How and When Should You Burn Bridges?

Maisha Cannon wrote an excellent titled Burning Bridges on Recruiting Blogs.  She has become one of my favorite recruiting writers.

Her post references a quote about burning bridges: “May the bridges I burn light the way.”


Then she referenced Greg Smith, the Goldman Sachs exec who wrote a scathing letter on his last day of work (before resigning).

Talk about burning bridges!

If Greg exists, and what he wrote is true, then yes, I’d say he burned a bridge at his past employer, and many future employers might be skeptical of hiring him.  I respect what he did from a personal ethics perspective, but wow, that was gutsy.

Maisha’s post, and Greg’s letter, makes me think about job seekers, and burning bridges.  A common prompting for us to burn bridges is when people ask “why did you leave your last job?”


We really feel like we want to tell OUR SIDE of the story.  And when we do, we usually go too far and tell what was wrong with everything else.

Here’s the problem… and it’s bigger than burning a bridge with someone who might not ever hear us talking about them: We sound bitter.  And we show that we carry a grudge.  We sound hurt, and not ready to move forward.

I’ve been there.  I was bitter, and I hold grudges, and I was hurt!!

So, I was just being honest, right?

The problem is that the people who are listening might sympathize with us, but they might not be willing to help us with what we need most: contacts and introductions.

If you sound jaded and mad and bitter, you are saying “I’m not ready to network yet, don’t introduce me to anyone.”

So really, in the end, who won?  Was it worth it to ruin an opportunity to move forward on your job search just so you could tell your side of the story?

I know you want to.  And I want to.  But for the same of not being stuck, figure out how to answer this question concisely, respecting all parties involved.  Then you might look “ready” for more goodness.


  1. Maisha on March 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Hi-ya Jason,
    Thanks for the support! You raise a great point about venting to a prospective employer. Candidates are absolutely saying “I’m not ready to network yet, don’t introduce me to anyone” when they come off as “bitter.”

    First interviews and first dates couldn’t be more analogous in that regard. Anyone who spends an entire first date venting about their horrible “ex” is sending all kinds of bad signals. You don’t want to reveal all your insecurities and issues up front if you want to snag the second date. The same goes for interviews. See you on RecruitingBlogs!

  2. Maisha Cannon on March 19, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Thanks so much for mentioning the Recruiting Blogs article! I hope I’m still one of your favorites! 🙂

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