5 Tips for Repairing a Damaged Reputation

Soldiers perform preventative maintenance checks and services on an M1165 A1 HMMWV. (Staff Sgt. Jason Proseus/U.S. Army photo)

As you build your post-military career, you're likely focused on your transferable skills, onboarding into your job and feeling settled in the private sector. What you may not be focused on is your reputation, and therein lies a potential problem.

Imagine these situations:

Scenario 1: You shared content on social media that at the time seemed funny, but it hurt people's perception of you. Now your reputation is not where you want it to be.

Scenario 2: You overheard some of your colleagues talking at work, describing you as an angry veteran. You worry about what you did to drive this impression. 

Scenario 3: You feel ready to be promoted; you have worked hard for it. But your boss is not aware of your goals to advance in the company. You aren't used to talking about yourself, and now you are being passed by for the promotion you want and feel ready for. 

Each of these scenarios reflects a real and serious reputation management issue. The words "reputation management" might sound daunting or scary, or something we don't need if we simply do good work. However, when we focus on managing our reputation and driving how we want others to perceive us, we can clearly and confidently move forward in our careers. 

Here are five things to do if your reputation has been tarnished:

1. Put Your Emotions in Check.

Separate what you feel about the situation from what is happening. How you feel matters, but too much emotion about what's occurring can cloud your judgment about what to do next.

2. Enlist Support.

To understand your circumstances clearly and make smart decisions, enlist help from a network of advisers, mentors, friends and colleagues who can give you objective input and guidance. Get the input of others you trust to decide how to proceed.

3. Strive to Understand.

Carefully examine your own accountability, what you can and can't control, and how best to move through your circumstances to repair your reputation. For example, it's tempting to think, "They're just being overly sensitive about my social media post. I didn't mean to offend," but if you did upset someone, strive to understand their feelings and how you can avoid repeating this behavior.

4. Apologize When You Need to.

If your words or actions were offensive, insensitive or inappropriate, an apology is warranted. Knowing whom to apologize to or make amends with can be tricky. Start with the person or people who've expressed their displeasure at what you shared. Apologize in person, whenever possible.

If need be, consider whether a public (or online) apology is also warranted. Consider this step carefully, and if you do share regret for your carelessness online, do so with as much authenticity as you can muster.

5. Seek Consistency, Not Perfection.

Going forward, look for ways to demonstrate your values consistently to gain credibility for what you want to be known.

Rebuilding your reputation takes time and necessitates consistency. If you're missing opportunities to grow in your work because you haven't articulated your career goals clearly, as in Scenario 3, be sure you say and show your boss that you are worthy of (and interested in) promotion. Consistent actions mean more than words, particularly when it comes to reputation repair.

Mistakes and missteps happen. Regardless of your intention, repairing your reputation is critical to ensure your future opportunities, and not your mistakes, will reflect your potential.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication, and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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