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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.


Learning How to Juggle Work and Life Early in Your Career

Work/Life Balance and “having it all” are big topics these days. We’re in a constant struggle to figure out how to work and have a life. Entrepreneurs can’t get away from their businesses, and employees are too busy working their way up and meeting the jobs demands. Setting some good habits early in your career will help you tremendously down the road.

This is When Your Mold Sets

If you are working your first job, you begin the process of forming habits you’ll keep (and maybe try to break) for the rest of your work life. So if you dive in to work, racking up 60+ hour workweeks with little breathing room for yourself now, you’ll find it difficult to step back for a breather down the road. And if your boss sees you operating on all cylinders, anything less may make her think you’re slacking. Your job may require you to be around during certain hours – focus during that time. Scheduling your work activities may give you the focus you need to get your job done in a reasonable amount of time.

Make Friends Outside of Work

While it’s certainly easiest to bond with the people you work with after hours, it might not be the best thing for you to disconnect. You’ll find yourself complaining about your boss or going into detail about a project when you could be unwinding, thinking about life besides work. It’s fine to have friends at work, but strive to balance them with friends who work elsewhere, and who don’t work in your industry. You’ll find other things to talk about, and you can leave work in the office.

Find Hobbies

Even if you’re passionate about your new job, it’s important to find other activities to fill your life. Take up a sport, read a book, travel…whatever piques your interest. But having interests outside of work can help you feel steady and not so stressed when things get tough on the job. Be Less Available Smart phones, social networks, and laptops make us more available than ever before. We’ve gotten into all sorts of terribly annoying habits (in my opinion): eating while checking email, Facebooking while in the bathroom, and texting while in catching up over coffee. Stop sending and responding to unimportant emails while on your own time. This helps set parameters early on with your boss and coworkers.

Get It Off Your Chest…Then Move On

It’s only natural that you want to come home and vent about your day to your partner or friends. And it’s fine to do so, but get it out and then forget about it. Harping on your work day can turn off those around you, and it won’t serve you well either.

Why You Should Care

You’ll spend the majority of your life working, so the better you can balance what’s happening in your job and what you do in your personal downtime, the happier you’ll be in the long run. One of the most common issue I hear about from people who want to make a change or important factors in considering a new company has to do with their work/life priorities.

For some more interesting resources on work-life balance, check out some of our previous posts.

My US News & World Report post: 9 Tips for Work-Life Balance

Alison Kenney’s Finding Work Life Balance in PR


7 Benefits of Starting Your Career at a PR Agency

Rope, detail
This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

I started my career at a PR agency and have yet to work “in-house,” so I’m a bit biased about this topic:  the top reasons it’s beneficial to start your career at a PR agency:

  1. Agencies are great places to learn the ropes – The agency structure is very conducive to learning and growing. Although most employees work at essentially the same job, i.e. their clients’ PR programs, there are multiple levels on each account team. With frequent performance reviews, lots of mentor options and opportunities to hone skills, talented entry-level PR pros are constantly being groomed for the next level.
  2. Birds of a feather stick together – Unlike working in a corporate setting where you may be the only PR person or may be one part of a small marketing team or department, in a PR agency you’re surrounded by other PR people. This means you have access to plenty of folks who’ve experienced what you’re experiencing and can either help, cheer you on, or commiserate with you about your work.
  3. Careers really get launched – At an agency, most folks work typically work on multiple client accounts or projects at a time. During your tenure at an agency you will typically experience working for many clients, sometimes in multiple industries. Aside from keeping things interesting, this means you have an opportunity to learn a lot more in a shorter amount of time.
  4. Agencies are helpful for forging a professional network – I don’t have statistics on how long most agency staff stay at their firm, but from my experience it seems as though they move around quite a bit. After working at an agency, many people transition to in-house positions, move on to other agencies or to start new firms.  That means they could be transitioning to new roles as your future client, boss or employee.
  5. It’s a good way to learn business basics – Not only are PR agencies great places to learn the craft of public relations, they are also good opportunities to learn how to run a service business. Most agencies involve employees at every level in the work of pitching new business, planning programs against a budget and managing accounts, clients and other staff.
  6. You get to see the forest, not just the trees – In an agency/client relationship, you’re one step removed from your client’s business, which of course has both pros and cons. On the plus side, you can view their business and its challenges and opportunities more objectively. You also gain perspective by being able to compare it with other clients.
  7. Taking an agency job allows you to keep your career options open – Although some of us study public relations in college, not many of us know exactly where, or in which industry, we want to practice PR in our careers. Working in a PR agency can be a good way to continue exploring your career opportunities because you’re exposed to different types of clients, different industries and sometimes different disciplines of PR.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.


Candidate Question: How do I get an overseas PR job?

globe detail

Identity movie

This post is part of series of an on-going candidate question series where the readers post their job search and career questions here and I feature them anonymously.


I would like to work internationally in either tech or pharmaceutical PR. What resume building steps can I take to best position myself for a job/country change? Are foreign agencies open to hiring US candidates?


You should consider working for an international PR agency that has offices throughout the world. Many of these agencies do offer interested employees the opportunity to work temporarily or permanently in other offices, especially if you have the language skills. Some agencies have international exchange programs allowing employees to experience what it is like to work in another country office for a few weeks up to several months. You may also be able to apply for a full-time transfer if there is a position open in another agency office or transfer to a sister company's international office if the agency is part of a larger entity.

The more international experience you can gain while working in the United States, the more viable of a candidate you will become for these overseas posts. If you have the opportunity to work on a team with international clients and interface with international media, you can make a better case for yourself when you approach your company for a transfer.

