Perhaps as you transitioned out of the military you burned some bridges in key relationships. Maybe you received feedback from your employer that other people found you to be difficult to work with or you were maligned in some way. Perhaps you said something on social media that landed you in a firestorm of controversy.
A damaged reputation is a serious problem. Whether your reputation is fractured online or through word of mouth, if people have a negative view of who you are, what you value, and what you can do (or not do), it can significantly limit the opportunities you attract.
Assessing the Situation
If your reputation has suffered – by accident, poor behavior or timing, or lapse of judgment – the most important thing you can do is start to fix it.
First, here are three questions to ask yourself to assess the impact to your career:
- How bad IS it? Did you hurt someone’s feelings or actually damage your reputation? Sometimes, when something appears online that we feel is an “attack against our character,” it is, in fact, just a poorly-timed joke at your expense. Even though your feelings are hurt, and you want to repair your good name, it’s important to put things in perspective: Is it likely that the comment will limit your career opportunities? Did the sender intentionally seek to harm you?
- Do you want to fight this fight? When evaluating the behavior or incident which you believe damaged your reputation, ask yourself if you really want to fight this battle. For example, if someone picks a fight with you on Facebook, and you lash out in anger, you can create a “mob mentality” where others jump on quickly and recklessly. This is risky because oftentimes the “mob” loses interest after a while, and moves on to another issue or cause, and your reputation can be left in shambles.
- What is your goal? As you build your career, you will encounter people who disagree with you, argue with you, and fight with you (verbally). If you do this in public, you become associated with the behavior, and it can negatively impact your reputation and the opportunities employers want to offer you. Consider whether being aggressive is beneficial. Similarly, what is the impact of being seen as passive or non-confrontational?
Start to Make Repairs
If you’ve made mistakes and need to get your name back, follow these steps:
- Own your mistakes. Take personal accountability to own the choices you made which may have led to your damaged reputation. This is a huge first step. Other people will likely accept that you simply made a mistake, as all people do at times.
- Define your desired outcome. Set a clear goal of how you want people to feel about you. Articulate what you want audiences to know about you (“He is an experienced logistician,”) and how you want them to feel about you (“I trust him with critical projects”). Then work towards those character traits in your personal brand strategy.
- Create a game plan. Plan the steps you’ll need to take to rebuild your reputation. A well-planned reputation repair strategy is not about “spin,” but rather about how you will rebuild trust with important contacts. This plan will enable you to walk confidently into the next phase of your career.
- Measure progress. Part of your strategy will be to set benchmarks and milestones to achieve and assess your progress in repairing your reputation. Carefully analyze the reputation you are earning (through feedback) and adjust your strategy, as needed.
- Get real with yourself. Personal accountability and clarity are the cornerstones of every successful personal brand. Learn to live in alignment with your values and earn a reputation of integrity and value to others.
Repairing a damaged personal brand (reputation) is not easy, and not quick, but it is critical to ensuring you drive and manage your career from a position of strength and confidence.