This article, written by Laura Slingo from the UK’s leading independent job board CV-Library, has been written for you to share with your teenager so you can help them to understand what is expected of them in the working world and how their actions have consequences.

Sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment and regret our choice of words and phrasing. For teenagers, still learning the ways of the world, it can be easy to find oneself ruled by one’s emotions, and fly off the handle at a misunderstanding, burning bridges before they’ve even been built. Understanding what is expected of you in the world of work will help you to start your career the right way and enable you to avoid burning bridges with employers which could cause costly mistakes.

1. Reputation management

You may not think that upsetting someone will have a consequence, but it’s best to bear in mind that whatever industry you want to work in, or are already in, it will be quite small. People change companies and jobs, but they don’t have a lobotomy when they do it.

If you have burnt bridges with someone, that doesn’t stop when either of you moves on from the position. You will be persona non grata with them, for as long as they remember you.

The world of recruitment is quite small, so if you make a bad name for yourself or an enemy of one recruiter, they can and will talk to other recruiters. Before you know it your name is mud, and no one will touch you with a barge pole. You are likely to be blacklisted before you have even started trying to get on the career ladder.

Great reputations take years to cultivate but only take seconds to destroy.

How to manage your reputation

Be consistent. If you say you will do something, do it. Don’t wait to be nudged and try not to have ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days. You will quickly get marginalised if you can’t maintain a steady workflow.

Everyone has personal issues at some point or another, just don’t be that person who is constantly dealing with a drama and can’t focus on their work. That person ends up shirking their responsibilities, and no one wants anyone like that on their team.

Go out of your way to help others. You want a reputation for being a team player, of being someone that others can rely on. This quality is highly desirable for recruiters.

Realise that your boss is working for someone too. So, work to make them look good, and never blame anyone else for your shortcomings. Be mature; take responsibility when it falls on your shoulders. You will look the bigger person for it, and you will be taken seriously as someone who can learn and grow from their mistakes.

Remember also that your reputation doesn’t start and end with a handshake, it extends beyond the working world and into your private life and online. If you want to maintain a great image, make sure you manage all aspects of your life.

2. Respect the recruitment process

Here’s how to avoid burning bridges with prospective employers:

  • Only apply for jobs you really want to do.

Of course, sometimes having a job, any job, will be infinitely better than not. But if you’re serious about job hunting, only apply to the ones that you really want. If you can’t commit to the interview or turn up on day one, what will you be like six months or two years in? If it doesn’t enthuse you now, it’s unlikely to enthuse you later. So don’t waste yours or the recruiter’s time.

  • Look at where the interview is so that you can route plan before the day.

The last thing that says ‘I’m reliable, hire me’, is turning up to your interview late.

  • Wear suitable attire.

You’re going for a job interview, not hanging out with your friends. Dress sensibly and appropriately.

3. The seriousness of bunking off an interview

Bunking off an interview/job usually has significant negative consequences.

Imagine how you would feel as the recruiter if your candidate simply didn’t turn up?

Whether you wake up on the day of your interview, or the first day of a job, and just don’t feel like going to it, you need to realise that there is absolutely no point in reapplying or turning up for the second day. Your name will be mud, and even if you think that you are only a tiny fish in a big pond and no one will notice your absence, there is a strong possibility that your decision not to attend will come back and haunt you later in life.

Like Newton’s Third Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Karma does have a habit of catching up with people somehow.

So there you have it. Make sensible choices when you apply, turn up looking professional, on time, and well prepared for interview and you will put yourself head and shoulders above the competition and give your career the best start possible.