Know what’s wrong with your professional reputation? Check these tips to be sure.

You pay your bills on time. You stay informed and you vote. You eat right and exercise regularly. But, are you really keeping up with your professional reputation? Pump up your reputation skills and volume by taking a quick look at these six timely tips.

“My career is in the toilet! I didn’t get that promotion, and I know I was really right for it. I know I’m good, but no one else knows it. I feel stuck. If only I could improve my professional reputation!”

Enhancing your professional reputation isn’t all that difficult. It takes real effort, and a little time, but it is doable. Just follow these suggestions, and force yourself to stretch a bit outside your comfort zone.

Be a Boy/Girl Scout. Be prepared and have your act together for every situation. Have a person’s cell number to call in case you’re delayed along the way to meeting them. Better yet, ensure your gas gauge is full and that you leave well enough in advance to allow for routine traffic delays. Always carry paper, pen and extra business cards. Check LinkedIn or websites for background information on the people you’re going to meet. Doing your homework will set you apart from others and leave a great impression.

Elevator phrase. Come up with a memorable one- or two-phrase description of what you do and who you are. Make them short enough to be delivered in a quick elevator ride. Strip out any industry lingo, which might be confusing to those unfamiliar with what you do. Practice these phrases in the mirror until they become second nature. When making your introduction, lock eyes with the person you’re meeting. And, be ready to describe examples of your work when given the opportunity.

Network. Enhance your personal brand by joining organizations or attending events where you have the opportunity to mix with other business professionals. Face-to-face interaction is one of the best opportunities for you to tell your professional story and develop relationships with others. Go a step further and volunteer your time. Take on assignments and do them well. This way, people will experience your skills and tell others about how great it is to work with you. In addition to joining with others for a common good, the experience will help demonstrate that you’re a take-charge person who gets things done.

Follow up. When you network, practice your follow-up and listening skills. Be the person who takes notes on business cards received about commitments you make, such as making an introduction, sending an article, providing information about an event, etc. Then, follow up when you say you will. Two more keys to successful networking are to ask questions and actively listen. Find out how you can assist the other person with his or her needs. By doing people a favor, you’re demonstrating your resourcefulness and that you’re a person in the know. Really listen to the other person; then, ask clarifying questions. An active listener learns about others and finds areas of commonality, both of which are key in developing relationships.

Publish. Become an active contributor to LinkedIn and other professional sites, where you have an opportunity to express your opinion and illustrate your experience with business issues. Also consider writing articles for professional journals or contributing your views to community newspapers and magazines. Remember to provide informative material, not promotional, and keep your information relevant to each publication’s readers. Once you’re published, share links to the articles with business colleagues and friends.

Speak. Look for opportunities to share your knowledge and expertise at professional conferences, business meetings and community events. Doing so will position you as a seasoned thought leader who’s contributing information for the benefit of others.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.