Professional credibility: A vital currency for career success 

It takes many years to build your credentials, but it only takes a moment to lose your credibility. Always choose consistency and integrity over arrogance and vanity.”

 Khayri R.R. Woulfe

One of my favorite actors of all time is Denzel Washington. If you want me sold on a movie, just tell me that Mr. Washington play a lead or supporting cast. If he is featured in a movie, then I won’t need to read any movie review or ratings. It is because Mr Washington has honed his skills as an actor, delivering excellent performances over the years, and has earned my my trust. Likewise, your career success as a professional is highly tied to your credibility.  Being a credible professional means that you have developed a reputation of trust and respect (for your work and personality) from your colleagues, peers, superiors, and clients over time. In fact, the professional marketplace runs on credibility creed. For both individual and corporations, many of our business and individual interactions (e.g., deal negotiations, outsourcing, networking, performance management, human resource management, merger and acquisitions, and leadership) rely on credibility as an important basis for decision making. 

However, a career-damaging misconception that is commonly believed by many is that credibility is simply about professional competence. Technical competence without good reputation or credibility  have left many professionals languishing in professional purgatory of obscurity with limited opportunities for career advancement. So, how do you think build your professional credibility? Below are three of the most important ingredients that shape your credibility in the workplace.

The consistency principle

No doubt professional competence is an important ingredient that builds credibility, but more importantly, consistency over time plays a key role. In this age of instant success, building anything of quality requires time and patience. It takes time to hone your skills (either technical and/or power skills) in a particular area. Brick by brick, precept upon precept, line upon line, you devote yourself to learning and applying the foundational concepts, while also keeping up with the emerging knowledge. Experience is gained by consistently applying your knowledge and skills to add value to project teams and organizations while also committing yourself to continuous development. With time, your consistent commitment to learning, growth, and adding value to others will differentiate you from the crowd, earning you the reputation as the go-to person in your field. This is not something that happens overnight. Mastery at this level requires focus and consistency in acquiring knowledge and applying yours skills in the same field over and over again. Now, if you are the type that is easily distracted by “the next big thing” in the industry, you might soon find yourself as the “jack of all trade and master of none”.

 Cultivating relationships 

As important as technical skills are, they don’t speak for you; relationships do. Your relationships with your colleagues, peers, superiors, clients, and those in your professional community and industry often amplify your personality and ultimately cements your credibility. Your mannerism during interactions and the way you treat others often leave indelible impression on people and may shape what they think of you. For example, ifyou are the “difficult” type who cares only about the work or your selfish interests alone and not the people, such behaviors might damage your professional credibility. Being intentional about prioritizing people over personal gain, or even the work, is a way to build your credibility. Even in highly competitive, toxic work settings, nurturing existing relationships and forging new ones in a way that ensures a WIN-WIN-…WIN situation for all parties will always put you over the top. So, let’s pause here and reflect. How well do you get along with others on your team and in your organizations? Are you the difficult type, or someone others are keen to work with? Are you the selfish type or a rising tide that lifts all boats in your organization? How often do you “genuinely” connect with others in your team or is your reason for connecting for selfish reasons? How is your professional reputation in your industry? If you are to ask your colleagues, direct reports, and superiors who are familiar with your work for a reference letter, would they be keen to write glowing references for you ? In answering these questions, think about how your project team members and colleagues in your organization perceive you. These may pointers to how solid your credibility is?

 Integrity matters 

The great British writer, C. S. Lewis, once said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”. Your character as an individual and professional is fundamental to your professional credibility. Attributes such as honesty, respect for others (regardless of their status), and keeping your commitments don’t go unnoticed as you interact and work with others, especially in high pressure situations.

In summary, credibility is a vital currency we trade with in the workplace. Highly successful professionals are adept at managing public and professional perceptions about their work and personality. Focusing solely on technical competence will only get you, at the very best, half the way. Building a successful career requires a lifelong commitment to learning and sharpening your professional competence, maintaining a strong character, and nurturing existing relationships and forging new ones.