Your reputation is important. It’s all you have. It’s the word on the street; your credibility. As much as we shouldn’t care what other people think of us, we can’t help but be aware of the value of their opinions. And likewise our opinions of others affects their reputations.
Our reputations can help us. They can hurt us. You can have a great audition but if your reputation in the community is not great, the casting team might think twice before hiring you. This happened to a dancer in a show I was music directing; he came in and had an amazing audition. The word among the choreographer and the assistants was that this dancer was difficult, to put it mildly. It was enough to not hire this dancer. On the flip side, when we don’t always get an audition or interview, having a good word from trusted colleagues in the field can go a long way.
We simultaneously care and don’t care what other people think of us. It is a contradiction in practice. I’ve heard people say things to me that were clearly untrue: about other people, about themselves, about me. It is entertaining when you can tell people are lying through their teeth. We cannot help what other people say, especially when it’s a lot of hot air. And hopefully the community at large can see through them, and realize they’re not worth listening to. This is a case of not caring what they think of us.
We should take some interest in how our words and actions affect our appearance in the professional world. If you’re the kind of person mentioned above, who says things that are untrue (as simple as this all sounds, it baffles me that professionals do this, like children on the playground), chances are you’ll get labeled as a loud mouth. However, if you stay true to your work and to those people around you, that also allows people to develop an image of you. You always want to show your strongest suit in whatever you are doing.
There were two young professionals returning home from a couple of years abroad. The first says to the second, “Oh yeah, I was performing all over Europe, winning competitions and playing all the great concert venues.”
“Oh yeah?” said the second, “I never heard about that.”
“But last night I was reading some music with a local group and wasn’t so prepared.” The first said.
“Oh yeah, I heard all about that!” The second replied.
Always show your strengths and always be prepared. You could play the world over, but if you show up at a gig unprepared, people will hear about it. Even in a small, local venue. It seems to take years to build up a reputation and only a second to break it down.
We may get frustrated and irritated by the people or situation around us. Saying the wrong thing in front of the right people can create an impression that is difficult to undo.
The hardest part of our reputation is we rarely have any idea what it is. We can’t go around asking everyone “What do you think of me?” “What is my reputation like?” All we can do is do the job and behave. As simple as that sounds, it is amazing to me the number of people who cannot accomplish either of these tasks. All we can do is our own work and rely on the sanity of the community at large to assess our work history when we are up for a job, or looking for the next gig.