Burning Bridges? Remember, Smoke Travels
By Ed Roberts
InHOWsers: The column you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the relieved and just plain old crazy.
I recently completed an exhaustive search for a brilliant copywriter to join our team of creative superheroes. To be completely honest, the search left me feeling less heroic and more—as they say in horse country—rode hard and put up wet. For three months I sifted through what seemed like hundreds of résumés, but at the very least, I was afforded the great opportunity to interview several profoundly creative and technically astute professionals. No stone was left unturned in finding the perfect foil for my über-talented designer. In the end, I believe I found the genuine article—a tenaciously brilliant copywriter.
As a general rule upon closing any major project, I ask each project contributor the following question: “What did you learn from this experience?” After negotiating and receiving a green light on the final employment terms of my new copywriter, I asked myself the same question. I immediately thought of one résumé that stood out like a big flashing yellow light. Seeing that caution light and making one important phone call taught me this: Don’t burn bridges when leaving a job. You’ll never know which forest cultivated and supplied the wood that built that bridge. Plus, your career could get burned in the aftermath.
When Enola Gay’s résumé landed on my desk, at first glance I thought good experience, solid candidate; yes to a phone interview! As I reviewed her résumé in more detail, I realized she worked for one of my most cherished colleagues. So I phoned my colleague about this candidate. I wasn’t expecting the response given—“RUN!” I then heard the nightmarish accounting of Enola Gay’s brief employment, voluntary departure, the unprovoked, profane-riddled voicemail left for one manager who rarely worked with her, and the creative team’s relief that she quit. The bomb Enola Gay dropped on my colleague’s well-respected and politically connected company rivaled the explosion on Hiroshima! I couldn’t delete her résumé fast enough.
With social networking sites blurring the lines between personal and professional lives, monitoring and maintaining your online reputation is indeed crucial to your career survival and success. But ignoring your offline reputation can be disastrous too. One massive burning bridge set a few years earlier—now a smoldering and smoky mess—can adversely impact your future employment opportunities. So the next time you feel like going out in a blaze of glory, before you strike that match—remember, smoke travels.