In a recent blog post on her fantastic blog, Business Fitness, career strategist Dawn Lennon takes us to a place that brings to many a sense of fear, hesitation, self-doubt, and denial — the high school reunion. If you have attended one of these nostalgic events, you know that it is possible to see a familiar name attached to a person who caused you so much grief or perhaps broke your heart twenty years ago and those feelings which have laid dormant come back out of nowhere.
Even though much changes in our lives between high school graduation and the approach of middle age, Dawn reminds her readers that those behavior traits you exhibited so many years ago stick. If you are the guy who stuffed freshmen in their lockers, that is likely the first thing that people will remember when they see you decades later. To further that sense of accountability, she reminds us that every encounter with another person is a moment in which we share our personal brand. That person links to someone else in a network and, with that relationship, the perception of you spreads. Wow. Think about it. Every person you have ever met, or even has just witnessed your behavior or your words from across a room, has formed an impression of you and carries that with them. When your name is mentioned or seen on a name tag, what will be the first thoughts that people have?
As Dawn encourages in her blog post and I will reiterate here, take the time to do a perception inventory. Work up the courage to ask your colleagues for their honest assessment of you, and look in the mirror and offer that feedback to yourself as well. It is better to get the honest truth now than to continue in a way that exponentially damages your brand.
Have you attended one of your high school reunions? Did you find that your classmates’ personal brands held true many years later? Either way, did the perception you had of a person back in school affect the way in which you interacted with him when you met again?