Your reputation is built on a never-ending series of choices that you make every day. And in today’s transparent and frenetic organizations, your choices are seen by more of your colleagues, and faster than ever before.
There are a number of reasons to attend industry association events
And identifying talent is just one of them, as Chief Executive Officer of the Northeast Human Resources Association, Tracy Burns, knows firsthand.
“It is very clear to me that the key differentiator for professional success today is building relationships with colleagues you meet through industry associations,” says Tracy. “I have seen dozens of highly-qualified human resources professionals who don’t know what is going on in the industry, don’t stay current on best practices, and, quite frankly, don’t know their colleagues.
Even another reason networking while employed and performance appraisals are becoming increasingly ineffective is the explosive growth in professional transparency. As recently as seven years ago, unless the subject of your search was your favorite movie star, rock star, or politician, your ability to find details about another individual was challenging. This was not due to your faulty research skills – information about an average individual simply did not exist publicly. In fact, information about others was so absent in the not-too-distant past, the thought of seeking out personal or professional details regarding another person would not have even occurred to you.
The nexus of the growth in the ways that you can share information about yourself and the number of opinions that can be developed about you is exploding. While you are working your life away in Dubuque, Iowa, a colleague from another city is reading a blog you wrote. While you are snoring away in Jakarta, India, someone in another time zone is taking a peek at your Facebook page. While you’re stuck in another late night meeting in Paris, France, wondering, “What am I doing here?” a recruiter is starting his day by reading your LinkedIn profile.
Unless you are Superman or Superwoman, you cannot be everywhere at once. In your absence, at some point during the day, someone is thinking and speaking about you. Perhaps you finished a presentation and a few of your colleagues stayed behind to chat about next steps. In the midst of that conversation, comments about you surfaced. Perhaps a group of senior executives is discussing candidates to fill a key vacancy in the organization and you are one of those candidates. Perhaps you are on your way to get a cup of coffee and you hear colleagues speaking about you in a conference room. This “echo” of you that exists in the thoughts and words of your colleagues is your reputation.
You may be wondering, “Can I choose my reputation or is my reputation chosen for me by others?” More on that soon.
When you work to raise your visibility in your industry, many of you may feel you are at risk of creating an impression with your boss that you are looking for a new job opportunity. Many industry events are advertised as networking events where you meet colleagues from within your industry. Your boss may feel that you will meet a new colleague who will lure you away to a new opportunity with promises of wealth and fame.
The best way to minimize this perception is to always be engaging with industry associations, not just when you urgently need to do so. What is the impact of engaging with an industry association proactively versus reactively? In the early stages of the banking crisis that reached its peak in 2009, an area of interest for banking regulators was a financial institution’s record retention program, and specifically, the bank’s strategy for shredding information. If the financial institution had a long-standing record retention program which included a shredding schedule (proactive), the bank regulators applauded them. If the financial institution did not have a records retention program and suddenly began shredding information upon the arrival of the regulators (reactive), the regulators eviscerated them.
What lesson can you apply to your participation in industry associations? If you are a recurring member of your industry, your attendance at an industry conference or your participation at an industry meeting will not raise suspicion. But, if you suddenly start to participate at industry meetings, your boss will become suspicious. By always participating, you do not create distracting or unfounded suspicions.
Another example of proactive versus reactive behavior exists within LinkedIn. Nothing will arouse the suspicion of your boss faster than a sudden increase in your frequency of updating your LinkedIn profile (even if you turn off the public notification functionality). Had you always had an updated profile (proactive), your updates would seem like a natural and recurring behavior. A sudden surge in updates on your LinkedIn profile due to being passed over for a promotion (reactive) will draw suspicion faster than a cat with a mouth full of feathers standing next to an empty birdcage.