Credibility (noun): the quality, capability or power to elicit belief.
Last year, I wrote a post about turning 30, and one of the things I mentioned is that your 30s give you a degree of professional credibility, and if you play your cards right, this is true. After all, in your 30s you usually have that magical 7-10 years work experience, which gives you upward and lateral job mobility, and generally, people will believe that you are an expert in what you do, in no small part because you’ve been doing it for a while, and hopefully, you’ve been doing it well. What we didn’t talk about is that it takes work to maintain that credibility, and how easy it is to watch it all come apart.
Be on top of your game: If you want to maintain your credibility, you have to stay current and relevant, no matter what your industry. Do you know what’s happening in your industry? Do you know what’s happening in other industries that might affect yours? Do you know what you need to do to get to the next level? Are you still curious and interested? Have you developed any expertise? Do you keep your word? Can people rely on you? Are you consistent? Do you follow through? If you’re able to answer “YES” to these questions, then you’re doing a good job building your credibility. If you are a “YES” on some, but not on all, well then you have some work to do.
Network: This word is going to elicit groans, but here’s the truth: if you’re not telling people what you do well, and showing them what you do well, then no one is going to know that you’re doing it at all. And yes, there is this theory that your work should speak for itself, but a little self- PR never hurt anyone, especially when you can back it up with some facts. So network, make relationships, market yourself- you can call it whatever you want, as long as you do it.
What Can Crater Your Credibility if You Get it Wrong:
Social Media: Done right, this can do wonders for your credibility. There are plenty of stories of real life people who have made entire careers out of hobbies by using social media correctly. But here’s the thing about social media: it can also destroy you. DO NOT CRITICIZE ANY ASPECT OF YOUR WORK ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Nope, I don’t want to hear any excuses. DON’T DO IT. Don’t criticize your competition, your clients, your supplier, your employer, your boss, your colleagues. Don’t vague-book about it, don’t hide it in some BS lyrics from a 90s song, DO. NOT. DO. IT. There is no circumstance in which you will walk away without looking completely unprofessional or lacking maturity. And nothing will damage your credibility faster. I have seen so many people completely wipe out everything they’ve worked towards with one ill-advised Facebook post or tweet. Just remember that the internet is forever.
Pick your battles: Here’s the double edged sword of credibility - you are expected to have an opinion. And you should absolutely have an opinion. But how and where you share that opinion is an art, particularly when that opinion may be unpopular. When in doubt, engage in a private conversation, particularly if it is a criticism. If you don’t like how/where something is going, engage in a respectful dialogue and offer suggestions. Don’t complain without a recommendation for a solution, because then you’re just whining. You are smart- act like it.
At the end of the day, maintaining your credibility is a delicate dance and if you work hard to maintain it, it can do amazing things for you and your career. Just remember to lift as you climb and bring other women along with you for the ride!