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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.