A friend recently contacted me for advice on a new job search and when I asked why she was looking, she replied, “I really enjoy my role and co-workers, but I’ve made some poor decisions that have damaged my reputation, so I’m concerned I won’t be able to progress in this company.”
There are main two reasons professionals leave a job: 1) they’re running toward something (money, promotion, change), or 2) they’re running away from something (usually an untenable situation). Research shows that job seekers who make a change for the former reason tend to be more successful in their search.
In my friend’s case, she didn’t want to leave, but admittedly hadn’t set herself up as a high-potential with her internal network and believed her situation was too far gone to salvage.
Before bailing, consider these:
- Assess the damage. Often situations seem worse in our mind than in reality. Truthfully, most people are more concerned with their own performance rather than someone else’s, so what you may perceive to be a major screw up, might’ve been a minor hiccup. Find out before you freak out.
- Fix what you can. If you’ve made a tangible error, correct it. If you’ve damaged a relationship, own up and make amends. Taking responsibility is the first step to rebuilding your credibility.
- Take charge of your brand. Map out what you want to be “known for”, then make a list of actionable ways you can build that reputation. Show up early, master the new computer system, volunteer to lead a project, pitch in without being asked, avoid being the voice of negativity at meetings. Get specific and take initiative.
- Be patient. It’s unfair that a positive reputation takes years to build and sometimes only a moment to destroy. However, it takes a lot to completely damage a brand beyond repair. Time and consistency are your best friends in turning things around.
If the situation is truly beyond fixing, your best bet is to learn from the experience and start over. Resign in a professional manner by ensuring you tie up all loose ends, and find out who you can confidently include on your reference list. Then, from day one at your new organization, reliably demonstrate actions that align with the brand you want to be known for.