Networking: Use It or Lose It


How many times have you found a business card in your purse or on your dresser only to wonder who the person is, where you met him and what you discussed? That’s not a connection, that’s scrap paper. Or a book mark.

Don’t be a collector! Make good use of those contacts by building relationships right away. First, think quality, not quantity. There is no rule that says you have to ask for a business card from everyone you

Image by Imagerymajestic

Image by Imagerymajestic

encounter. You could meet quite a few people in a week—or even in a day (think conferences)—and you can’t be expected to remember all the details of the conversations you have. Instead, make notes on the back of business cards to jog your memory later. For instance, if you met a web designer, you might note:

Met at lunch on 1st day of conference, builds websites. Introduce to Tim.

(Tim is your friend who needs a web page for his new business.)

A couple of times a week, or daily if you have a fistful of business cards, take time to contact your new acquaintances in one of the following ways.


Social Media

Send an email asking if it’s okay to connect via social media. You can also ask this question when you first meet. Since most people are seeking to expand their network it is doubtful anyone would decline. Depending on the circumstance, determine if the best site is Linkedin, Twitter or, if it was a really personal connection, Facebook. Just a couple of weeks ago I invited several recruiters I’d met at career fairs out for dinner. We’d already connected on Linkedin but after our evening out some of us also became friends on Facebook.

Look them up on Linkedin as soon as you can. Don’t wait too long or you might forget significant details. Once you are accepted, transfer the note from the back of the business card to the note under the Relationship tab along with any other important details. Hopefully it won’t be long before you speak again but, just in case, this step will be a big help.

Do not use the generic invitation: I’d like to add you to my network. Not only is that a yawn of a message, you miss an opportunity to restate who you are. Not to mention, many people refuse to accept anyone who won’t take 30 seconds to write a professional note. This means you will need to use your computer rather than your mobile device to reach out. Identify where you met and, possibly, what you discussed, along with the reason you want to add them to your network. A student might send me a message that says:

“Thanks for speaking to our Professional Development class this week. I was the guy in ROTC who spoke to you after class. I’d really like to go into the sales field and I’m interested in the Management Trainee program you mentioned. Is it okay to keep in touch?”


Support Your New Connection

Set up a time for a cup of coffee or lunch in the coming weeks. I would suggest coffee (or smoothies for non-coffee drinkers) because a half hour meeting is much easier to agree to than an hour. If that meeting lasts longer, great. Something’s clicking. Use this time to discover other ways you might be able to be useful.

Check out their blog or Youtube channel, then follow and make comments on posts. Help them reach a larger audience by sharing their blog with your network: Pinterest, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, etc. For bloggers and vloggers an increase in hits is reason to celebrate!

Introduce them to others in your network that might be an asset using email, social media or a good old-fashioned phone call.

Terry, I want to introduce you to Gail. You mentioned the need for an event planner and she has been in that business for 10 years. I hope she can help you out.”

If you were invited to another event, try to attend. Afterward, reciprocate if you can. Extend an invitation to your organization where you discovered there was a common interest. This is what I did with the people I mentioned in the first post in this series who I invited to my writing group.

Perhaps you met the facilitator or presenter at a workshop. Write a recommendation. No matter how skilled someone is in their profession, encouragement is always welcome. Make sure you have someone proofread it then send it via Linkedin.


Offer to Help With a Problem

Send an article you think might be of interest based on your conversation, not random topics you find appealing.

“Sarah, I remembered we talked about investments at the luncheon last week and I came across this article that I think might answer the question you had about making a budget. Hope you find it helpful!”

Did you meet a business owner or salesperson? Send a referral. Remember the web designer from earlier? Put her in touch with your buddy Tim. On a personal note, recruiters always love it when we receive potential candidates. This could even be the message you send.

“I enjoyed our conversation after your presentation at the Sales Center. I applied for the Account Representative position as you recommended and I also referred a friend of mine. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles


Thank You

Finally, remember everyone appreciates a Thank You note. I write one after every speaking engagement which tends to lead to more opportunities.

“Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your class. I always welcome the chance to share tips with students to make the transition from college to the workplace easier. I hope they found the information I shared beneficial.”

Decide which of these suggestions you’d like to implement first then allow your new connection to reciprocate or respond. You don’t want to be a stalker. If you reach out too much, too soon you might come across as desperate or annoying rather than engaging. After a reasonable amount of time, perhaps at 60 days and again at 6 months, choose another way to reach out to keep the connection strong.

Developing a lasting connection takes time, but can be well worth the effort for everyone involved.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!


Images courtesy of



Networking: The Conversation

This is the time of year when many colleges are hosting events that will provide an opportunity to network, including career fairs, panel discussions or actual networking events. For those who are not in school, many cities have network-after-work events, workshops or conferences you might attend. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you make the most of these opportunities.

  1. Know your audience. You might ask an employer a different question than a fellow student.Photo by Ambro
  2. Be tactful and professional. Last year at a holiday event I was having a conversation with a couple of people when a business owner, bent on getting a client, interrupted us, ignored me (which is not easy when I’m nearly 6’ tall) and launched into her spiel. Several minutes later she finally looked at me and said something by way greeting. (Can’t remember what, I was making a mental note to mention her in this blog.)
  3. Listen more than you talk and ask follow up questions. When you do speak try to weave in some things that will make you memorable. Perhaps your sister attended the same college as the person you’re speaking with. Maybe he’s a Raven’s fan—tough to find in Bengals’ country—and so are you. You might realize someone’s last name sounds familiar and discover her dad was your softball coach in high school.
  4. Share a little bit about yourself. This is a good place to use some of the components of your elevator pitch (what is unique about you, what you can contribute to an organization, what you know about the company) or to answer some of the questions you’ve memorized (see below). You might also talk about hobbies and non-work-related interests. Think dinner party/get together, not just professional events. I received some great advice about being published from a friend of my sister’s at a get-together, and afterward added that person as a Linkedin connection.
  5. Start with small talk. This might include weather, information about speakers scheduled for that evening, the event itself, sports (unless you are or you encounter a fanatic), news items, latest movies. This will help break the ice before you ask more in-depth questions, but avoid controversial topics if possible.
  6. Move into open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. When you walk away you want to have useful information. If you’ll be seeking work soon, make sure you know if their organization is hiring. If you need clients you should know if they have need of your services.


When you approach someone, shake their hand, look them in the eye and introduce yourself. Below are some questions you might ask or might be asked of you at a college networking event such as a reception with potential employers. 

College Event

  • What made you choose _____ University? When will you graduate?
  • What’s your major? Why did you choose that?
  • What do you love/enjoy most about your major?
  • If someone were to describe your school in one sentence what would he say?
  • How did you end up in this area (city)?
  • What organizations are you involved with on campus?
  • What was the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your organization? (e.g. sorority, fraternity, sports team or club, etc.)
  • What were you involved in while in college?
  • Do you have any hobbies or involvement outside of work?
  • Is your organization open to partnering with student groups for service projects?

The conversation might be a little bit different at a professional networking event, but these questions can also be asked of potential employers who are visiting your university.

Image by AmbroProfessional/Work Event

  • Where did you go to college?
  • How long have you been with your organization?
  • What attracted you to your organization?
  • What advice would you give me if I want to be successful in your line of work?
  • What do you love/enjoy most about what you do?
  • What separates your company from the competition?
  • What made you decide to attend tonight?
  • What do you see as the coming trends in your profession/area of expertise?
  • If someone were to describe your business/company in one sentence what would he say?
  • What would make someone the ideal employee for your company or organization?

Other Events

  • What do you do for a living?
  • How did you hear about this event?
  • Did you get a chance to go to (insert name of local event) this past weekend?
  • What made you decide to attend tonight?
  • Did you catch the game last week?

