Burning bridges and career advice

By Scot Herrick | Business Networking

Apr 06

There is a provocative — and excellent — article from Rebecca Thorman on her Modite site called ‘Don’t burn bridges’ is bad career advice. If you think that keeping business relationships with poor managers, lousy team members and crappy companies is good career advice, you will waste a lot of energy keeping your sanity.

With all of the comments on the post, you would have thought that people shouldn’t burn bridges with anyone — but people leaving companies burn bridges all the time. The problem is they burn the bridges with their great managers, cool team members and great companies. People leave their jobs and never even get the personal contact information of the great people still working at the company.

In an age where networking includes the planet, burning bridges with great people is a career management crime.

Great managers work for great companies

Keeping in contact with great managers makes sense because they are in demand at companies where action is the name of the game. Great managers want people to work for them so that the entire team accomplishes what they set out to do. By not keeping contact with your great managers — burning bridges, so to speak — you lose the ability to work the great opportunities.

Great team members find great work

Likewise, if we are truly going to find work that satisfies our souls, we need to work with people who bring out our best and where we contribute solid accomplishments for our teams. Unless you keep in contact with the great team members of your past, you diminish your opportunity to find important work with the very people you love to work with.

Great companies are worth watching

Not that you would go back and work again at a great company. But watching successful companies is important because they lead their industry. Their success requires other companies to change direction to match the success. Watching select companies in your industry or next chosen career area will teach you the latest trends and point you in the right direction to improve your job skills.

Burn bridges with the right people

It’s OK to burn bridges with the people you didn’t think were that much into you. But people walk away from great performers with great support all the time when they leave a company.

How many great people do you stay in contact with from your last company?

  • No one can neglect this advice… Thanks a tons Scot for such a fabulous advice.

  • eric moore says:

    I have done that to some extent. I left a company a few years ago because of a bad, dictator like supervisor. I contacted a manager afterwords I thought I had a good relationship with and the door was shut by him. I can only assume in an age where lawsuits occur over these issues, I can see why the door was shut. Though I had individuals at the company who would vouch for me, they were not managers.

    I struggle with the entire concept of references. More and more people are leaving companies because of being over-worked, mistreated. I run into these people all the time. I recently touched base with a colleague from a previous position 10 years ago who told me the sad story of how his career there wound down. One morning shows up with 6 guys from India he is too train.

    The world of work has been turned upside down forever. And references and networks are going to be completely different for better or worse.

    • Scot says:

      References from companies is problematic because of the legal issues. I get that managers are reluctant to provide references while still with the company; they essentially break ‘business code of conduct’ stuff in doing so. However, keeping in contact with managers is important and once a manager leaves a company, they can usually give a recommendation for work for you. Especially on sites like LinkedIn.

      Your business network will continue to increase in importance for you to find the next job. If you are not building and maintaining that network right now, you will suffer as a result. It looks like you’ve been keeping in touch and helping others — that’s the key to networking.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks, Scot! This is such great advice that you shouldn’t neglect the people that were good to you – too often we take those for granted. This reminds me of several people I should email… if only they had blogs! 😉

    • Scot says:

      Yup, for all the screaming about not “burning bridges” even if the person is terrible, we burn bridges with great people all the time. All upset about the wrong side of burning bridges…

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