Why Character is more Important Than Reputation

At work, it would seem that your reputation is everything. The better liked you are, or the more people understand of your work habits, the more likely you are to find a higher level of success throughout your career. This is not always true though and it is a fairly complicated subject to understand.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

So Why Character?

Your reputation is going to be what people see up front. That is how they will know you. Your character will drive you in ways that will lead you to a specific reputation, but when difficult matters arise, your character is what is going to make the true choices. While you may have a reputation as someone that is able to work hard and meet goals, the defining moments of your career, the ones that only come around once in a great while, are going to be defined by your character.

For example, your reputation shows that you are friendly, able to handle difficult tasks and willing to do what it takes for your company. Then you are faced with a choice that is moral in nature. You are reliable, and your company knows that. They ask you to take a spur of the business trip that will keep you away for a week. Your daughter’s very first piano recital is in three days. She hasn’t stopped talking about it and you know how important it is to her that you show up. This is where your character will make the choice.

You will either worry more about your reputation at work, or you will simply make the choice that you know you should as a parent. This is a very simple example and one that has more moving parts than it would seem at first glance, but the fact remains that who you are at your core will betray your reputation at some point in your career.

How do You Show Your Character?

Reputation is the part of your character that you think people want to see. You will actually do things to try to increase your reputation by turning off that switch that makes you act based on who you are. Start making a change today. Focus on only acting based on your core principles. Your reputation will grow based on those actions. You may not always be willing to do what your employer needs, simply based on your need to be who you are, but your honesty and willingness to be yourself will pay off with the right employer.

It is a sad fact that your current employer may not appreciate who you are. If that is the case, look for an employer that will appreciate who you are. I have built a reputation with my clients as a freelance writer because they know how I will react to different issues that arise. My reputation does not matter to me. I work hard and I focus on ensuring my clients are pleased, but they also know my limits. I don’t know if I have earned or lost money because of this. I simply know that they see my character and that has driven my reputation. That reputation has also led me to clients I want to work for. 

A Personal Example to Illustrate the Point

A perfect example of this comes from when I first started writing. I worked on search engine optimization articles. This was back in the day where you just needed to cram certain words into an article. I had plenty of jobs that included instructions such as, “Write 500 words, use key word 8 times.” The first article I wrote was more than double the length the client wanted. It had to use the keywords correctly. The client came back to me and said they wanted 500 words with the keywords. I explained that the article would not make sense. The client replied that I should just write a sentence and shove the keywords in, it didn’t matter if the sentence made any sense.

I told the client I would not do the job that way, and eventually worked for a long while doing journalism with a focus on SEO, for a different client. Their only concern was that the articles had the keywords, the rest was up to me. I spent my time researching articles and writing something that would be meaningful and include the requested keywords. I wanted my readers (even if it was a ghost writing job) to actually gain something useful.

That, I have learned, is the difference in character and reputation. I chose to follow the instructions as requested. The only difference is that I did extra work, that really was not needed, to ensure that I was doing something I would be proud of. I did this in spite of the fact that I would earn no extra money. It was simply the right thing to do in my opinion. It was a longer, harder road, but one that let me sleep at night.

Do you base your choices off character or reputation? Have you faced a difficult choice that taught you this at some point in your career? Comment below and let us know what you think. Feel free to follow me for constant articles about success and leadership, as well as ways to increase your income.

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