Reputation Management Insight From Ancient Philosophers

Keeping your career on target gets a lift from centuries-old guidance

True wisdom is timeless. Though society has evolved and technology has emerged more complex than ever, some of today’s best advice comes from ancient philosophers, from Plato to Cicero and beyond. They probably wouldn’t understand what your job entails, but they have some damn good ideas on how you could do it better.

When reflecting on reputation management — and keeping your career on target — we believe their sage advice is some of the most profound. So, we’re throwing back to centuries past to offer you age-old guidance from the ancient philosophers.

“Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become.”

Heraclitus, 535 — 475 BCE

Every single day, you have an opportunity to be the person and professional you want to be. In Heraclitus’ guidance, we find a reminder that we become not only what we think of ourselves, but what others think of us, by our thoughts, our decisions and our actions. In essence, small details make up the whole of our professional reputation.

In the workplace, we’re scrutinized in our performance reviews, project critiques and deal-making success. If we consistently allow the small details of our performance to affect a greater perspective on our reputation, then it’s not just that decision (or action or thought) being judged — it’s our entire character.

Remembering to take into account how everything we do throughout the day builds who we are — and how people define us — will help you uphold a solid reputation based on trustworthiness and integrity.

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”

– Epictetus, 55 — 135 AD

Nearly everyone has gone through a time in life where they heard their parents (or someone else close to them) judge who they’re surrounding themselves with socially. And maybe those judgments were justified! (Let’s be honest. We’ve all had “that” friend.) But as we grow up, and better understand who we are as people, we can choose to surround ourselves with professionals we aspire to be like and friends and peers who are a positive influence in our lives.

In this guidance from Epictetus, we’re reminded that we should seek more than to connect with those we keep company with — and should choose companions who actually help us to be the best person and professional we can be. Even the company you work for can reflect the positive or negative qualities you call forth. We all have our less-redeeming sides: laziness, jealousy, disorganization, etc. So, being our best requires us to improve these qualities — and one of the best ways to do so is making sure who and what you surround yourself with helps bring this out of you, rather than bringing you down.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Pericles, 495 — 425 BCE

The lasting impact you make on people isn’t necessarily that killer deal you landed (though it sure can help your career). Even if you have a wealth of accolades and awards to your name, none of that matters if the detail people really take away about you is that you’re a complete jerk. Pericles reminds us that our reputation management is about more than achieving a lofty status or high-earning career. The integrity of our character and how we affect others’ lives truly defines what people think of us long after we’re gone.

When deep into a project or the corporate ladder, we can easily get tunnel vision and only focus on the goal or moment at hand, forgetting about that long-term reputation. Sure, gossiping in the break room may help you let off steam, but make it a regular habit and people will remember this negative detail about you, even if you leave the company.

By looking to the future, and envisioning what’s the true takeaway you want people to have about your character, you’ll help to set career ambitions and actions that support the lasting impact you want to make.

Reputation management is a daily, ongoing job.

Remembering to look at the small details of who we are in relation to the bigger ones — and the full picture that’s emerging — can ensure you’re a professional who adds value and people want to have around. And more importantly, you’ll make sure you’re actually becoming the professional and person you want to be in life.

What quotes from ancient philosophers inspire your career? Follow Bullit on Twitter and tweet us your favorites with #careerinsight. Learn more about how our reputation revolution can help you keep your career on target.

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