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What the former CEO of Burberry can teach us about building a good reputation…

Last Updated:

September 13, 2023

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Did You Know? with Gorick is the weekly newsletter by Gorick Ng, Harvard career adviser and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of The Unspoken Rules, where we deconstruct the untold paths to success — of people (or things) you know!

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Did You Know? Your positive reputation opens doors!

Today’s Preview

How a positive reputation…

(1) …helped the CEO of Burberry land her next job

(2) …can make or break your career

(3) …can be built click after click

(1) A story from the past

It’s 2013. Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, was just offered the position of head of Apple Retail—despite having zero experience in tech. 

How did this happen?

At Burberry, Ahrendts “embraced e-commerce and updated its in-store technology” by putting iPads in stores, streaming fashion shows, and using software to decrease costs. These decisions more than tripled Burberry’s share price.

But Ahrendts wasn’t convinced if she was the right fit. Even though she wasn't sure, someone else was: Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. Cook discovered Ahrendts via her TED Talk, immediately knew right she was “supposed to be [at Apple]”, and offered her a job.

She said yes and, in 2014, joined Apple as Head of Retail.

Fast forward, and Ahrendts left a tangible mark on Apple, too: She expanded Apple’s global reach to 506 locations across 5 continents (and also became the highest-paid executive at the company)

So, the next time that you unlock your iPhone (or simply see the iconic Apple logo if you’re an Android fan), remember: Ahrendts may not have gotten her job had she not built a great reputation for herself.

L to R: Deirdre O’Brian (Ahrendts’ successor), Tim Cook, and Angela Ahrendts. Image belongs to Apple.

(2) A study of the present

Ahrendts' career trajectory showcases the power of a favorable reputation. In today's world, your reputation can make or break your career.

According to GoHire

  • “71% of hiring decision-makers use social media to screen in (or out) potential candidates.”
  • “82% of employees consider the employer's brand reputation before applying.”

So what? Even if you’re not applying for the top job, your online presence still matters. The same idea applies if you’re an employer. Make sure you look as good as you really are!

(3) A strategy for your future

How can you boost your professional reputation and open doors to opportunities like Ahrendts? 

Given that 77% of y’all said that you’re 1+ years into your career, my guess is that you already have a LinkedIn profile. But do you have social proof?

If not, try this:

1. Google your name and ask yourself: “What first impression am I giving?”

  • If it’s not you who shows up on the first page (e.g., because there are a lot of people with your name), it’s time to work harder to show up!
  • If there are photos that don’t portray you in the best light, get them removed!

2. Look at your LinkedIn photo and ask yourself: “Does my look reflect how I want to be remembered?”

  • If not, update your photo!

3. Scroll through your LinkedIn profile and ask yourself: “Is my full work history listed?”

  • If not, write it all down—every organization, every title, every work accomplishment!

And if you’re an employer? Put yourself in the shoes of your applicants. Craft a positive online image on your website and social media—and also on places like Glassdoor. 

Your online presence may not make or break whether you land an interview or get a job offer—but it can play a big part. People can’t give you credit for something they can’t see!

I know it because I’ve tried it: I sent over 10,000 cold emails when I launched my book—and most of them went unanswered. Today, most opportunities come to me—and it’s all thanks to some consistent online brand building.

Build your reputation!


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