Other related Q & A posts:

When Should You Follow Up on Your Job Application

When Should You Start Job Searching

How to Find a Recruiter for an Entry-level Position

Balancing Multiple Offers

Photo credit: Patrick Q [Flickr]

Candidate question: When should you follow up on your job application?

I asked the Twitter community a couple days ago for their job search and career questions. The response was overwhelming! I will be selecting several reader's questions over the next few weeks to answer on the blog. If you have a job search question you would like to see here, please submit it here. Your name and contact information will NOT be posted.


If a job posting doesn't specify that they will contact you, how long is a sufficient amount of time to wait before checking on the status of your resume?


Waiting one week to follow up from a resume submission is good rule if you have emailed it to a general email address or human resources department. Far too often candidates complain their resume goes to the "black hole." If you′re lucky, you might get an automated response from a job advertisement.

It's important to remember, some ads generated hundreds of responses a day and many companies have tools to automate the entry of resumes into their applicant tracking systems. They may not be looking at every resume individually. The hiring manager may not even be involved at this stage and instead she is relying on the human resources department to pre-qualify and pre-screen candidates.

The best way to make sure your resume gains the attention it deserves for the position is tweak it to fit the job description. Think about what keywords someone might use to search a database to fill an open requisition. Your goal is to be on that short-list.

If you know someone within the company you are applying, it′s always better to have an internal recommendation. If your contact can walk your resume into the hiring manager or the HR department directly, your chances getting an interview improve greatly. Ask your contact to let you know when your resume has been received and follow up directly with the hiring contact in a day or two on the phone if possible or by email.

The Last Samurai release

In both cases, your follow-up should be concise, yet reiterate your interest in the position, and highlight your accomplishments and qualifications that make you a good fit for the open position. Don′t assume the company knows who you are or remembers what position you applied for. As wonderful it as it would be to hear a yes or no, don′t take it personally if you don′t hear back.

Photo credit: Mdezemery [Flickr]

Interesting links: November 20-26

Interesting links for the long weekend reading... Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!




5 things you should never put on your resume


Lusting to be Lost

Photo credit: Mike Dumlao

Job searching can be a lonely, frustrating place. It's time consuming and it rarely comes without rejection. In most cases, your years of hard work are represented on one or two pages and evaluated by someone who has probably never worked in your position. And it's that step that determines if you are in the "in" interview pile or the "out" pile.

Those two pages of finely tuned words ARE you, until you have the chance to let your personality shine through in the interview. Here are my top five things to avoid putting on your resume.

  1. Giving personal data. Your resume should be a business representation of you. Avoid listing your marital status, age, family data, hobbies, etc. You should have hobbies and a life outside of work, but it's not necessary to include them on your resume UNLESS the hobby or information is relevant to the job itself. Your prospective employer will find this all out anyways on your Facebook or Myspace page (so make sure it's representative of what you want them to know). Your age, sexual preference, martial status or family information (children, ages, etc.) are irrelevant. The unfortunate truth is that hiring managers may base their decisions on whether or not to interview and hire you based on the information you provide, discriminatory or not. Don't let them make that judgment.
  2. Listing every job since adolescence. The Starbucks Barista job that got you through college isn't for the resume. If it's not relevant to your current job search, drop it. Think: Did this job prepare me to be a PR pro? If not, don't list it. That goes for internships too. If you have more than five years experience your internships are no longer relevant.
  3. Going more than two pages. This is a tough one, especially for candidates with lots of experience. You may have the temptation of wanting to list all of your relevant experience, but nobody reads more than two pages. So don't give in, no matter how much experience you have. Find a way to cut it down. A good way to start is by focusing on accomplishments for each position rather than a long list of responsibilities.
  4. Personal pronouns. Writing your resume in the first person detracts from your accomplishments. It adds unnecessary work and wastes space. The same goes for referring to yourself in the third person. Examples: "I pitched business and trade publications such as..." or "Jane has 15 years of experience..."
  5. Providing references or stating "references upon request." You need references, but not on your resume. You don't want your valued references being called before you have a chance to let them know. If a company requires references, it will ask you for them when you are seriously being considered for the position. Listing "references upon request" at the bottom of your resume is a given and wastes valuable space.

What would you add to the list?

This is part one of a three-part series about what to never put on your resume.
Part 2: Top things you should never put on your resume by readers
Part 3:
Make sure your career progress is not mistaken for job hopping

Related articles

CNN - Resumes from Hell
New York Times - Resume Writing 101


Gen Y After Graduation

Fact: The workplace is changing. I'm not sure why I was so surprised at the results of a recent survey at - we all know job hopping is common these days, especially with younger generations, but the fact that 60% of these young grads are actively looking for a new position although 57% are happy in their job just surprised me.

It's one thing to keep your options open to better career opportunities, but it's another to be actively looking for a new position. Where do these young grads find time to be actively seeking out opportunity and interviewing while they are just starting out in their careers and busy learning?

Here's the detailed findings of the survey:

  • 70% of young grads reported they left their first job within two years of their joining
  • 43% of Gen Y are not in the career they expected to be in after college, either because they couldn′t find a job, or another opportunity presented itself
  • 60% are currently looking for another job or career, despite the fact that 57% indicated that they are also happy at their current job
  • 74% of recent graduates are in a career that aligns with their college major

Most hiring companies I work with still seem uneasy about candidates who jump jobs every two years despite the changing times. Often these same employers doubt a candidate's ability to assimilate into a new work culture after ten years of employment at the same company. Is there a happy medium?

What are your thoughts?

Chuck Underwood: "Mils" In The Workplace: Re-Defining 20-Something

Boston Globe: Job hopping an option for young people

7 reasons my generation is more productive than yours


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