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Re: (OT) On starting a new job

by dimar (Curate)
on Dec 01, 2004 at 20:16 UTC ( #411551=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to (OT) On starting a new job

Considering the dilligence with which you preceeded putting this meditation online, I'd bet that *you* personally would be a good employee to have. That's my first impression. Kudos to you on that account.

My second impression: although these may be good pointers for starters ... there's also a flip side to nearly every one of the points you raised, and the 'naysayers' of the world will do their part to reveal the antithesis.

There is no substitute for experience, understanding, and wisdom.

Grist for the mill, here are just some bits to chew on ... (assuming we're talking about programming jobs)

Exude self-confidence and intelligence Change this to "Be true to yourself"

Certain positions and professions place a premium on maintaining the appearance of 'knowitall-super-genius' ... but this also tends to (justifiably and unjustifiably) alienate people. Of course, if you are exceptionally bright and naturally confident, there's no reason why you should not let it show ... but be ready to keep a lot of really good and revolutionary ideas to yourself. If your ideas are really good, and really revolutionary, people will resist them tooth and nail, and either you, or they will be dragged out kicking and screaming.

Try to fit in Change this to "bathe regularly and wear nice clothes"
As far as personal grooming and work attire, no brainer. As far as behavioral traits, who is to say what constitutes "fitting in"? What if there is no obvious operational or institutional momentum for you to follow? What if it is dysfunctional? What if you are at a startup where it is important to "stand out" and improvise? What if you were hired *specifically* because you exhibit a dominant trait that no one else has? (race, gender, languages spoken, disability, family background, et al. {note: in many cases this is illegal, but it still happens}).

"Be yourself, but try to belong" sounds like touchy-feely-greeting-card-speak, and lacks falsifiability, therefore toss this one into Marketing and let them play with it.

Don't be late to work No change

No brainer, but good to keep on the checklist, very few people are 100% punctual.

Don't step on any toes Change this to "choose your battles sparingly, but wisely"

This one is a doozy, because, by definition, you are stepping on *someone's* toes by the mere fact that you are accepting money in exchange for your time. You aren't the only person who interviewed for that job, and your paths may soon cross with someone that you beat out for the position (you are in the same industry, after all). Moreover, the job would not have been available unless someone thought the existing personnel and resources were inadequate (for whatever reason).

That's just the very tip of the iceburg. What happens when you are caught in the middle of an internal religious war, turf battles, or divisions that do not talk to one another? What if you are pressured to join in on shunning the 'village idiot/outcast' or opposing a pervasive policy that is manifestly unfair and possibly even unethical/illegal?

Be paranoid Change this to "there is no such thing as privacy"

All employers spy on their employees at work (and off work). Even if you work at a help desk in a remote office by yourself and you never get calls, you signed away a whole chunk of your life just to get the job. The realities of Federal workplace regulations and taxes mean that you can assume there is no element of your life that is outside of scrutiny. Keystroke loggers and email monitoring are just the trivial annoying flies buzzing around that huge steaming pile of legalese and tax minutia that you signed when you applied and when you accepted the job. That's where the real stink is. That's the most likely attack vector for snoops into your "privacy".

Cast a critical eye on your new job Change this to "A bird in the hand is worth ..."
Unless you are working someplace where you would willingly work for free, you are making a compromise. The pain and gravity of that compromise is, of course, contingent upon your own personal ultimate values. Values transcend your job title, your salary, and what other people may (or may not) think about you. Bailing out may seem like an attractive option, but if it were all roses and spice, we wouldn't call it "work."

Perhaps these may come off as the words of a 'naysayer' ... but like I said, just grist for the mill.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re^2: (OT) On starting a new job
by biosysadmin (Deacon) on Dec 02, 2004 at 03:23 UTC
    My grandfather worked his way up from being an oil field worker to being a vice president of Exxon over the course of many long years. During his tenure as a manager, one of his new hires asked "How can I succeed here at Exxon?"

    He thought about the question, and told the employee three things:

    • Show up on time
    • Don't get sick
    • Do "good" things
    I currently have this posted above my computer monitor as a form of encouragement, and it has served me well. The moral of my little anecdote: post slightly cheesy sayings that resonate well with management in your workspace, and they'll perceive you as a real go-getter.

    (For those who are interested, the anecdote is real, the moral is not. :)

Re^2: (OT) On starting a new job
by jacques (Priest) on Dec 01, 2004 at 21:41 UTC
    As far as behavioral traits, who is to say what constitutes "fitting in"?

    Something that greatly interests me are expat programmers, specifically Americans working in Asia.

    I know of one American programmer who is working in Beijing, China. He has done some Perl, including a Mason project called "Brick Builder," I believe. He keeps an online journal, but sadly his site was down the last time I checked.

    What interests me about his situation are the cultural differences he encounters at his work place. What are Chinese programmers like in China? What are the work habits? How does he fit in?

    Teaching English is a very popular way for westerners to work and live overseas. But I would like to see how far my programming skills will take me. Can Perl take me to the other side of the world? Why not.

      Something that greatly interests me are expat programmers

      Me too. I have this recurring fantasy where I get a short-term contract job in Japan which pays enough to justify the travel. Not that I speak Japanese or anything, but hey...

      Simon Cozen's blog sometimes has interesting stuff along these lines, but less so since he caught the God bug. Elaine Ashton's blog is also a good spot to fantasize about leaving the country.


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