The pace of your reputation

As I transitioned from Atlanta-based freelancer to New York based freelancer-slash-Domino-Project-accomplice, I noticed my profile growing. From emails to tweets to comments made in person by new acquaintances, people uniformly considered me to be cooler than I was. It was great.

It also became apparent that I could capitalize on the attention to grow my profile at an even greater pace if desired. I was working for one of my heroes, after all! Seth-freaking-Godin! But I decided that I wanted to let my actual accomplishments speak for me rather than the fact that I had been picked.

Well. That’s part of it.

It was a conscious decision, yes, but not one that was solely rooted in modesty: I’m something of an introvert. Not a good one, mind you, as I enjoy and am comfortable with being on stage (literally and figuratively). But an introvert nonetheless, and I have a tendency to downplay things.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly noble about this, and there are certainly cases where unnecessary modesty can be a hinderance to progress. [Particularly in the case of first impressions in a business networking context, quickly demonstrating relevant value can mean the difference between winning a contract or just meeting another person whose name you instantly forgot.]

A friend of mine expressed some regret in not capitalizing on the attention thrust upon he and his wife when they received some national press for winning a contest. Had they jumped head first into the attention with the proper strategy, it probably would have changed their lives. There’s nothing wrong with a little celebrity.

On the other end of the spectrum is people who grow their profile aggressively.

Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but there are certainly ways to get it wrong. I’ve seen this a lot in New York where ambitious acquaintances would leave a trail of bruised feelings in their wake when friends felt used or stepped on/over or outgrown as the next level of success was reached. Not pretty.

I don’t think it’s practical to maintain close personal relationships with everyone you consider a friend, and I also think outgrowing some relationships is a sign of growth. But you do have to remain mindful of how your decisions impact your relationships and reputation, even if your position is indifference.

So again, this isn’t so much a right vs. wrong consideration so much as a series of decisions wherein the methods and motivation matter greatly.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.

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