This is more of a personal article as these are lessons that I still find coming in to play in my daily life. What I have learned will hopefully help you as you start down your own path. Early in life I worked as a retail peon. Through hard work, and probably a little luck, I moved up in the ranks and ended up running multiple stores. The final person I worked with was a mentor to me more than a manager. The lessons he taught carried on to my life as I started working as a writer.
As a stay at home father I found it difficult to make the most of each day. I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if I had not learned so many important lessons (many of which I write about on this site) under the tutelage of my previous mentor. When it came time for me to leave the retail job, I probably did so in a less than graceful manner. I tried to leave in the best way possible, and my supervisor gave me a respectable send off. I have talked to him on and off since then, but never expected anything else from him.
Once I started freelancing I started to make contacts with a few clients. I spent a great deal of time learning the ropes from them, and made sure that I built a personal relationship. Through time, they introduced me to other individuals that could provide work for me and help me keep some income on the way. Jobs came my way which I hated, but I did them and gave them my all. I made sure that every job was a reflection on my work ethic and I kept in contact with those clients, even when they had no work left.
Throughout life you will meet people that may not seem that important to you right now. Don’t let that stop you from building a relationship with them. You may find, as I recently did, that while you expected nothing from them, later in life they will pop back up and become a key part of your success. While freelancing, one client and I became good friends. We talked about our kids, our families and our plans. We complained about work to each other and talked on and off even when no work was coming my way. I would occasionally send her a message to ask how the new kid was doing, or how their vacation went.
The Benefits of Staying Involved
Occasionally, she will pop up with surprise work for me. It doesn’t always pay well, but it is often fairly easy and comes at the perfect time. The key to take from this particular part of the story is that you need to stay involved. When something comes up, and it will, they will think of you first. A promotion may be on the horizon and they are asked if they know people that would qualify. If you have stayed in constant contact, they won’t have to dig deep into their memory to think of you.
Furthermore, the fact that I didn’t burn bridges in the past (my retail experience namely) has come back in unexpected ways. My mentor/manager from my retail time is friends with me on Facebook and shares articles with those that he is friends with as he finds them. What does he gain from that? I think that is the next lesson I will learn. That is for a different article.
The key to keep in mind through this personal story is that I was very lucky. I never really knew about networking or burning bridges early on. I’m just a people person and I talked to clients, even when work wasn’t coming my way, just because I felt it was the right thing to do. Looking back, it makes a great deal of sense. By always showing them that I am around, they know that I will be there when they need work done.
Finally, not burning any bridges was not planned. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just kind of happened. I left jobs, in general, in the most graceful way I could and I tried to keep some form of contact with those I worked with the most. Throughout my life those individuals have popped up when I needed them to.
What All of This Means to You
Your takeaway here should be fairly clear. Don’t burn bridges at previous jobs. Become friends with students, professors or whomever you meet in your professional life. Keep in contact with them, even if it is only twice a year. Thank them, honestly, if they have done something great for you in the past. Let them know you are around if you are ever needed. At some point, you will help others as well. The key is to keep networking, meeting new people, and not letting them forget about you.
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