Here is an example of a conversation that might take place between a student and a potential employer after the initial greeting or introduction:

Student: Thanks for coming tonight. (Reads name tag. Sounding enthused because she did a little homework before the event.) Oh, you’re with the World Helpers Foundation. I just read an article about your record-breaking year.

Employer: Yes. We’re really excited about that, especially with the economic challenges.

Student: I’ve always enjoyed philanthropy and fund-raising. In fact, I’m the President of my sorority and we recently exceeded our goal for cancer awareness by 40%.

Employer: That’s wonderful. How did you do that?

Student: I felt like we’ve underutilized social media in the past. This year we made sure we put the word out about our event early through Facebook and Twitter, then on our webpage we highlighted cancer survivors that were close to our members.

Employer: What a great idea!

Student: Thank you. What’s your role at WHF?

Employer: I’m the Senior Director of Partner Relationships. In a nutshell, I’m responsible for relationships and recruitment.

Student: That sounds interesting. What do you like best about your career?

Employer: Working with people toward a worthy cause. It’s challenging but I get to be creative and I like seeing the results of all my hard work.

Student: I feel the same way when I’m planning events. What kind of advice would you give me that would help me to eventually get into a role like yours?

Employer: Well, you’ve already got a great start! You have to be comfortable talking to people and leading teams and it seems like you’ve done that fairly well with your fraternity.

Student: Thanks! Do you ever have any entry-level opportunities or might you be able to recommend some other organizations?

Employer: As a matter of fact, we usually have some opportunities at WHF.

Student: Well, I would definitely be interested. Would it be okay for me to keep in touch with you?

Employer: Absolutely. (Hands over business card)

Student: (Shakes hand and thanks the employer before moving on.)

Well done! After all your hard work, you don’t want to lose contact with the great people you’ve met so come back next time for tips on how to strengthen your new relationship.

See you next time!

The Daily Business of Networking

In my last post I noted networking events can sometimes feel awkward. The good news is, they are not the only venue. In fact, they aren’t even where I do most of my networking.

Image by winnond

Image by winnond

Believe it or not, you have numerous chances to network—at the gym, work, school, happy hour, parties, baseball games, church, organizations, reunions. Are you getting the picture? It happens every day. Since that’s the case it’s in your best interest to learn to maximize every opportunity, but also to know when to relax. Think about the past week. Can you remember a few opportunities where you could have made a connection?

A couple of weeks ago, not only did I meet the recruiters I mentioned in the last post, I also attended a breakfast that Saturday and exchanged information with an attendee who is also interested in writing—so of course I invited her to our group.

Recently I had lunch with a friend I met while serving on an advisory board to do some fact-finding for a novel. She introduced me to a local sports agent she knew that we bumped into as we were leaving. We chatted for a few minutes about sports and his role as an agent—I even mentioned an applicant I’d spoken with who was seeking a professional basketball career. Because I come across several Sports Management majors, as well as athletes, we exchanged information and he told me they were seeking an intern. Should I come across anyone interested in that field I will definitely make the referral. Not to mention, if I ever add a sports agent to a manuscript he’d be a great resource. The friend, by the way, has invited me to sit on the board of her non-profit.

Two years ago at a United Way appreciation dinner I met a colleague’s wife who happens to be a trademark lawyer. At the time I was working to trademark a tag line for future publications. We struck up a conversation and she answered questions I didn’t even realize I had. Later, when a company informed me they wanted to publish my novel I was able to reach out to my new contact to get a recommendation for an entertainment lawyer.

That being said, remember to use some discernment. Be careful not to pry. Learn to “read” the person with whom you are speaking. If their eyes are glazing over, wrap it up! As I mentioned, I am one of those people who never met a stranger, but if the person you strike up a conversation with doesn’t contribute they are shouting (silently, of course), “I’d like to remain a stranger, please.”.

When should you network? When it’s appropriate. If you gain a friend but not a client you’ve still expanded your network. What you can get or gain shouldn’t be the first thing on your mind even at a formal networking event. Think, instead, about what you are bringing to the table.

