Years ago, I was interviewing with a company that I really wanted to work for. The industry was intriguing, the position was exciting, I loved its location, and I knew I had the skillset they sought. A match made in heaven! In anticipation of my appointment, I researched and learned all I could about its products and services, its culture, the types of people it employed. I was ready. There was no question I was not prepared to answer. Except this one: “Give me an example of a time you burned a bridge.”
Speaking of burning, I could feel the heat rise on my neck and in my cheeks. What? A time that I burned a bridge? Think… think… think… think… I came up with something, the details are unimportant, and gave what I thought was a relatively legit response. I was ready for the next question. That’s when my interviewer said: “Good answer. Give me another example of a time you burned a bridge.” Ugh. You get the idea.
It was painful. Painful to remember the situations… painful to speak out loud. Upon reflection, it wasn’t that difficult to come up with times that I had, indeed, burned bridges. The recollection left me with a sense of shame, remorse, regret, and sadness. I found myself wondering if those bridges had been – or ever could be – repaired. Had I hurt someone? Had my actions or insensitivity left a permanent scar?
I suspect, if pressed, we could all come up with a time or two of situations in which we weren’t on our best behavior, when we caused irreparable damage to a business relationship, friendship or family connection. In these especially polarized times, it seems we could all benefit from asking ourselves a slightly different question.
Give me an example of a time you BUILT a bridge.
What was the situation? Did you establish trust? How did forging a connection make you feel? What is your relationship like now?
In networking, it is important to be mindful of the impact with have on one another. It is important to seek not only to NOT burn bridges, but to take a proactive stance when it comes to bridge building. Reach across the aisle… offer to help… listen to the challenges of others… find opportunities for friendship, partnership and collaboration.
P.S. – Yes, I got that job. I guess the interviewer, who became a trusted friend and colleague, wasn’t too put off by my sordid bridge burning history. Phew!