Lindsay Olson

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How to Burn Bridges and Hurt Your Career

BURNING How to Burn Bridges and Hurt Your Career

When you’re unhappy in a job, it may be difficult to imagine you’d ever want to interact with the people you work with again. And yet, if you don’t handle professional relationships appropriately, you end up burning bridges and making it harder to be hired by another employer.

Here are the biggest no-nos employees make that can drastically affect their careers.

1. Quit Without Notice

It can be tempting to storm out of the office, never to return, but you don’t do yourself any favors this way. You put your coworkers in a bind because they’ll have to handle your work themselves without any transition period, and you certainly don’t leave your former boss with a good impression. And said boss will be more likely to give a recommendation for you if you provide her, even if the job wasn’t right for you, with the appropriate amount of time to hire your replacement.

Even if you don’t use your former boss as a reference, it doesn’t mean you might not be checked up on. The PR industry is tight-knit and it’s likely there is some connection at the next company where you are applying for a public relations job. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to engage in “back door reference checks” without your knowledge.

2. Don’t Show Up for an Interview

Here’s an example from my own experience: after setting up an interview and preparing for a job candidate last year, she didn’t show up for the interview or have the courtesy to call with an explanation. She wouldn’t even answer the phone or return an email after multiple attempts. A year later, out of the blue, she reaches out through social media, emails and calls, conveniently not mentioning her unexplained disappearance and now wanting help to find her next position.

I understand things happen and sometimes people have a change of heart mid-process. Not wanting to work with this person isn’t grudge-holding, it’s an expectation of basic professional courtesy. That strike will keep me from presenting her to clients for future searches through our PR Staffing Firm.

If something comes up and you’re unable to make an interview, call the hiring manager or recruiter and apologize with an explanation. It might not be possible to reschedule, and perhaps you don’t even want to, but you’ll open the door to being able to work with these people in the future.

3. Lie on Your Resume

It’s understandable: if you lack expertise in an area that you need to get a job, you’re desperate to find a way to still qualify. But never lie on your resume. It’s surprising that 46% of resumes include all sorts of lies. Keep it honest, even if you’re lacking in skills. It’s easier to gain new skills than wipe away the shame of lying on your resume. Those lies will quickly reveal themselves when put to the test.

4. Behave Inappropriately Around Coworkers

Whether you share a bit too much over drinks with your colleagues after work or are a known office gossip, removing that boundary of professionalism can get you in trouble, and can alienate you from others. Even if you think you’ve made great friends at work, keep it tame and don’t divulge anything that could jeopardize your position or question your ability to maintain professional limits.

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2 Comments - Add yours!

Robin (October 3rd, 2013)

These are very valid, Lindsay, good reminders. In this digital age, I’d add that another extremely effective way to burn bridges is to say negative things about current or past coworkers or an employer online. Whether it’s accurate or not, and whether the poster believes their comments are private or not, it’s a bad move if a person cares about their professional rep.

Sandra (October 7th, 2013)

I have to disagree on the lying on the resume.. it sounds dumb but once again, I’m in the job hunting position where I have to REMOVE my degrees and REMOVE experience so that I don’t look overqualified. I’ve been in a downward job spiral for the last 5 years with rapidly declining salaries ( I’m now back into the bottom of the 30′s officially) I had 3 years with one employer and a 20% pay cut in the 2nd year (company wide), then followed by a really bad job that I held on to even though I wasn’t taking home anything like my official salary after all the alleged benefits came out which I switched for a job with lower salary and no benefits but no crazy employer. I was laid off in May… UI runs out next month. The last time things sucked this bad the only way out was to lie and remove my college from the resume. Not only am I overeducated but I’m now too old.

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