Image courtesy of stockimages

Image courtesy of stockimages

For example, while I love being a recruiter, when I’m out with friends the last thing I want is for someone to ask me to review their resume. And we recruiters get that question a lot. Just as my husband, an IT professional, gets the, ‘My computer isn’t working, can you take a look at it?’ question far more often than he’d like. I’m sure I have been guilty of violating this advice. In the example above, however, the person offered information when I mentioned my tag line which, after some questions about her career, led me to believe she wouldn’t mind a question or two. The fact that she gave me her business card backed that up. Again, discernment is key. If the person who is a chef says, “Oh I just love to cook any chance I get,” it’s probably okay to talk recipes.

Think about your skills, talents and abilities. What have been some of your biggest and best accomplishments? What have you learned from your mistakes? Who is in your network that could use an assist? This is what you can share. The next time you find yourself speaking with someone new think about how you might pour into their life.

Image by Witthaya Phonsawat

Image by Witthaya Phonsawat

Your roommate’s cousin is starting a business and you can build a website in your sleep. Offer to help or recommend a friend who can. You meet someone at a party who’s thinking about the study abroad program and you just got back from your study abroad trip to London. Tell her where she should visit and how to avoid some travel woes. While your pup, Champ, is racing around the dog park you meet someone new to the area who is in temporary housing. Your friend happens to be a realtor, so make the introduction.

Once you have the connection it opens the door for future opportunities that might not have even come to mind. The cousin could recommend you to others, the party acquaintance might think of you when she hears about a job opportunity during her internship abroad. When the guy from the dog park buys his house and invites you over for the housewarming you could meet your future business partner.

Don’t let another week pass without making a connection. Whether you find yourself at a ball game, your run club or grabbing a bite to eat, you never know who you might cross your path.

Come back next time for some Do’s and Don’ts for networking events.

The Necessity of Networking

LiImage by David Castillo Dominici,ke other recruiters, I am right in the middle of one of the busiest times of the year. I’ve just finished the two-week Career Fair Circuit with a couple more on the horizon in coming weeks. My schedule is chock full of classroom presentations and I am planning a Hiring Event to interview several people in a couple of days. In addition, last week consisted of a recruiting workshop with fellow recruiters. All of these events have something in common—they all provided (or will provide) great opportunities for networking.

So what’s the big deal with networking? Don’t think about status posts on Facebook. That kind of interaction might be part of the problem. We’ve gotten so comfortable talking to people in cyberspace that we’ve lost the ability to do so in person. On the other hand, some people have a limited view and think networking is only for those places labeled “networking event”.

I have no problem talking to people. In fact, nearly everyone in my family can strike up a conversation with perfect strangers (whether the strangers like it or not). But even for me there’s something…well, awkward about formal networking events. It feels like Skippy’s first day of school with his mom gently pushing on his back, saying, “Go on in and talk to the other kids.” It’s as if there is a drum roll and an announcement: “Let the networking begin!”. Often students gather with their peers, and employers, having been shut out of their cliques, wind up talking to…each other! So essentially all we’ve done is eat some great finger food (hopefully) and stay out later than we needed to on a school night.

I stumbled across this statement as I prepared to host such an event—(during our welcome we gave some tips to ensure success):

“Networking is less about meeting new people than having them remember you after the fact.”

Case in point. It was through networking that my local writing group was revived. A year and a half ago we were down to only two people due to some members relocating and others whose work schedules changed. While most people might have thrown in the towel, I knew if I did that the lack of accountability was sure to bring my writing to a screeching halt. I had to find some new members. Two of them came from a local writing conference where I chatted with fellow attendees. I sat next to another one when I visited another writing group. (I swear I didn’t go just to poach members.) And yet one more came when I purposely struck up a conversation with someone at our local Books By The Banks festival. I also invited a fellow university advisory board member and even a few people from work. Hey, I’m a recruiter by profession. Would you expect anything less? Now we have several regular attendees and the group lives on.

