How to Maintain Your Professional Reputation While Pursuing Initiatives Outside Work


The following post is a contribution from a colleague of mine named Sunil, who I met through a number of professional organizations and then connected with both due to our professional careers in accounting and finance and our aspirations in internet entrepreneurship. He has some good ideas and has simultaneously achieved some great things in both his personal enterprise and a high-profile professional career. I hope his ideas speak to you as much as they have me.

For most people, a 9 to 5 job is plenty enough, where they show up day in day out throughout their career. For some more enterprising individuals, a one dimensional professional lifestyle just doesn’t cut it. I am one of those individuals.

I am currently working in Corporate America in a relatively high position with a lucrative compensation package. But that’s not all I’ve got going on. I am the author of several books and earn royalties from the sales, I own several iPhone apps in Apple’s iTunes store that also generate royalties, I own a brick and mortar business in the community where I live and I author several websites and blogs that are generating passive income for me.

I realize that may initially sound like a lot and difficult to manage, but this diverse income portfolio was not established overnight. I started exploring initiatives outside work very early, and over the years have built several viable small businesses outside of my profession utilizing my free time. As I have grown, I have delegated more.

In this article I want to discuss just a handful of important lessons I’ve learned along the way as it pertains to maintaining your professional reputation while pursuing endeavors outside work. This is one of the more common questions I receive from enterprising readers and students who are also interested in pursuing projects outside their main profession or job.

Why is this am important question? As you know, many employers frown upon moonlighting, especially if you’re doing it in a capacity that may conflict with your employer. For example, if you work for a Big Four Accounting firm, you may not be allowed to do tax returns or small audits “on the side”. Because one’s career is the primary bread and butter for many, one should be very careful treading the balance between their profession and their projects outside work.

Start Transparently

When applying for a new position, make it clear to your employer that you have other projects outside work. If you don’t have any yet, make it clear that you are interested in starting them. At the same time, give your employer the assurance that your involvement with such projects will not hurt your performance at work or conflict with your employer’s business.

Hopefully you will have already done your research before applying for this position with regard to what you can or cannot do as an employee of the company. If you encounter some reluctance, present the idea you’re your experience as an entrepreneur will only expand your skill set and self-starting capabilities which will have many spill-over benefits to your employer. Both of you will be surprised at how true this is and the wonders it can do for your career and confidence at work.

Don’t Short Change Your Employer

Your employer provides for you and your family and gives you the opportunity to establish a wonderful career. Do not short change them. Don’t use office time, equipment and supplies for personal business unless you have the permission to do so.

If you want to get to the office early and stay late to work on your business, make sure you keep separation between office work and personal work. As an entrepreneur, it is very difficult sometimes to maintain this kind of separation. Be very cognizant of this.

Maintain Separation

Just as you need to maintain separation while in the office, you need to do so outside the office as well. For example, if you are an author of a blog, do not express yourself as having ties to your employer when expressing professional opinion. If your affiliation with your employer is clear, make a clear disclosure that your opinions are not tied to your employer by any means.

Be specifically cognizant of insider details. In my opinion, the best approach is to simply separate your blogging activities from your affiliation with your employer. Sure, this may not help with credibility especially if your blog is on a topic closely related to your profession/company, but the clear separation will protect you from accidentally harming your employer’s reputation and as a result your career.

Some ways to do this are as follows:

  1. Only use your first name when blogging
  2. Use a pen name if needed
  3. Always send business emails from your blog’s domain (example: yourname@yourblogURL.com)
  4. Do not mention your employer’s name in the About section of your blog – feel free to mention your position, title and what you do, but don’t divulge enough details for readers to make the connection to a specific organization

Proactively Manage and Notify

People become busy and forget things. Take the opportunity of annual reviews to bring up what you’ve been up to when having your one on one with your reviewer (boss likely). Better than being caught up in an accident after the fact, it’s best to proactively notify your employer of your activities outside the office. Believe me, this gesture is very well appreciated.

Be a Professional Inside-Out

Be professional everywhere and in everything you do. Remember that you are who you are. You shouldn’t be one person at work and another outside, whether that’s online or when tending to your brick and mortar business. Now of course there are certain aspects of both work and personal life that usually do not cross, and there are certain close people you behave a certain way with; but for the most part, the meaningful aspects such as your core beliefs, morals and values should not change. Maintain your professionalism across the board in everything you do no matter where you are.

As you achieve professional accomplishments along the way such as having been quoted or published in an industry publication, start by mentioning that to your employer to show your commitment to your profession and education.

If you are in an ideal situation where you can openly engage in extracurricular activities, consider yourself fortunate. Do not forget that you carry not only a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, but also the obligation to treat your employer in the most favorable way you can. If you are not, I hope this handful of thought starters were helpful as you embark on endeavors outside work.

All the best to you and if you have any questions or comments, please see the contact mesection of this site or visit my blog, The CPA Requirements blog.

Sunil is the author of The CPA Requirements blog, a platform dedicated to helping aspiring CPA candidates pass the CPA exam and expedite career success. You can read more about him on his blog here.