The Importance Of Perception Shaping Your Professional Reality

The Importance Of Perception Shaping Your Professional Reality

You have landed your first official job after college, now reality has set in, you have approximately 90,000 hours of work to go before retirement. That number can be overwhelming, but those who attack their career with passion and drive will find most (let’s be honest here) of that time can be fulfilling. Understanding the impact of the first phase of your career can dramatically change how you view yourself, and how others view you during that same time.

I heard a story recently about a final interview a very successful new graduate had following graduation. He was asked to stand up and look out at the entire office and all the current employees he could see. He was then told, all of the people you see were captain of their sports teams, got great grades in school, were the leaders for team projects, have intense passion for success, and overall great people. With that said, why would we hire you!?

What can you bring to the table to help our company be even better? This is precisely the type of question each and every new employee, regardless of experience level, needs to be able to answer about themselves… Can you? Would you hire yourself? If not, time to work on your own value proposition and setting the right perception at work to foster success.

Perception in the workplace is often overlooked or undervalued, but can be a key differentiation for success, especially early in your career. Being thoughtful of how others perceive you and being proactive in shaping their perspective can eliminate roadblocks, encourage mentoring from others, and allow you more room to grow compared to those who ignore this component of their work persona. A few simple thoughts to consider from Day 1 on:

Dress Well:

First impression is almost always visual. Right or wrong, it is within our control to dress well at the workplace. Gentlemen, spend money on nice shoes. It matters.

Be Early, Not on Time:

The best saying I have ever heard on this topic is to be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is to be forgotten.

Segment Your Life:

Build your professional brand and protect it. If you post pictures to Instagram from the bar at midnight during the week, be the first one to the office and be ready to go 100%. Live your life, just know that the consequences have changed dramatically from when you missed a sociology class last year.

Be Humble:

Let others praise your work and contributions, but do not be the person telling the whole office how great you are. Nothing downplays otherwise stellar work than excessive self-congratulation.

Respect People:

Nothing more needs to be said. Respect from others will be earned quickly if you show proper respect and deference to others first. Work relationships are rooted in mutual trust and respect.

Lead From Behind:

Find ways to add incremental value to tasks or work functions you have. Identify gaps and come up with ways to solve them. Start small, focus on things your leadership cares about and develop the perception of you as someone who goes above and beyond to drive results.

Perceptions are made quickly and become reality just as fast in the workplace. Cultivate your personal brand positively and those 90,000 hours at work will be a much richer experience than if you let others shape your brand.


Write down five phrases or words you want to have associated with you as a professional. Take a picture of it and save it on your phone. Look at that photo monthly for the first year of your career and then quarterly after that. Focus your actions on making your desired perception into your professional reality.

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