on social media should reflect that point of view for me as a person. In other words, what I post should not be in direct conflict with how I am viewed professionally. If I were to post something that creates a conflict between who I am as an educator and who I am as a person, it could have a negative long-term impact on my career. The impact can be difficult to accurately assess, given that a reputation is more subjective in nature and based upon personal perceptions.

This is not to say that you do not have a right to state your opinions or share posts and photos that are personal in nature. What it does mean is that you should consider the potential conflict it could cause for you professionally, especially if you are in a position or career field that requires you to demonstrate strong ethical and/or moral values and characteristics. If you are concerned about what you have posted from a personal point of view, try conducting an Internet search and examine the results. People are often surprised by the outcome, and possibly alarmed as well. If your career could be negatively impacted in any manner, consider adjusting your privacy settings. Facebook and Instagram likely contain the most personal information out of all of the social media websites, although it is possible to be highly opinionated on other websites such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

How to Influence Your Career Reputation

The reputation that a person develops in their career is easier to control as it involves the actions and behaviors that are displayed while on the job, along with the interactions had with colleagues and customers. When a person first begins a new job they usually put their best foot forward and demonstrate the best of who they are and the talents they possess. Over time, and as work habits set it, a person will generally fall back to their normal patterns of behavior.

A career reputation is then influenced by actions, work habits, forms of communication, work product, and other subjective factors that include the associations made with other employees on the job. While a reputation is often perceptual in nature, and often linked to how credible a person is viewed, it can be controlled by considering the nature of the job and the professional expectations or code of conduct. It is also a matter of aligning personal values to the values of the organization, and being ethical in all forms of communication, transactions, and activities.

You are Always in Control

You are always in control of your personal and professional reputation. You can decide that how you present yourself personally and professionally matters at all times, or you are free to act however you would like to as you have a right to your personal forms of expression. However, if you are developing your career and want to ensure that employers and potential employers view you in the best possible light, then you should develop a proactive plan to manage your career reputation.

You can accomplish this goal by considering the impact of what you post and what you share online, along with how you behave and act while you are on the job. Your reputation is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for – and that can have a significant impact on your career and how many new opportunities become available to you. If development of your career matters to you, pay attention to how you may be perceived as an employee, and as a potential new employee. Your reputation can be easily developed in a positive manner, or just as easily damaged from negative perceptions. You do not have to live in fear of what you post; however, you should always consider what is publicly visible and easily accessible.

About Dr. Johnson

Dr. Johnson has worked in the field of higher education and distance learning since 2005. He specializes in distance learning, adult education, faculty development, online teaching, career management, and career development. Dr. J has a Ph.D. in Postsecondary and Adult Education, a Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement, and a Master of Business Administration, MBA. Presently Dr. J is a Core Faculty member for one of the premiere online universities, fulfilling his life's mission to teach, mentor, write, and inspire others.

As a scholar practitioner, Dr. J was published in a scholarly journal and he has been a featured presenter at an international distance learning conference. He has also published over 200 online articles about adult learning, higher education, distance learning, online teaching, and career development.

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• Transform Online Teaching: Expert Strategies and Essential Resources Every Educator Needs

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