The lovably unreliable sidekick is a common character in movies and television shows. Although they’re making mistakes or showing up late, they lend comic relief to the plot and are lots of fun to watch. However, as entertaining as it may be to watch an unreliable character, no one finds any comedic value in being let down in real life. As we get older we learn that the people who are the most likeable are almost always dependable.
In an age defined by social media and instant gratification, inconsistency and non-commitment have become the norm. College students RSVP to Facebook events as “going” when they merely mean “maybe,” and “maybe” when they mean “no.” Standard practice is to sign up for concurrent events and decide which you’re truly interested in only at the last minute. This very same age group, subscribed to the philosophy of flakiness, frequently laments how difficult it is to really feel like an adult — without realizing the clear connection. When you limit your commitments to only those you know you’ll keep, and fulfill obligations to others over and over, you develop a sense of responsibility. This is the foundation for the confidence and sense of self that characterizes adulthood.
There are clear commitments, like helping a friend move, that are obvious opportunities to start building responsibility. However, there are also a number of easy-to-miss opportunities in everyday conversations. They, like the Facebook variety, are often answered with “yes” when one means “maybe.” For example, as you’re talking with a friend one day, they ask if you could check your music collection for a certain album they’d like to borrow. You say “yes,” then promptly forget until the next time you see them. They forgive you, of course, as it was only a minor request. However, had you remembered, they surely would have been impressed.
Make a serious habit of noticing and sticking to your word in these small occasions, as well as the big ones. Any time you agree to attend, help or check on something for someone else, make absolutely sure that you do so. Do whatever it takes, whether that’s sending a text to yourself or carrying a reporter’s notebook to write down reminders.
The extra effort will be more than worth it, and not just because you’ll feel more confident. No doubt, you’ve heard that networking is one of the most important factors in landing a satisfying career. As people take notice of your attention to detail and reliability, your reputation will do it for you! Just be sure to keep up the habit and stay as dependable as people say you are.
To top it all off, try to focus on being five minutes early. Consistent punctuality will push your reputation beyond the boundary of “dependable” into “professional.” Just be careful not to ever rub your punctuality in anyone’s face. As much as people love reliability, they tend to hate smugness and criticism!