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Burning Bridges

I’ve written several times about the importance of networking, and how networking can make the difference between standing in a checkout line or a soup line. Today, we’re going to talk about a slightly different aspect which falls into the arena of maintaining that network.

A network is a group of people who make up your professional and personal contacts. These are people who you talk with, visit with, have lunch with, help, and ask question of. Just like anything else, if you don’t maintain your network, you can start to lose those important connections.

You should never have to use the line “Hey, remember me?” The one aspect of maintenance we’re going to discuss today is burning bridges. I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase, but do you still burn bridges?

You Can Take Your Job And …

Do you fly off the handle easily? Do you stand in place and dream of cussing at the customers, deploying the emergency slide, and exiting your job with obscene hand gestures as you slide down (Jet Blue Flight Attendant Reference)? Without a doubt, if you are feeling anything like that, then you’re probably in the wrong job/career.

But just because you are, it doesn’t mean you should burn these bridges. You might be so angry now that you think “I don’t need you, I don’t need this job, heck, I don’t even need these co-workers!” But take a deep breath, you may not “need” these things, but they certainly could be useful in the future!

Look To The Past

Throughout history, there have been very tumultuous periods where people have been laid off en masse due to one reason or another. You had the Wall Street Crash of 1929, you had the Black Monday Crash of 1987, the recession of the early 90s, and the Dot Com Bust to top it off. Many of those people probably would have taken a former job in a heartbeat.

Just because you don’t like your boss, it doesn’t mean that person can’t help you in the future. Now, if you’re rude, condescending, and abrasive, then they’ll have no interest to help you. The same goes with your co-workers. If you leave your team abruptly with all the projects, do you think they’ll recommend you in the future?

If you apply for a future job on their team, and any of them find out, what do you think they would say to the hiring manager?

Look To The Present

We experienced a severe market downturn in 2008, and we still have about 10% unemployment. Do you think any of these unemployed people would gladly take a previous job, work with a previous boss, or work with a previous team? I bet many of them would. Some people were able to tap into their networks and find employment.

Other people, who might have let the network fall apart, still can’t find a job. If this has happened in the past, and it is happening now, can it happen in the future? The present is just the future as it happens, so the answer is a resounding yes!

Look To The Future

The past is sprinkled with terrible events that were shocking and surprising. So, as you look to the future, don’t picture it as rainbows and unicorns. Lots of people enjoyed an awesome quality of life during the bull market leading up to the crash of 2008. If they didn’t expect something bad to happen, then why not burn a few bridges to get the next higher paying job?

If they had considered that something bad might have happened in the future, they could have had options open to them. As an example, consider someone who might have left their comfortable job for a higher paying job at Bears Stearns, or Lehman Brothers, what could go wrong?

If they burnt their bridges, then they lost everything! Don’t be short-sighted. Please don’t mistake the message of this article as an ode to spinelessness, defend yourself where necessary, and never let people take advantage of you. But be level-headed enough to know when you’re not being level-headed. Before you go on your tirade, take a few deep breaths, and sleep on it.

Maintain your network, even if you don’t want your former boss in it. Can anything bad really come from maintaining a civil and professional relationship with someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with?

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