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Ruin your professional reputation in 5 easy steps

(MoneyWatch) Your professional reputation is the currency that you can use to purchase advancement in your career. It will bring you the respect of your peers and elevate their willingness to work for or with you. It's enormously important.

Recently, US News & World Report summarized a number of ways that you can squander your professional reputation through stupid moves at work. I thought it was worth taking a look at some of these; many people -- especially new college grads just entering the work force -- sometimes don't realize just how easy it is to ruin it.

Here are five of the fastest ways to shatter your reputation. And remember: Your reputation is something that is easily sullied but difficult (and time-consuming) to restore.

Accept a job offer but back out before starting. If you're the sort of person who likes to pursue multiple leads simultaneously, once a job offer is made, make a choice and stick with it. You shouldn't continue to go on interviews and consider your options after accepting a position. You never know when you'll encounter someone from the company you jilted, and if they tell the story about how you backed out on a job offer, you're done for.

Leave a new job for a better offer. I once started at a new company and met a manager in a different division who had just started weeks before me. I took him out to lunch to pick his brain, and he admitted that he'd just accepted an offer to move across town to "a role too good to pass up." This guy took a safety job and kept shopping -- and then abandoned the role before his seat even had a chance to get warm. Word of this spread like wildfire around town. I guarantee he'll have a hard time finding a job the next time he wants to move.

Quit without notice. Yes, your employer can fire or lay you off without notice -- the world isn't a fair place -- but you should never reciprocate. To quit without giving proper notice and creating a transition plan that allows a graceful exit means burning your bridges, plain and simple.Your employer will never provide a good reference, and encounters with your colleagues there elsewhere in your industry pose a constant danger as well. Be smart, be polite, be professional.

Recommend an underqualified candidate. Many companies like to hire from personal internal references. Don't abuse that trust, though. Recommending a friend who isn't really a good fit is bad enough for you buddy, but it may do worse damage to your own reputation.

Lose your temper. No one is perfect, and you can't be expected to act like a Vulcan every moment of every day at work. But professionalism demands that you keep your emotions and your ego in check. If you yell in a meeting, insult a co-worker or send an inappropriate e-mail, that damage cannot be easily undone, if ever. Anyone who was in the line of fire won't want to work with you, and your performance review may have after-effects in many review cycles to come.

What do you think of this list? Are there other reputation burners? Sound off with comments.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Editor B

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