The Taboo Subject: Bridge Burning & Career Repair
Have you ever noticed that developers, or employees in general do not talk about the subject of burning bridges? I suspect that the people involved felt ashamed or upset about how they handled a situation. I know that I don’t like talking about my mistakes, and yes I’ve made a fair share of them.
Bridge Burning Offenses
Here is a list of things that might lead to a black-balled career. They are in order how severe I perceive them to be.
If you know of any others that should be in the list I’d be curious to know of some more creative ones, but don’t use names or employer names.
- Have you handled a job situation in a way you regret, too many times?
- Have you made too many mistakes that affected a large project and/or team?
- For developers, do people often turn to you and ask what you did when the server goes down?
- Did you get another job and leave your former company with insufficient, or no notice?
- Did you ever walk off the job in the middle of the shift?
- Have you fallen asleep on the job?
- Did you fail a drug test?
- Were you charged with a crime or jailed?
- Did you ever go postal at work? (this one might be unrecoverable, sorry)
If you think these habits may be getting you blackballed you are probably right. But don’t get too worked up about it, there isn’t anything you can’t overcome with the right motivation.
How To Repair A Torched-Bridge & Save Your Career
I think that most people have left a job in a way that they could have handled better, but that thinking might be a form of denial because I want to believe it. Yes, this means I am guilty of at least one of the offenses mentioned. (Author looking around to see if anyone is looking)
Time-Travel, The Ultimate Fix To Mistakes
I read somewhere on the internet that time-travel is possible. But if it were really possible wouldn’t we be seeing more repeat lottery winners, and Independent voters? Oh, wait this isn’t a political blog– sorry. Seriously though there are many legitimate ways to work around career mistakes.
This first list isn’t the greatest, but it is what I found via DuckDuckGo.com, the search engine that doesn’t track you. If you are looking for some more honorable suggestions skip down to the next paragraph.
Tell the truth about mistakes
- Tell the truth about your negative job experience, and show how how you were able to reflect on the problem and make meaningful change preventing it from occurring again.
- Say that you had a bad few months, and that you are better now. I don’t recommend this one.
Bend the truth, or leave out details about mistakes
- Use a co-worker for a job-reference, rather than a manger or human resources.
- Say that the job was a short term contract, wasn’t challenging enough, or wasn’t what you expected.
- Leave the job off of your resume and stretch the dates of the jobs on both sides of the offending position to fill in the gap.
- Leave the job off your resume entirely and make any excuse about why you had a lapse in employment. Make the lapse something honorable, like volunteering to protect the border, or taking care of your sick relative.
- Use your own, or friends corporation name as employer in place of the real employer.
- Say that there were changes coming (merger, cutback, etc.), and you saw the writing on the wall and moved on.
Run Away From Your Problems
- Relocation to a new city, state, country where you can start fresh. This one surprised me, and seemed a bit strong but then again my wife tells me I am non-confrontational.
Creative Ideas For Working Around Lack Of References
I haven’t offered anything of real substance when it comes to solving burned-bridges yet. Here are some of the more creative ideas I can think of. I would love to hear of more creative ideas like these.
These can help you overcome negatives without being deceitful which could burn you in the long-run.
- Consider starting a blog to show what you are capable of and to make professional connections. The old cliche’ is true, it’s not what you know… blah, blah, you know the rest.
- You might consider joining local developer groups and make more personal connections, a simple internet search will yield many local developer groups, and you might just meet your next employer or friend.
- Create your own business. Start a blogging business, a multi-tenant application, or an online RPG that interests you. If you can afford to work for free for a year or two you should be able to make any business venture work.
- Work on an open source project, help solve problems and try to meet other developers on the project. You might develop a new relationship that could lead to a referral, and great new position, and more importantly a fresh start!
- Start a non-profit organization training under-privileged students how to become developers. It would be highly rewarding, and be a great bullet point on your resume.
- Consider doing some additional training, or training that addresses any negative that you’ve incurred. It will look better than saying I learned my lesson, because you took some real and meaningful action to improve yourself.
Consider Not Worrying About Burned Bridges
Whenever you start something new, ask yourself, “If the worst happened, would I be alright? Can you accept a worst case scenario?” Because you might just ruin your reputation, bankrupt yourself, or turn a city against you. This is reality and it happens to good people every day. So, the point is maybe you are worrying about the bridge a little too much.
Failure is an option. And your willingness to accept that may be the one that contributes the most to your success. The ability to start over without fear gives you unlimited opportunities.
Also consider that people often change jobs several times in the first fifteen years of their career, and you can quickly put some negatives to rest by simply moving forward.
None of these reasons excuse you from giving 100% at your job, but don’t let baggage affect your state-of-mind in a bad way.
Look to the future, Learn from the past
How many times have you made a mistake and felt like you’d never recover from it, then you do just fine? Solving a problem might seem daunting but as in development, it is nothing more than a bunch of small manageable problems. So put your best foot forward, keep your head high and learn from your past mistake(s).
If you enjoyed this, would you consider doing me a huge favor and sharing it via social media? I have finally learned the importance of social media, and how it helps you reach a much larger audience. (hint webmasters/writers)