If I hadn’t been memorable in my conversation do you think anyone I invited would have actually shown up? Doubtful. How can you accomplish this? Think about the people you’ve met who you thought about long afterward. What stood out about them? For me, those people were personable, knowledgeable, accomplished, intelligent, humorous and yet, humble. Think about your most positive qualities and allow them to shine through to make a lasting impression.

Here are a few more benefits of networking:

  • Build confidence. Think of networking as practice. The more comfortable you become speaking with new people when youImage by cooldesign have nothing to lose, the easier it will be to talk to others in your network–approaching your manager with a new idea or a co-worker to resolve an issue. You could even find yourself speaking to groups in informal or formal settings.
  • New information. This is one way to learn what is going on in your industry. Who are the new competitors? What new products are out there? You could also gain knowledge that could help you on a personal basis. For instance, you could bump into a car enthusiast at a party right when you’re planning to buy a car.
  • Connect with experts to support your efforts. You can’t possibly know everything about your profession. You don’t know every customer. You don’t know every future investor, but connecting with others can help you reach new consumers and, perhaps land your own personal shark (for all you Shark Tank fans) for an entrepreneurial venture. But please don’t think networking is only about you, as we’ll find out later in this series. I exchanged information with the recruiters I met last week so I can potentially support them by sending candidates their way.
  • Teamwork is necessary for success–even if you work in a solitary role. The artist needs someone to sell his paintings, the musician needs someone to listen to his music. And we writers need people to read our books—and blogs. 🙂 Visibility and awareness are key to building your brand.
  • Opportunities to give back. You might find out about local philanthropic opportunities or a cause where you can lend your expertise.

Bottom line, people need each other and networking is not just about finding a job. Now that we all agree you should be participating, come back next time to discuss where.

QUICK TIPS: Interviewing

Image by Stuart Miles

With graduation just a few weeks behind us recruiters are often swamped with interviews this time of year. Let’s say you’re scheduled for one of these interviews but have decided the position is not the right one for you. What should you do?

A. Nothing. You’re not interested in the position and you won’t be applying for it in the future.

B. Send the recruiter a polite email explaining you have decided to pursue other opportunities.

C. Go anyway. It’s not professional to cancel after the fact.

B is the best way to go. An email is fine, but a phone call is more professional (and not a voicemail left in the middle of the night). This isn’t so much about the job as it is your character. You never know if the company might offer another position that is of interest to you. In fact, the recruiter might actually keep you in mind and reach out to you later on.

A might seem like a good idea, but I caution you to never burn bridges. Guess where recruiters go when they leave a company? often to other recruiting roles. If you canceled on the recruiter when she worked at Victory Logistics there’s no reason for her to believe you’ll be reliable at Procter & Gamble.

C could be a waste of your time and the hiring manager’s. Call the person who set up the interview to let him know you’d like to cancel and give an honest reason. You might have a misunderstanding about the opportunity that he can clear up—and, frankly, it’s less cowardly. This is called professional courtesy. After that, if he asks you to come in anyway, consider it. No one can have a thorough idea of a job even if they go through the entire interview process, but you will at least learn more. Hopefully an observation or shadow will be part of the process to provide you with even more insight. You might even change your mind.

For more interviewing tips check out the following posts:

Didn’t Get the Job? It’s Not You:

Post Grad And No Job? Relax:



Repairing Your Professional Reputation

In the past couple of weeks alone we have seen many a reputation tarnished: Columbus Short for alleged Image by Stuart Milesdomestic abuse was ousted from the popular series Scandal, Donald Sterling, the owner of the Clippers has been banned from the NBA for life due to racist remarks and, in what some might consider a lesser offense, New York Yankee Pitcher was suspended for 10 games for using pine tar to aid his grip. (It’s also a safe bet that Bieber did something to raise an eyebrow or two.) Hopefully you care more about your reputation than he does.

