While it seems like the hard work should be over once you land a job, your future career depends on how well you maintain and manage your reputation as a reliable, competent employee. Getting started at a new job can be tough, and sometimes, you'll make a misstep that has the potential to derail your path. Your reputation is one of your most important assets, so don't let a mistake at work interfere with your dreams.
If you need a career turnaround, follow these tips from Emily Bennington, author of "Effective Immediately" and "Who Says It's a Man's World," to repair your damaged reputation and get back on track at work.
1. Get to work early. Bennington notes: "Most colleagues aren't around to see who stays late, but it's hard to miss the employee who shows the initiative to come early."
Not only can you make a good impression, but getting to work early eliminates any need to rush to set yourself up for the day. When you come into a quiet office—before your boss, ideally—you'll have a chance to plan for a successful and productive day. 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. (You may be surprised by the impression it leaves.)
2. Write down your priorities. "Keep a notebook and write down your top five priorities each morning or, ideally, the night before," Bennington suggests.
Often, workplaces are so hectic, no one seems to identify priorities. If you make a point to focus on what is most important, it can make a difference in how well you do your job and how people view you at work. If you aren't sure what's most important, be sure to check in with your boss. Bennington says, "Ask, 'what's on the agenda for today? How can I help you?'"
3. Do the work. If you've let down your guard and earned a reputation as someone who is less focused, one of the best things you can do is put your head down and focus. "Keep track of the details and be alert for things your supervisor is likely to ask for next," Bennington says. "When possible, try to deliver on those things too. If someone asks you to collect information to help plan an event, don't just provide the information; take the next, logical step. For example, if you're collecting a list of places to visit, call ahead and check on availability and prices, too. Make a point to think about the next step and try to fulfill expectations, even before someone asks you for something."
When you do, you'll appear very savvy and more likely to become a go-to person for important projects.
4. Stay positive. Never let people know when you're frustrated. Bennington advises, "Ask questions to clarify anything you don't understand, but stay positive. When reputations get damaged at work—it's usually the result of poor communication. If your idea is adopted but you've lost credibility with colleagues, you may have achieved a short-term win, but it's definitely a long-term loss."
5. Keep a check on your attitude. Expect colleagues to judge you based on how you act. Bennington says, "Run your behavior through this filter multiple times each day. Literally stop and ask yourself, 'How's my attitude right now?'" She also suggests asking yourself, "Am I showing initiative? Am I being as productive as possible?"
Don't beat yourself up too much if you make some early mistakes at work, but recognize it's up to you to rectify the situation. Your behavior and attitude directly impact what people think of you as a colleague, which will either hurt or help you when it's time to go for a promotion or find a new opportunity.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.