When you hear the term burning bridges you might think about relationships. About failed high school romances or jilted friendships. Abrupt terminations are hard to swallow, but your ability to keep your emotions in check may be the difference in landing your next job.
Future Job Searches
Assume that everyone in your industry talks, and most of them have a vague idea of who you are. Image is crucial, and you don’t want to be the person that is seen as flakey, rude, petty, quick to anger, or neglectful.
Burning bridges doesn’t just kill potential work with your old company, it might hurt future job prospects too. How will you explain your curt exit to the next employer who asks why you weren’t working? Unanswered questions like those kill an interview, don’t let it happen to you.
A few years ago I took a job with a small company. It was a really great gig actually. He pushed us hard, and I’d gotten a stern talking to (as had others in our group) more than once, but you fought hard and you played hard there. He rewarded go-getters, or so I thought.
I got my walking papers on a Tuesday when the rest of the staff had gone to lunch. One of our clients had unexpectedly pulled out, leaving us with a hole a few thousand dollars wide. My payroll happened to fill some of that void and so, my boss said, I was being let go.
I was crushed. I felt betrayed even. He could see it in my eyes too. That drive home, the call to my wife… It was hard to bare.
A year after that I’m Christmas shopping between freelance projects and I come across a shaving kit from The Art of Shaving. I remember my boss always used to pick on me about my shaggy beard. It’s not the best practice to keep a thick beard, some would argue to remove all facial hair entirely. For me, it had been a defining mark. Something my old mustachioed boss and I had opined over during my interview. I thought about him then, and I don’t know why but I sent him a shaving kit.
Suffice to say, he wasn’t my old boss for long. I got a thank you card a few days later, then a luncheon invite. Within a month, I was back to team lead.
What Not to Do
If you have to exit, don’t make a scene. It can be frustrating to be let go, especially under circumstances beyond your control, but keep yourself in check and you’ll be better off for it. No matter your gut instinct, don’t take to the Web to air your grievances either. Never under estimate your previous employer’s concern with the image of the brand. If you have signed a non-disclosure agreement, don’t make an exit without being clear on your future job prospects. In states where NDAs are applicable, you may find yourself unable to work in specific industries do to your intimate trade knowledge. Violate those agreements and you could be looking at time in court battling out the specifics, and possibly, hefty fines.
One of the best things you can do to increase the opportunities you have for employment, is to network and network well. That means attending more live networking events and meeting more potential employers in your area outside of the job interview. Look for mutual connections on LinkedIn and request a meet up through your colleague. If you’re freelance, see about renting space in a coworking facility. You might be able to pitch ideas and get involved with another project that has funding.
The most important thing is respect. Respect the time of others and have a reason for talking with them. Bring something valuable to the table and make yourself stand out with a good story.