Your Reputation is Gold

Part three of Publications posts series discussing etiquette.  This series is intended to help students and new professionals navigate the social expectations of our profession and provide a few useful tips that can set you ahead of other job candidates.

Your reputation is gold so make sure you protect it!  Your reputation is essentially the currency that will carry you through your career so invest time and effort in to it to ensure it sparkles.  When colleagues and hiring managers have a high opinion of you then it not only feels good but leads to tangible benefits such as offers of better job placement or higher salary offers.  I have a reputation for working hard and I do work hard each day.  I pour 110% of myself in to the task in front of me and I always strive to provide quality results each time I work on a project.  I go above and beyond what is asked of me because I want to do a good job, provide quality results, and make a difference in my little corner of the world not only because it feels good (it does) but because it is the RIGHT thing to do.  I love my field and the work I do which inspires me to keep going.  I have worked hard to ensure that my reputation correctly reflects what I am like so that when I meet new people in our field, my reputation proceeds me, and we can skip some of the more basic questions to focus on other exciting topics.  I have been asked to participate in high profile projects on a national or international level in a variety of fields based on my reputation alone which has lead me to some incredibly fascinating work experiences and has provided a rapidly expanding skill set that I can use going forward.  There are several aspects of your professional reputation that you will need to nurture in order to be successful:  Your attitude, your accomplishments, and cultivating truly respectful friendships.

Your attitude is your calling card so make sure that you have a good attitude in professional situations.  I am not saying to pretend to be happy when you are not or to fake emotions that you are not feeling but enter each new experience with an open mind.  Although you may dread going in to an interview for a job that you might think is not your calling, look at it as a stepping stone to get the experience you need and you might find your niche while exploring the new opportunity.  Work hard and always give a task the best of your ability.  Volunteer for new projects to learn as much as you can.  Arrive at work with the mindset that you will do your best, learn as much as possible, and that you will find a way to be fulfilled and happy in your work.  I had a job in high school that I absolutely despised because it was boring and monotonous but I found a way to enjoy my time there and to learn from my surroundings.  I talked to the people I encountered and I worked on honing my social skills because I knew that was an area where I was weak.  It was awkward to begin with but I learned how to start a conversation and how to keep a lively conversation going when talking to a variety of people.  This was a great skill and lesson for me to learn that I have mined throughout my career.  “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou.  I always try to leave people with a good lasting impression of me by being kind, professional, and understanding.  It did not always work out the way that I hoped but I do think that I leave more positive behind me rather than negative feelings.  Feelings such as trust (walk the talk), admiration (be the good in the world), and peacefulness (no drama zone) resonate with the people that you work with and can be instilled through steady application of a good attitude.

Your accomplishments should complement your work experience.  If you want to work in a specific area of HIM then look for opportunities where you can demonstrate your mastery of a concept.  This may be writing an article, teaching a class, or volunteering in your community to ensure others benefit from your knowledge.  Look at advanced degrees, additional credentials, and certificate programs that can show your excellence in a specific domain area if you have the time (and/or funds) to enhance your resume.  Getting involved in projects where you can flex your HIM muscles, so to speak, also helps you find areas where you can shine and develop skillsets to improve your career.  I always envision myself as a building under construction.  I know what my foundational strengths are in my chosen fields so I focus on adding to my building to make it better.  This helps keep me humble too and understand that there is always something that I can work on and that my building will never be truly finished but that is something I work toward anyway because I know it benefits me (and others) to keep going with enthusiasm.  A good employer will want to work with you to help you grow and gain additional mastery of your chosen path so plan to use those yearly performance review to discuss ways to achieve your goals to not only help you but the organization that you work for as well.  A person who can accomplish many things is an attractive person to know and be around because it is inspiring to others and it enhances your reputation by showing others that you can do whatever you set your mind to do.

Cultivating positive friendships is important in life and business.  Many business magazines will point out that a well-placed rumor, misunderstanding, or negative event can ruin a good reputation.  I disagree with that because I think if you have created good relationships with others in the workplace and in the HIM industry then reputational harm is not something that should worry you.  Believe me when I say that there have been situations throughout my career that have given me quite a bit of heartburn.  The people who know me and I mean really know me understand that those rumors were ridiculous or that there was more to the story being told.  I make it a point to try to avoid gossip, I try not to judge other people, and I stand up for others to make it known that I don’t participate in that kind of talk.  We are human and it is incredibly difficult to not make snap judgments when information is passed on from someone we trust but I always remind myself that things may not always be what they seem so that I am not carried away by the tide of public opinion.  You never know the exact circumstance of someone’s life or mindset that motivate their actions and even if you do…that person is free to make decisions that impact their life without running commentary from outside sources.  I am not a very emotional person but I was in a meeting one time when I received a very disturbing phone call from a family member so I burst in to tears and had to pull my manager aside to request that I be allowed to leave the meeting early.  I left to attend to the family emergency and when I returned to work a few days later, I was greeted with a stony silence from my co-workers and outright rude comments.  I was so confused.  A trusted co-worker finally told me that one of the managers had tried to call my home to check on me after I left the office and they spoke with a family member (who had not been informed of the emergency yet) so they all assumed I had lied to get time off of work with the exception of a handful of people who knew I would never do such a thing.  The handful of friends had been telling everyone else in the office to stop the gossip and that they did not know the situation so it was wrong to judge.  A good friend will ask if you are okay before they ask what happened, they will be more concerned about your well-being than gathering information, a friend will build you up (and others) rather than tearing down, they will stand-up for you even when they don’t know all of the details, and they will not press you to share details if you don’t want to talk about something.  Be a good friend to others that you know and those that you don’t know yet by refusing to participate in that kind of interaction.  It reflects worse on the person delivering the bad information than it does the person they are gossiping about anyway so protect your reputation (and the reputation of others) by not standing for it.

“In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current” —Thomas Jefferson.  I love this quote because it could be the caption for my career.  When the conversation was important, the issue at hand was a matter of ethics/morals/values, or the situation was dire then I stood like a rock with what I believed to be right and let nothing sway me.  In other matters, I was flexible if the outcome was not something important.  Your reputation is important – not because it matters what other people think of you but because you have enough belief and pride in yourself to put forth the very best you have to offer in everything that you do.  This is how people will think of you and it will be the lasting impression associated with your name.  Why not make it as fantastic as possible and increase your market value at the same time?

Author: Pamela J. Lail, MHA, RHIA, CHDA, PMP, FAHIMA
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