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Golden Guide Career Advice: How to Protect Your Reputation

Lydia Lazar

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Golden Tip No. 11: Safeguard Your Reputation

Golden Guide Career Advice is a series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Think about the impact of your words and actions before you speak or act. Here are two examples of the advice of sages, old and new:

  • Regard your good name as the richest jewel you possess—for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”  Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC)
  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Warren Buffet

What is a reputation? It is the opinion of the world about you, your character and your achievements. Of course, most of the world has no idea that you exist and doesn’t care if you succeed or fail. So, your reputation is something that matters greatly to you, but far less to other people. And yet, the opinions of some matter and will impact your career.

Before the internet, people built their personal social capital and developed their professional reputations much more slowly. These days, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t already have one or more online personas, which are creating reputational waves just by existing in the virtual world.

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Thanks to our digital technology, the world has grown both larger and smaller in ways that present opportunities forand risks to—your reputation. Everyone needs to be aware of “best practices” in digital personal brand management to develop and safeguard their professional and personal reputations.

But there is more to developing a professional reputation than just managing your digital presence. The tried and true method of reputation-building is networking, networking and networking. Also, do your best work in whatever position you have so that those who hear about your efforts only hear positive things.

These days, it is more important than ever to cultivate personal real-world connections. The obvious downside of the internet is that there are many more people applying for every open position. Building your reputation is a long game, but even in the short term, every new person you connect with is a person who will begin to develop an opinion of you. Over time, the cumulative impact of all these encounters will be like money in the bank— positive social capital—for your reputation.


Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.