Building Bridges Building a Future

I first met Karen Taylor Richardson at a local ACFW meeting. Her area of expertise fits nicely into my theme of Connections–so of course I asked her to contribute. Bridge-building is a well known and respected principle in the business world. You never know when that one connection will create the perfect bridge for your career advancement. I hope you enjoy her post.

One piece of advice many young people receive as they venture into the working world is “no matter what, don’t burn your bridges”.  Bridges connect people to one another. As careers are built, as are bridges, it is the manner in which we handle events or opportunities that lead us from one job to the next – from the mail room to the executive suite. Maybe somewhere in the middle is the best fit. Along the way, relationships are created that will connect us to future opportunities.
The foundation for your bridge is your reputation. Are you seen by others as credible and responsible? The stronger both of these are, the stronger the connection.
Reputations with others are built over time and by consistently showing who you are as a person. Your character, work-ethic and beliefs are demonstrated not only in what you say, but your reactions to all kinds of circumstances. For the believer, the way we handle work situations is often an extension of our faith. It’s God-honoring to put in a good day’s work and be seen as credible, responsible and hard-working.
I started my professional career in 1991. A few years out of college, a shiny Bachelor’s degree, ready to climb the corporate ladder. Back in the early ninety’s we still used classified ads and cold calling to look for jobs. It was agonizing! One method we used still stands true today –networking. Who do you know that can connect you with someone hiring?
A friend of mine who knew my skills and work ethic, gave my resume to the hiring manager for a position I was interested in.  I had two interviews and got the job.  His referral got me the interview. My answers to the questions got me the job.
That first position, along with my reputation and the relationships I built led to my next several positions. You see, the career journey for me hasn’t been about one place, one culture, one ladder to climb; it’s been about connecting with others at work, in the community and church in a manner that has built a reputation of working hard and being credible. 
In 2011, for the first time in over 20 years, I found myself unemployed. To put it kindly, I was restructured out. The whole nightmare was riddled with dirty politics. I don’t play those games. Looking back now, I can see where God held me up and gave me strength to take the high ground. The ordeal was a punch to my professional confidence and ego. I hadn’t looked for a job since 1991. Needless to say the methods for job hunting had changed. But one thing had stayed the same – the personal connection. Updating my resume, I did the 21st century thing and posted it online. But then I went “old school” and started to make phone calls to people and mentors to let them know I was on the job market.
Every person I called was willing to help. God had something better in mind. I ended up self-employed but my largest client came from someone I knew 10 years ago who made sure my name was on the top of the interview list. Ten years is a long time, but the reputation and connection I built then, made all the difference when I needed it most; he would have never helped me had I not been worthy of him putting his name on the line and make the referral.
Job hunting today is extremely competitive, online applications make it easy to job hunt all hours of the day and night from anywhere. But absolutely nothing compares to the personal touch – one person connecting another. It’s these connections that turn a flat piece of paper, into a living, breathing person.
About the Author: Karen Taylor-Richardson is a communications strategist who continues to learn about the craft of writing. In 2009, she started her blog, KKs Candor, Karen enjoys reading and gardening. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband and son.