With the rise of social media as a platform to build one’s personal brand, sometimes it can be forgotten that the process of developing a personal brand is a much bigger responsibility than a social media presence. Personal branding is about making a full time commitment to the journey of defining yourself and represents the value you are able to consistently deliver in good times and in bad. Stressful decisions or impositions on our careers can be defining moments when personal brand integrity it as risk.
Think of your personal brand as your trademark. You must protect it while also continuing to mould it or shape it. Manage it with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you or by being associated with your work. The focus must not be centred on self-promotion, but to a commitment to advance yourself and serving others well.
Burning bridges is a flawed and precarious way to build your career
Your personal brand can be quickly eroded, often at the point when you’re “done” with your current employer or they are “done” with you. Whenever you leave an organisation, there can be hurt feelings on either side. Laid off, paid off, or resigning – each can be accompanied by raw emotions, decisions and actions that may be felt or experienced by the recipient.
If you decide to leave of your own volition, whether for positive or negative reasons, then you must be professional about what you do and how you do it, because it can stay with you for years. If you have been laid off or paid off, while it may be a bittersweet moment for you, just remember that you may need this relationship in the future. Reality is that you meet the same people on the way up as you do on the way down and you don’t want to burn any bridges. If you do, you run a risk of jeopardising a reference to fall back on.
However usually, departure from one organisation to another is in pursuit of your own advancement and you can – and should – try to stay on good terms. In this small world you never know when professional paths will cross again. Burning bridges is a flawed and precarious way to build your career, and chances are you’ll probably regret how you handled it.
In this small world you never know when professional paths will cross again
In the words of John Kobara in his book Swivel Time, “Bridges are not edifices on a one-way street that you take for granted and see in your rear view mirror. Bridges are often returned to for references and referrals. They are places and people that you visit to remind you of your progress and solidify your past, they are parts of the mosaic of your reputation and experience.”
Think of your supporters as the micro investors who expect you to move up and even out, but they do like to know what is going on. So engage them in your advancement or choice to move on. Deliver or receive difficult news, with the intention of preserving your personal brand and bridge.
Here are 6 tips to avoid a bridge to nowhere:
- It’s all in the delivery. If you have chosen to move, to reinforce your professional polish, be positive and personal, reinforce good times and the things you have learned.
- Candor and Compassion. If you are doing the firing, be candid and compassionate, offer to give a reference and help them in their future career.
- Go out on a positive note. You may meet up again. The same people move around from company to company and tend to know one another. If you do run into a former employer that had left you with a sour taste, grin and bear it and be nice.
- Stay 100% focused. While working out your notice period, stay hungry and put in 100% so that you are perceived as giving it your all. You want a good reference – the more people saying positive things about you the better. Stay focused until your last day. Tidy up any loose ends, finish projects, provide updates, and point out mission-critical steps that need to happen to those that will be managing your jobs.
- Bad mouthing gets you nowhere. Speaking ill of others only makes you look bad and can turn off your network or future employers. Let go of hostilities that you may have held in the workplace and start off on a clean slate in your new job. Carrying around baggage will just hold you back.
- Don’t take it personally. The decision is possibly not about you – business first. Personalising can attract irrational fears that are unhealthy. Even if it was personal, move on from it.
Finally, in the veritable smorgasbord of temptations, such as to blow a fuse, lose your cool, mouth off or slacken off, just remember willpower may be the most important skill you can master to preserve your personal brand. These responses don’t help, willpower will take energy, but it will pay off and preserve the structure of a bridge to somewhere.