Life (And IT) Can Be Hard, But Things Can Always Be Worse
Even if your in a touch situation, the job interview process is no place for an IT professional to vent frustration or anger. IT professionals seeking work should remember that even if they’re in a tough situation, or have troubles or woes aplenty, the job interview process is not a good place to vent their frustration or anger. Take this admonition to heart: Be positive, or be quiet!
As you have no doubt observed over the course of my postings here since the blog kicked off last January, I am very interested with the input from IT pros in need of career information or counseling. I always try my best to provide suggestions, information, and to help those willing to take the time to e-mail me see their situations in a better light, especially where prospects for change, growth, and development are concerned. The amount of e-mail traffic I handle isn’t overwhelming – I probably average a dozen such messages a week – but it is very informative about the mood of my audience, as well as their specific needs and situations.
In the past nine months, I’ve heard my share of hard-luck stories, too. There have been individuals with fresh college degrees and certifications who have had difficulty finding work post-graduation. There have been numerous people feeling stuck mid-career, with aspirations to get out of tech support, the help desk, or low-level technician or administrator jobs to move into positions that pay better or come with more interesting tools and technologies, or problems to solve.
This is an increasingly typical situation for professionals in many fields, thanks to slow growth in the job market, coupled with an excess of new workforce entrants as they complete their educations, and a surfeit of out-of-work mid- to late-career IT professionals seeking jobs following layoffs and business closures.
For the record, I strongly sympathize with anyone who’s in the situation of looking for work in a tight job market. This goes double for those who find themselves out of work (or unable to land a first “real job”) simply because there are too many people looking for too few open and suitable positions. Then, too, it’s hard for people near or at the bottom of any IT career ladder to start climbing rungs when there’s no place to climb to, or higher-pay and –skill jobs into which they could advance.
But I want to insert my tongue firmly in my cheek and remind you of the old saying “Life is hard, then you die” when it comes to sharing your feelings about such a situation with prospective employers. Simply put “Not a good idea!” Sure, you may have lots of legitimate beefs about the lack of work, or your ability to handle more complex and demanding challenges than your current job provides. But prospective employers want to hire positive people who are able to deal with difficult and demanding situations as and when they come up – as they do from time to time (or more often) – in almost every job. The last thing they want to hear from a job candidate is why they don’t like their current jobs, what morons or petty tyrants end-users can be, or how difficult it is to get a promotion or a raise where they currently work.
It’s fine to complain about your situation to somebody who’s willing to listen, and perhaps even give some good advice. I’m happy to deal with this kind of information and input in working on this blog, and writing for Tom’s IT Pro. But it’s most definitely not fine to share this kind of information, or to give vent to an unhappy, angry, or dissatisfied attitude in the context of a job interview process. Here’s why:
- Employers want positive employees who proactively solve problems, and possess a can-do attitude. Complaints create perceptions at odds with these characteristics.
- Unhappy employees are harder to manage, and take more time and effort, than happy ones. Consequently, employers tend to steer away immediately from candidates who display negative attitudes or personality traits in interviews.
- The job interview is like a first date: you’re trying your best to put yourself in the most positive light, while scanning urgently for signs of anything suspect from the other party. Sharing dislikes, venting spleen, or complaining all raise big red flags.
By now, I hope you’re asking me “Why is Ed telling me all this stuff? I know this already and would never do anything like this!” If so, good for you. But I’ve heard from enough people recently who came across as more interested in sharing discontent, dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger than they were in figuring out how to find a good exit strategy from a trying or difficult situation.
Please don’t let this happen to you, no matter how trapped, stuck, or exploited you may feel in your current circumstances.
Here’s how to sanity check your demeanor or self-presentation before you go out on any real job interviews. Find a close friend or mentor and ask him or her to practice an interview or two with you. Make sure you ask them to evaluate your attitude and behavior, as well as what you have to say about yourself, your experiences, your work history, and your future goals for professional development and employment. Only when you get a passing review on your attitude and interaction should you take an interview with somebody who’s got their best interests at heart, rather than yours.
That’s the best way to make sure you’re ready for the “big game!” When you go out on the interview, please leave your emotional baggage and your unpleasant experiences at home. Best of luck!
Ed Tittel is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who’s worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.
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