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“Perception is reality.” What does this mean to you professionally?

Let’s be clear, the way people view you and the work that you do is the legacy you will leave behind.  Every day as we interact with others both personally and professionally, we leave an impression.  As you go about the business of conducting your life people make judgments about your character, your appearance and your abilities.  Even your paper trail (i.e. resumes, credit reports and yes people…websites and web profiles) can lead someone to draw conclusions about who you are.

I like to remind myself of this phrase from time to time, as a reality check of sorts.  This phrase became painstakingly evident to me in my own job search.  I went through a long interview process which went well at each phase.  The company all but made an offer at the final interview and began to check my references shortly after.  I tried to subdue my excitement (and ignore my doubt) until I had an offer in hand, and low and behold there was a reason, I did not receive an offer.  What I did receive was a letter from the company explaining that they wouldn’t be making an offer based on information in my credit report. Needless to say, I was disappointed, mostly in myself for being in the position to be viewed in such a negative light.

There was a major lesson learned here!  No matter how many pep talks I received from dear friends telling me I was perfect for the job and it was their loss, at the end of the day, my character and integrity were called into question.  This company decided against me based on judgments they made as a result of the paper trail I left behind in my personal (financial) life.  The poor decisions I’ve made previously have had far reaching implications that I had to contend with.  I share this experience to educate about the importance of perception.

Remember that perception is indeed reality.  While you may think one way about yourself, others might perceive you to be quite different.  Most (if not all) of us deem ourselves good at what we do and highly capable.  I caution you, not only as a career development professional, but as a person who has learned the hard way. These days companies are using a variety of tools to determine your merit and if you would be an asset or a liability.  Be aware of how others perceive you.  I challenge each of you to conduct a perception is reality check.

23 replies to this post
  1. Great article! This addresses something that I think most people hope is not true… that a first impression (or any impression, really), in person or on paper, can be changed once someone gets to know you. As children we’re taught to “not judge a book by it’s cover,” but reality is that people tend to make snap judgments, both consciously and subconsciously.

    • Good point. After reading Lois Frankel’s “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” I’ve realized that a lot of the lessons we were taught as children have set women up for doom when it comes to our careers. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a perfect example of a childhood lesson that does NOT apply to the business world. And now that technology is advanced, our “cover” goes way deeper than what we wear and how we look, but also to things like our credit report.

      Thanks for commenting!


    • Thanks Nicole! Unfortunately, sometimes even if a person makes a good first impression (i.e. a good interview) their reputation or “perception” could send a very different message. I just hope more people become aware of their perception and make an effort to control it (i.e.personal branding). But if nothing more, I hope young people are careful and thoughtful about their web presence and their paper trails. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • i do observe to notice things in sorting way after went through the article which u newsed on website. My reed is really to read experienced set of phrases in real life.

  2. I can definitely relate to this article because the decisions I made with my credit when I was a college student definitely had an influence on a job denial. Unfortunately employers do judge a book by it’s cover and could you blame them ? I heard that more employers are checking facebook and myspace accounts prior to hiring to ensure that their new hire is who they say they are. A lesson can be learned from this article and that is perception is a reality for a lot of professionals and you may not get a second chance to make a first perception-impression. By the way, I love reading your blog at http://aspire2higher.wordpress.com because it is very positive and keeps me inspired.

    • Hey Antoinette!

      So glad you like reading the blog!

      Yes, employers DEFINITELY check social media accounts, Google you and check credit reports (I’ve had mine checked). My big question is, how can college/society prepare 18 year olds with this message before they graduate college and realize that all those free t-shirts and late payments may prevent them from getting the job they want after graduation? I’m not sure who this falls on, but I wish young adults knew more about the importance of a solid credit report.


      • Hi Nicole!

        Thanks for posting this article! Your question is a fair one, and it is part of my personal mission! Its tough for colleges/universities to teach these lessons as part of the curriculum that most of them have in place. Most of the time, the information and resources are there, but the message is lost on students who are so overwhelmed with school work and parental pressure to “get a job”, that they just don’t have time to seek out those resources.

        I am commited to teaching this and other L.I.F.E lessons. While I continue to be a university career counsleor, I am also working hard to improve my blog and write a few books that will teach these valuable lessons to students and young professionals.

        Thaks for the opportunity to start getting this message out!

      • Innately it is very positive and keeps me inspired through my day business i mean study, talking, perform other activities. I often read blogs of your this touch my heart, i speak to my friends they often come to me and listen a real life experienced specific phrase. Do web such blogs on website.

    • Hi Antoinette!

      Thanks for reading both blogs :-)

      I’m glad you could understand and relate to this article and I hope that you and others are now paying more attention to how our personal choices affect our professional lives and vice versa! While college should be fun, it is also where we SHOULD be learning some valuable lessons. Although, as they say, hindsight is twenty twenty…I suspect more people will make this connection after the fact. Maybe this article can prevent another young professional from experiencing this though!

