The Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career

June 28, 2012

Regardless of who you are or how high up you are in the corporate hierarchy, if you make a big enough mistake, then you could be fired. Worse, you might actually ruin your career. In his book “The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career,” Chris Komisarjevsky, former CEO of Burson-Marstellar, offers an action plan for strengthening your most important asset.

Why should professionals treat reputation as an asset?

My view is that, in every facet of our lives — personal and professional — reputation is one of our most treasured and powerful assets. And I use the word “asset” intentionally, because reputation, like any asset, has exchange value.

I look on reputation as an asset from two perspectives.

First, we own our reputation and it is extraordinarily important to our careers and our success. How we behave and, in turn, what we do, become career assets. All of that is under our own control. In short, we are responsible for the views that others have of us and those views make a difference to our own career success. Since we own our reputation and can do something about it, it has value. It is an asset.

Second, as an asset, reputation has exchange value, much like any currency. We may not be using cash or bartering, but we engage in active exchanges based on the value of our reputation. If our reputation is strong and positive, we are able to attract business, gain support for our initiatives and ideas, earn that promotion or get that coveted new position. However, if our reputation is weak or negative, none of that happens.

Quite frankly, your reputation is the asset that will make or break your career.

What are a few key steps to ensure that our reputation endures all of the ups and downs that occur during a career?

In my view, there are three: First, be sure to have a strong set of values that underlie your actions. Your reputation is an outward expression of your values: how you live them and how you project them to others in what you do, how you do it and why you do what you do.

Second, regardless of if you are riding success or are on the brink of a problem, think through every decision and every word you use from the perspective of your key values. Ask yourself, “If I were in danger of losing my job, what values would I not sacrifice even if it meant that I were to lose my job?”

And third, don’t only focus on “what” you plan to do in tough situations, but ask yourself “why” you decide to do what you do. The “why” can be more telling than the “what.” Most often, the “why” dictates “what” you do. Look hard at your motives.

Why is saying “I am sorry” such a daunting task for some professionals?

If those words are used to show compassion for others, they flow rather easily, but when it comes to recognizing or admitting your own shortcomings, they make many people gag.

Why is it so hard to say “I am sorry”? I guess it is probably because that kind of admission means a public acknowledgment that you have made a mistake and, in some ways, failed to live up to your own expectations and those of others, especially those who trusted you. That can be hard to take.

But the fact is, an apology can be among the most powerful statements you can make. It can be disarming, candid and full of character and maturity. Especially in our culture, people are very willing and eager to forgive … but only if they see and feel remorse. The fact is that we all make mistakes. We are human.

Some may see it as a risk. But I don’t. If we have done something wrong, we need to acknowledge our role, accept our responsibility, do what is needed and move on.

Mistakes are meant to be corrected, not ignored or disregarded. — John Elsasser


Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

I know I sound like a broken record in my public relations classes at Curry College, but I emphasize the value and importance of reputation from Day One. Conduct yourself and your business according to the highest moral and ethical standards and, if you DO do something either YOU or your publics know is wrong, say so. You can't hide from the facts; you can't run from the truth.

July 19, 2012

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