February 18, 2019

The Philosophy of Never Burning a Bridge: The Value of Relationships

By Lenny Prosser, Account Services Intern

As a recent college graduate, I often reflect on the lessons I’ve learned over the past 3 1/2 years. Aside from the many lectures I’ve sat through, late hours studying in the library and weekends spent with friends, I have one major takeaway: the value of relationships.

College is the first time many young adults live away from home. It presents the opportunity to create new relationships outside the boundaries of your hometown. You realize which friends turn into cheerleaders that motivate you, and which “friends” served to teach you life lessons. Aside from peer friendships, I realized how important it was to create professional relationships with the professors I admired.

After taking an advertising class at University of Delaware, I changed my career interest from journalism to the field of advertising. My professor’s real-world experiences translated to his teaching style, as he assigned students mock advertising projects that we presented in front of a panel of “client” and local ad agency judges.

With some guidance and mentorship, I perfected my resume and cover letter. My professor connected me with individuals he knew in the industry, including those at AB&C. Thanks to his help and support, I am now AB&C’s account services intern.

At AB&C, I met with Healthcare Division Director Maria Stearns and Account Supervisor Kajsa Haracz to learn more about how they got their start in the advertising industry. I found their intertwining paths intriguing.

In 1993, Stearns and Haracz sat next to each other while checking badges at the media table during one of Hillary Clinton’s first healthcare-reform conferences. At that time, Stearns was a student at Arcadia University who was interning at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for the summer. Haracz, a student at Temple University, had interned at CHOP the previous summer. Little did they know that 26 years later, their offices would be around the corner from each another at AB&C’s office in Wilmington, Delaware.

While reflecting on her early career experience, Stearns said, “Value the friendships and relationships you build in your career. There are people from 20 years ago who I am still in touch with, and I can ask for a connection or a favor. Recognize the importance of relationships and— more importantly—do not burn bridges.”

Stearns continued to work at CHOP full time, while Haracz started her career at the Children’s Seashore House as a communications coordinator. The two did not stay apart for long. When CHOP acquired the Children’s Seashore House, Haracz returned to CHOP as a media relations coordinator. At that point, her career path intertwined with Stearns once again. Soon after, Haracz left CHOP to become a full-time mom, but eventually found herself missing the working world.

“About seven or eight years later, I’m in the park, swinging with my youngest daughter, and I’m thinking maybe I should go back to work,” she said. “Literally that same day, Maria called me and said, ‘I’m the PR director at an agency, and I need you to come help me. Come work here.’”

It all goes back to Stearns’ theory on networking and the power of relationship building—within an agency, and, more importantly, with clients.

In regard to her career path with Stearns, Haracz said, “We have a natural working relationship with our similar backgrounds. It’s a good combination of tactical knowledge stemming from our earlier internships that we now bring from a strategy side to our clients.”

Now that I am in the process of defining my own path in the industry, their stories remind me how important it is to value relationships. Needless to say, I am proud that my career path in the industry has started with an agency that values meaningful relationships held together by respect and kindness.