As a professional managing the trajectory of your career, one of the most important assets you have is your reputation: what other people think of you, your workplace performance, and how you behave around others.
Your character says a lot about your competence, likeability, and credibility as a professional. I don’t visit a restaurant without looking at online restaurant reviews. And I sure wouldn’t choose an Airbnb without consulting the comments of people who have already stayed there.
It’s unlikely that anyone will hire you, accept an introduction, or share his expertise without others recommending you in a similar way. How people advocate for you, and what they’ll say about you to others is sort of like a Yelp review of your career and overall demeanor. You want as many stars as you can get.
The truth is that this social proof holds weight, whether you’re deciding where to eat in a new city, or tracking down the references of a potential hire. What other people think about you and how they speak of you and your accomplishments and work ethic matters to your career.
These five tips will show you not only how you might be sabotaging a glowing endorsement without knowing it, but also how to take corrective action.
1. Ignoring the Social Scene
When you blow off company activities that involve employees and partners or spouses, you could be losing great opportunities for a praise-worthy review. You may think these events are not worth your time. Or you might be a die-hard introvert and prefer to do your own thing after office hours.
But if you never participate in post-work social activities, you're failing to create memorable impressions with people who could be potential networking allies. Imagine having a lovely conversation with your colleague’s husband, telling him how awesome his wife is and how much you enjoy working with her.
Now imagine that one day some months later, this same husband, asks if his wife—your co-worker—knows anyone who might be the perfect candidate for a job in his own company. And it just so happens that you totally fit the bill and are looking to make a move. See where I’m going with this?
Every conversation could lead to an opportunity, a referral, an introduction, and eventually even a terrific job opportunity. If you come to the holiday gathering 15 minutes before the event ends and hover in the corner with your one office friend, you miss the possibility of making a great impression on a stranger.
2. Thinking Only People With Status Matter
There’s a saying that goes, “Treat the janitor with the same respect you treat the CEO.” There’s a reason for this. People in positions of power are not the only ones you must pay attention to.
Others will notice how you speak to the receptionist, the fresh-faced intern who just came on board, the waiter at a business lunch, or the maintenance crew. Being rude and condescending to those less powerful associates won’t win you raving fans—it'll just earn yourself a reputation as being bad-mannered.
When you treat everyone, regardless of title, with the same respect you treat the CEO or other senior leaders; you’ll telegraph a lot about yourself as a person who’s respectful of others—regardless of title or stature. Besides, you never know where that fresh-faced intern will land. You could be sitting across from her in an interview one day. And believe me, if you treated her badly, she’s not likely to forget it.
3. Not Building Relationships With Your Colleagues
In our knowledge economy, one thing is clear: None of us work in a vacuum. We accomplish work through our relationships with others. So, there’s no way around it: How you show up to do your work, and how you choose to interact with members of your team and people in other departments speaks volumes about both your character and integrity.
Establishing good rapport, including with people you work with but don’t know well, helps us live longer and more happily. It also reflects positively on your reputation and allows you access to more opportunities as your colleagues get to know, like, and trust you. A recommendation is as much a reflection on the giver as it is on the candidate. And if you aren’t comfortable fostering and cultivating professional relationships, it's unlikely that people will put their professional credentials on the line to support you.
4. Taking Credit for Others’ Work
If there’s one thing that will keep you off the “top people I’ve worked with” list, it’s this. When you claim credit for the idea or work of others, you’re pretty much proving you’re not a team player, you can’t stand the idea of co-workers being successful, and that you’re willing to win at the expense of others.
There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your own accomplishments, but you’ll also do well to recognize, honor, and appreciate the laurels of others. And you certainly don't want to make the mistake of taking all the credit for work that was a team effort. Philosopher William James said it brilliantly: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Your colleagues will notice your appreciation of their work, and they’ll be much more likely to demonstrate the value that lies in yours.
5. Indulging in Office Gossip
Participating in office gossip and criticism—malicious or light-hearted—of others will never serve your best interests—especially if you one day expect those same co-workers to speak highly of you when the time comes.
Gossip is a trust breaker. If people know you’ll dish dirt about others, they’re going to wonder what you’re saying about them behind their backs. That’s certainly not fertile ground for getting glowing recommendations in the future. If you want people to vouch for you, they have to see you as someone who is trustworthy. Stay away from the office chatter pool, and if you have an issue with a particular colleague, initiate a conversation so that you can resolve the matter between the two of you.
It's far better to get in the habit of directly communicating with your peers than endlessly complaining about a person or problem, a practice that's bound to reflect poorly on you.
Whether you’re asking colleagues and managers for LinkedIn recommendations, or you’re tapping a former boss for reference in your job search, what people think about you matters. You can affect that future outcome in positive way when you take care of how you behave each and every day.
Because, fact, hiring managers remove about 21% of candidates from contention, when references paint a less than glowing light. That’s a burn that can throw a brutal roadblock in your career. So take steps today to get that enthusiastic review you’ll need in the future.