Many reputations have been battered by this recession. Wall Street, AIG, Bank of America, General Motors - all those companies that received a bailout are losers. They will have to work hard - and it will take a while - before they are trusted again.
Small companies, universities, hospitals have become winners. Now, it looks as if it is safer to work for yourself than to work for a big company.
Even my own profession of Human Resources has taken a hit, both for laying people off and for being insensitive to those looking for work. The latest George Clooney movie is about someone whose job is to fire people - and he's not a hero.
Why does reputation matter? Reputations create career decisions. People working for bailed-out companies tell me they are ashamed to say where they work. Those people will move on when the economic outlook changes and won't speak well of their company or its products. Hot-shot MBA graduates aren't going to look at investment banking or even financial services the way they did two years ago. The brightest and the best are going to look to start their own organizations or join their friends in much smaller enterprises or purpose-driven companies.
All these changes are a good thing. They will create energy and opportunity in the job market. 2010 is going to be a great year!