Why Your Professional Reputation Matters from Day One
When I was recruiting for a short term administrative assistant position about a year ago, I got a resume and application from a gal who worked at a small animation studio (we’ll call “Company X”) where I had a longtime friend who is a Producer. According to her resume, this candidate who I will call Jane, had worked as an Associate Producer at Company X. I called my Producer friend (who is still at Company X) and asked if she’d ever heard of Jane. Her response was, “Run. Run far away. She’s crazy. Like, literally, crazy.” And that was it. Jane was out of the running. Nevermind the fact that it was suspicious that she had applied for a short term entry level role, when she had supervisor and Associate Producer titles on her resume.
Three weeks later, after that short term role had been filled, Jane reached out to me again (though I’d never contacted her about the job) to ask if the opening was still available. By my Producer friend’s response, and Jane’s eagerness for an entry level job, I could tell Jane had probably burned a few bridges in her professional career; so much so, that she was having a hard time finding work. In a matter of a few years, her reputation (by her own lack of work ethic) had pushed her out of her desired industry. I tell this story to demonstrate why your reputation matters from day one in the ‘real world’, or even before, “day one” if you count internships!
I have heard similar stories throughout the years, from friends at all different career stages. Someone looses his temper on a film set, and the next day- he’s kicked off of the job and can’t find work for a year. As a Producer. Recently, I connected a student to a hiring manager at a firm he really wanted to work with. He was offered a job, but turned it down because he got some bad advice, and hadn’t done his research on what to expect in an entry level job. Once he’d realized his mistake, he tried to reach out to the hiring manager again to ask about a job opening, but he was basically told, “We are fully staffed,” which is often code for, “You blew it. We’re not interested any more.” Of course, this is not ALWAYS the case, sometimes they are fully staffed. But when you’ve made a wrong turn in the relationship already, chances are they’re trying to subtly tell you that that fragile bridge that you’d started to build is now gone.
Obviously, I’m going to take all the advice I hear about anyone with a grain of salt. But when a friend and colleague who is in the same industry, who I have worked with numerous times over a 15 year period, and who I trust absolutely, tells me, “She’s crazy,” that’s all the proof I need. Gaining friends and industry contacts over time is another great benefit of long-term networking (see following articles on networking and how to do it well).
Some people are less forgiving than others. They may judge you only based on hearsay. That’s why it’s best to keep your reputation as clean and honest as possible. Then, even if someone hears something negative about you from one individual, all the other positive feedback from the other sources will let the inquiring manager know that the one negative comment is a fluke, instead of the norm.