But what if you have made some mistakes? Maybe a happy hour with co-workers led to some poor judgment on your part when you had one drink too many. You stole someone else’s idea at work…and got busted. You’ve been a notorious gossip. You’ve been pulling a Costanza (for you non-Seinfeld fans, that’s looking busy at work when you’re not actually doing a darn thing) and your co-workers are on to you and threatening exposure. Are you stuck with your bad rep in your company or is it possible to bounce back?


While some people’s choices have ended careers, others have been through the wringer and come out on the other side of it worse for wear but determined to rebuild themselves. After his admitted infidelity, Tiger Woods held the traditional “apology press conference” then had to get help and lay low for over a year before he was once again accepted, some might even say embraced, in the public eye. In 2009 Michael Phelps lost Kellogg’s sponsorship and had a 3 month suspension from USA Swimming after a picture of him using a water pipe surfaced. Phelps immediately owned his mistake and publicly apologized, calling his behavior inappropriate. As a result the negativity died quickly. He was hailed as a champion at the 2012 Olympics and has maintained that status judging from the excitement surrounding his comeback meet with Ryan Lochte mentioned on GMA just last week.

Apparently time really does heal wounds, but while some might be forgiven there are always going to be those who will continue to scrutinize them closely. Who wants to live like that, constantly dealing with doubters and defending your reputation? If you’ve suffered the consequences of disciplinary action or termination or your personal brand has taken a hit it’s time to make a change. You can still be a person any corporation would be proud to have on their team. The challenge is, if all you’ve known is deception and cheating it can be very difficult to get back on track without a major wake up call.

Start out the right way and you can rest assured you won’t have to battle your past. But on the off-chance you’re looking in your rear view mirror at some serious infractions here are a some tips to help you make a fresh start.

Acknowledge and apologize. If you have offended someone you are not going to get very far in winning them over without wiping the slate clean—but you must be sincere. You can’t make progress if you avoid talking about whatever it was that caused the divide in the first place. Take this opportunity to also tell the person you are trying to change. Then prove it through your actions.

Be an open book. Don’t do anything that might tempt you to lie later on. If you can’t talk about it, don’t do it. If questions are asked of you, unless the information is confidential, tell the truth. If it is confidential explain that, unfortunately, you can’t share the information because: you would betray a confidence, you’d be violating a policy or whatever the case may be. If there are no secrets to discover, over time that bad rep will begin to fade and your integrity will shine through.

Find an accountability partner. Choose someone you can trust and confide in. Share what happened to hurt your reputation, ask for advice and allow them to ask you questions going forward to keep you from being a repeat offender. Ask that person to be bold enough to pull you back if you head down the wrong path. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be someone who works in the same company, but it will require honesty on your part.

Confess. If you’ve done something wrong it’s going to be discovered soon enough. I have much more empathy for candidates who own up to mistakes than those who try to explain them away, often blaming others. You must, however, be prepared for possible consequences.

Good deeds. Make good choices going forward and hopefully they will outshine the flubs you’ve made in the past.

Surround yourself with good people. Understand the people you’ve offended are not going to be eager to be in your presence initially because of the distance you’ve created or for the sake of their own reputation (you know the saying, birds of a feather flock together) so you might need to find people with integrity outside of your organization. Spend time with them, pick their brains and adopt their behavior and outlook. People will begin to take notice.

Make a fresh start. If you’ve tried to turn your reputation around for an extended period of time yet that deed keeps haunting you, it might be time for a new start. If you stick around too long you could stagnate your career. Yes, you were in the wrong, but if you’ve made a sincere attempt to get past it and it’s not working you need to be somewhere where the bad vibes no longer exist. This is not running away from the problem—unless you leave without ever taking ownership. Once you get that new opportunity make sure you embrace it and let the new you reign. Soon the old you will be a distant memory.

Take time to rebuild. If what you did resulted in a termination you might have to take a job below your skill set to prove yourself for a few years—yes years—depending on the severity of the matter. This will give future employers someone to reach out to ask about your work ethic, integrity and character.