  3. I think this article confronts a very important issue that many new and veteran job seekers face. This is a very small world we live in, so it is important to represent ourselves professionally and respectfully in all aspects of our lives. This is not to say, we can’t let loose once in a while and enjoy life, but be mindful of our decisions and the effects they may have.

    • Absolutely! As much as some may say a credit report is not a fair indicator of how you’d do on the job, as an employer I’d be very VERY concerned if someone never paid their bills on time or had a ridiculous amount of debt (outside of car, school and mortgage, that is). Money problems are very stressful and very emotional. Bringing that to work every day may affect job performance, and paying late and being impulsive also raises questions about how they would treat their deadlines and responsibilities at work.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)


      • “Credit reports ” i do greet it cos it declines motion of life space, As an absence of energy life slowly starting to rust and stop.

  4. Thank you for the article, good read. There is one item I’d like to point out, however. You state “Remember that perception is indeed reality.” and then go on to say “While you may think one way about yourself, others might perceive you to be quite different.”
    These two sentences contradict each other and prove that indeed, perception is NOT reality. That is, unless you add the caveat that everyone has their own reality.
    So many people use the phrase “perception is reality” without thinking about the meaning behind this as well as the ramifications. I hope you will think about this and maybe do a follow-up that better proves your point or, one in which you change your outlook on the subject.

    Thank you again – I really did enjoy the article –

  5. I know this article was posted a year ago, but people are still finding it on the Web and reading it, so I’ll make a post on this subject.

    Nearly seventeen years ago my wife an I had our first son. We were Opticians and we owned a small optical shop. Our son was born with Trisomy 13, which is a genetic disorder that is always fatal. Our son survived the birth and lived for 14 months. During that 14 months we spent a lot of time in the hospital and eventually had to let our business go. Medical expenses were staggering and with no income we nearly lost everything we owned.

    Because money was tight we had to prioritize our bills and pay just the essential items – power, mortgage, food, etc. Credit cards were important but not deemed essential. We contacted all of the CC companies to explain our situation and to look for a solution, but to no avail. Credit card companies do not negotiate at all, it’s either pay or don’t.

    Consequently, our perfect credit rating was shot. It took years for us to recover but at the time I was denied work because of my bad credit report. I became self-employed and did well with it. But the sting of being made to feel worthless because of a bad credit report, regardless of the reason, is burnt into my being.

    You can do everything right – make all your payments on time and have a A+ credit rating right up until a medical problem causes you to lose everything. Employers will never get to the point of learning the cause of your poor credit rating as your application or resume will be tossed into the round filing cabinet at the first sight of a negative mark on your credit report. And that’s just one hurdle you have to get over. Now with employers checking people’s social networking sites and personality tests getting a job has become a very difficult process.

    I can see it from the employer’s point of view to however, hiring the wrong person can cost you a lot of money. The cost to hire and train an employee is high. So you have to be careful and hire the “right” person so you can recoup that cost, least you have to go through the hiring process and expense again.

    I’m a web designer and I also own job boards throughout the Southeast. I’ve seen a new trend in hiring. Employers are hiring temporary workers through temp agencies. The employer pays the temp agency who pays the worker. This way the employer can find out if they and the employee will be a good match before committing to hiring them.

    This may even be a permanent arrangement where the employer sub-contracts out employees from the temp agency. This way they’re shielded from potential employment lawsuits and don’t lose an employee to vacation or maternity leave. The employer’s position is always filled as the temp agency just sends another person out to fill the void.

  6. Dear Stephanie,

    Wonderful thoughts and Inputs. I was just discussing the same with my friend today through your article reference.

    Keep Good Going Like this! All the best to your work.

  7. […] searching for future jobs and internship opportunities, I stumbled upon an excellent article from the blog Ms. Career Girl.  All of these years I have wondered why companies have not […]

  8. So I am kind of puzzled because you are saying how people are perceiving you and their perception but as the article state you thought you had the job but you didn’t. To me that was your perception which was flawed and your perception isn’t reality because for it to be reality it has to be real. Right? Or am I perceiving the article in correctly. Also, how is it perception when your credit was what kept you from getting the job so that wouldnt be perception that’s fact which is real which would be considered reality. Ijs but I could be wrong but then again it’s only my perception.

  9. I don’t think perception has a place in the work place for the simple fact gives those that are perceiving you or judging you a false since of reality. I shouldn’t be perceiving anything about any one because perception is only based on what that individual believes and not fact. For example, I can’t say Mary wouldn’t be a good fit for this assignment because a lot of ppl talk negative about her. That’s not reality that’s their perception or their reality which has no bases for nothing because they don’t have any facts and facts are reality or real and everything dealing with ppl should be factual not based on catty ppl who continue to cause other ppl issues because they are unhappy in their lives. Which in many cases isn’t perception but fact. Perception is only used by individual who has a false since of reality, lazy and those who fell to do the research and those ppl who fail to take the time to get to know ppl and meet ppl half way in many situations because we all have issues or situations in our lives that my cause to many of us to be off out game a day or two. Again, just my perception

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