Reputation: not just the sixth studio album from pop icon Taylor Swift, but also an important factor in the workplace, as it turns out. A positive professional reputation can play a major role in your overall career success, opening the door for exciting promotions, unique job offers and, yes, likely some pay raises along the way, too.

Professional reputation vs. professional branding

Okay, be honest: did you think professional reputation and professional branding were the same thing? You’re not the only one. While reputation and branding do tend to go hand-in-hand, they’re actually not interchangeable.

Professional reputation, defined: “What people think and feel about you; how you’re perceived by others. Based on first impressions, quality of work, interactions, individual experiences and what they’ve heard about you.” 

Professional branding, defined: “The intentional act of understanding your unique skills, qualities and abilities and putting that image forward; how you want to be seen by others.”

A tight market, a culture shift

Unnecessary drama? Toxic colleagues? Exhausting office politics? Nobody’s got time for that! With so many options available to today’s professionals, countless current and potential employees are saying, “No thanks!” to any company boasting a less-than-glowing workplace reputation.

As a result, many employers are rethinking both their recruitment and retention strategies – and this includes taking a good, hard look at their existing company culture.

In an effort to create a more positive working environment, hiring managers are looking for candidates with a history of, well, being awesome to work with. In fact, in a recent LinkedIn poll conducted by Impact Recruitment, 57% of respondents said that a not-so-great reputation is something they’d definitely take into account during the hiring process, with 20% answering that they would be “very wary” of hiring this individual – yikes!

To sum up, whether you’ve just started your career or you’ve been in the game for a while, it’s never been more important to make sure your workplace reputation is up to snuff.

Building a great professional reputation

Be accountable

Accountability is the first thing on our list for a reason – after all, you’re not going to win anyone over by dodging phone calls, missing deadlines and showing up late to meetings, are you? When you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you make a mistake (and, hey, we’re all human!) take responsibility and own up to it. By demonstrating that you’re consistent, reliable and dependable, you begin to build trust with those you work with, be it colleagues, customers, candidates or clients.

Show your adaptability

What’s that saying – the only constant is change? If the last couple years have taught us anything, it’s that change is inevitable, and as much as we may want to dig in our heels and resist, it’s probably a better idea to just embrace it. By keeping an open mind as things in the workplace and the world continue to shift and evolve, you’re demonstrating your ability to adapt and a willingness to learn that will be much appreciated by those around you.

Be a team player

Maybe it’s showing up with coffees for your team after everybody pulled an all-nighter finishing a big project, maybe it’s offering to tackle a task that everybody else has been avoiding – or maybe it’s as simple as asking how you can help out. By doing this, you’re showing your colleagues that they can count on you, and that you’re happy to contribute to the overall success of the team however you can.

Stay positive, for the most part

It’s near impossible to have a sunny disposition 24/7, but a positive presence is always welcome in the workplace, and showing up with a smile is one of the most underrated ways to make a great impression on the people around you. So go ahead and give a shout out to Frankie for staying late to put the finishing touches on an important project, heck, while you’re at it, congratulate Marge on the brilliant client presentation she hosted yesterday – positive feedback is an excellent motivator and morale booster.

Look out for opportunities to grow

No matter how experienced you are, there’s always more to learn! Invest in yourself by welcoming opportunities to develop your skills (or learn new ones!) throughout the duration of your career. Not only will this help you broaden your skillset, but it also highlights your curiosity, initiative and commitment to continuous growth, which is great for your boss to have in mind when it comes time to think about promotions.

Share thoughts and ideas

This might be painful for some introverts to hear, but don’t stay quiet during that company meeting! Voicing your opinion in the workplace, in a respectful way of course, shows others that you’re genuinely invested in the company and confident in yourself and your role within the team.

Keep your ego in check

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: confidence is essential, and you should absolutely advocate for yourself in the workplace; however, be careful not to let confidence become arrogance. Be mindful of your expression, tone and body language and avoid talking over people or monopolizing conversations. Listen respectfully when it’s someone else’s turn in the spotlight, and, even if the subject matter isn’t exactly titillating, stay off your phone and focus on what’s being said.

Build your network

Dedicate time to developing (and maintaining!) a strong professional network. The more genuinely positive experiences you have with people, the stronger your reputation will be – so get out there and make some new connections! A good place to start is by checking out industry events in your area. From fancy galas and boat cruises to casual gatherings at a coffee shop or local pub, these events are a great opportunity to meet people in your industry and engage in conversation with other business professionals.

Be kind

Last but not least, just be kind. Do your darnedest to take a genuine interest in what your coworkers are saying. No, this doesn’t mean you need to dedicate hours of your life to endless small talk, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to remember the key details of your colleagues lives. It goes a long way to ask about Joe’s son’s piano recital or to inquire about the family vacation Lucy just got back from. Treat others fairly and with respect, give praise for a job well done, and say please and thank you – after all, doors open for nice people.

Final thoughts

Building an amazing workplace reputation takes time, energy and ongoing effort; it’s a process that you’ll never be finished fine-tuning, always finding new ways to improve as you navigate your professional career – and that’s kind of exciting. Wherever your career journey takes you, we’d be willing to bet you’ve got big things on the horizon.