When you implement these tips it will still take some time for others to believe you have really changed, so don’t give up too soon. Will NBA fans someday forgive Donald Sterling? Will Columbus Short recover quickly or fall off the radar for a few years like Isaiah Washington, also terminated from a Shonda Rhimes series years ago? (Last week’s cameo aside.) Only time will tell. Your future, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be a question mark. Start rebuilding your brand today.

Check out the following links for more:

Your Ethics = Your Brand

Years ago when my former manager wanted to announce my promotion it appeared my drug test wasn’t going to make it back in time. Because I’d proved myself an employee of integrity and honesty another manager told him, “There’s no way you have to worry about Nichole.” What do others say about your honesty? Your integrity? The choices you make?

Image by David Castillo Dominici

Image by David Castillo Dominici

I never want to look back on my so-called accomplishments and have to wonder which ones I genuinely earned and which ones I achieved by cheating. No, I’m not perfect. No one is, but mistakes and lifestyles are two totally different things. Poor decisions will catch up with you. Sure, maybe you’ll get the job, but eventually that company is going to find you out. Once you have a bad reputation it is difficult to change others’ minds about you. Hollywood and the general population can be forgiving, but real life is different.

A lack of ethics can be detrimental to your career or even prevent you from launching one. Paula Deen had at least 12 companies sever ties with her because of allegations of racial discrimination last year and still hasn’t fully recovered. After a domestic violence charge Chad Johnson’s NFL football career ended. Swiftly. Although she has bounced back in a major way, Martha Stewart had to serve jail time for insider trading. Some other unethical behavior in your workplace might include:

  • Getting paid under the table–I am amazed how few people realize this is illegal

    Image by jesadaphorn

    Image by jesadaphorn

  • Stealing–Money, supplies, products
  • Abuse of policies and guidelines—A simple example might be using a company discount for friends or family outside of the organization.
  • Harassment—This can be direct or indirect in the form of pictures or inappropriate language that isn’t even directed at a co-worker.
  • Cheating
  • Inappropriate computer use
  • Misuse of company time
  • Misrepresentation—employees making false claims in order to sell products
  • Retaliation-those in authority mistreating employees as a form of punishment

In addition to termination, consequences can include arrest, demand for restitution, revoke of privileges, jail-time or, perhaps, demotion. And you’re not the only one who will suffer. The company could also pay a price. This was the case last month when we had a clogged drain at home. My husband called a plumber who came out and took care of the issue. When signing the bill the guy handed my husband a bottle of Pipe Cleaner. He asked about the charge on the bill and the plumber replied, “Oh, that’s part of the package.”

Part of the package? Suspect. I like to believe the best about everyone but that sounded odd to me—even more so when I looked at the bill later and saw the Pipe Cleaner was listed on a separate line. Of course I called the company. Not that I wouldn’t have bought the product anyway but I wanted to be given the option, not the assumed sale. It made me wonder if he’d inflated the price of his service as well. In actuality, according the person I spoke with in the business office, he gave us a break on the cost of the service. That’s great if it’s true, but think of the damage he could have done. I’d questioned his character. And, for me, that’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice. Going forward maybe he’ll learn to be up front in the beginning because I am still reluctant to do business with him or the company again.

If you see yourself in any of the examples above, what will it take for you to change? Will it cost you your job? Your friends? How about your family? I know what you’re thinking. I’d never lie to my family. To which I’d ask, how do you know? Could you really tell your spouse about the questionable things you’ve done at work? Or would you opt for a lie—either an overt lie or a lie of omission where you just say nothing? Was Lance Armstrong able to confide in anyone? Of course not. He kept the deception going until the wheels fell off.

When you start to deceive others, dishonesty cannot be contained. It might start at work but it will grow and it will follow you home, spill into your personal life and cause all kinds of fallout. Yes, once again, grandma was right. Oh what a wicked web we weave when we first practice to deceive.

The point is simple. DO THE RIGHT THING! Never let scandal, deception or dishonesty be associated with your name. After all, you only have one reputation. Protect it with everything you’ve got.