How to repair your reputation—online and in life

swimming-catWe all have things in our past that we aren’t proud of. And if you’re just returning from that wild spring break trip, it might not be a bad idea to see what’s been posted to your social media accounts. So how to repair your reputation, in life and online, before your wayward deeds come back to haunt you? There are things you can do to clean up and fix how the world perceives you, whether it is with your friends and family, potential employers or future co-workers. Read on for ways to dispose of the things that could affect your reputation.

The fundamentals of reputation repair

You’ve done something wrong—posted a picture from a raging party you shouldn’t have, lied to someone you care about or even broken a law. There are steps you can take to repair your reputation, although you can’t erase the misdeed. Anita Bruzzese wrote “Make a mistake? You can repair your reputation” on February 2, 2011, for USAToday with five steps that might salvage the impression others have of you:

  1. Apologize.  Say you are sorry for whatever wrong you have done, and say it as quickly as possible.
  2. Ask for understanding. This is different than making excuses, you should simply state what happened and ask the injured party for their understanding.
  3. Never deny. It may be tempting to try and deny you are even responsible, but this never works. So be honest and forthright about your transgression from the beginning.
  4. Never repeat. If you have done steps 1 through 3 and then repeat your action, odds are your bad reputation will be set in stone.
  5. Seek redemption. Part of being sorry is meaning it and you can often demonstrate your sincerity through doing good in some other way.

Take it to the Web

The Internet is a fabulous thing—until it isn’t. The rise of social media and our online lifestyles has had unintended consequences when it comes to reputations. Minor transgressions, which could once be forgotten quickly, can now haunt you for years. But you can avoid damaging your reputation online or repair it when needed with the advice Allan Hoffman shares in “How to Clean Up Your Online Reputation” on Monster.com.

Start by searching for your name via Google, Yahoo or another search engine to see what is connected to you. After you have scoped out any potential hits to your character, start to repair your reputation by creating new content that will counterbalance the bad, like a blog or personal website. You can also ask the site to remove the information about you. Hoffman writes, “Explain your reasons for wanting the material removed and assume the owner of the site (or the owner’s representative) is reasonable and will listen. If the information is inaccurate, defamatory or libelous, point that out.”

And of course, keep your Facebook and other social media site content rated PG. Think of it this way, if you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, then it shouldn’t be online or you could pay for it down the road with an employer.

Correcting your career mistakes

Once you have found a job and are part of the work force, you still need to be concerned about your reputation. Unfortunately, one misstep can still derail your career. Should that happen, there are things you can do to get back on track. Miriam Salpeter offers some suggestions in “What You Need to Do to Fix a Damaged Reputation at Work” for U.S. News & World Report’s Money blog on April 17, 2013.

  1. Arrive early. This gives you a chance to prepare for the day. Plus Salpeter suggests “Don’t hesitate to occasionally take a walk around first thing in the morning so people know you’re a go-getter and get an early start.”
  2. Identify your priorities. This will help you keep your focus throughout the day. Not sure what’s important? Ask the boss.
  3. Do the work. Nothing beats showing your boss and co-workers that you have the right stuff to get the job done and done right.
  4. Stay positive. If you are feeling down or frustrated, don’t show it.
  5. Check the attitude. At work, just like in life, people will judge you by how you act. If you are giving off an attitude, others will notice and that will hurt you.

Online and in life, there may come a time when you will need to know how to repair your reputation. Hopefully you won’t, but it is better to know how to fix it should the need arise.

Are there things in your past you wish you could erase? What advice do you have for how to repair your reputation? Let us know in the comments below.

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