“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao-tsu, Chinese philosopher, about three thousand years ago
“The world doesn’t owe you an MTV cribs lifestyle” – me, a little over two years ago
Can you imagine what would happen if someone blindfolded you, gave you no tools, no matches, no flashlight, no anything…then picked you up, carried you away, took you hundreds of miles away from anything and everything you’re familiar with and then just dropped you off right in the middle of nowhere?
What the hell would you do?
You don’t know where you are. You don’t know which way to go. You don’t know what’s behind you, ahead of you, or on either side of you.
You have no experience dealing with situations like the one you confronting you, and it’s getting dark.
Sounds pretty messed up, doesn’t it?
So why the %$^* do people try to do this to themselves all of the damned time with their professional life by not understanding where they are on The Path…
Maybe you’re just starting out in the professional world.
Or maybe you’re already out there working, and you’re starting to tap your network to see what might be a better fit for you.
It really doesn’t matter what got you to this point, but what’s important is that you realize where you are on your career path, and keeping your expectations realistic so that you don’t wind up being lost in the woods…or even worse, becoming Overblown Sense of Entitlement Guy.
Because otherwise, you might as well let those people blindfold you and ship you across the country. You’re going to have about as much fun.
Every now and then, I wind up over at Lawrence Tech talking with students about networking, resumes, what they should expect in their job search, etc., and I’m always a little stunned at how unprepared they are for the real world. Some of them have completely unrealistic expectations of what they’ll be seeing once they get that piece of paper. They’re not alone though – there are people who show up at our events all of the time with the same fatal flaw in their job search strategy.
Hopefully this will help some of you.
The first thing you have to do is realize where you are on The Path. Are you just getting ready to take those first few steps? Are you somewhere in the middle and maybe facing a split that has you unsure which direction to take?
Sit down with your resume and make sure it’s updated, complete, accurate and realistic. Read Bad Resume Guy – http://www.ITintheD.org/index.php/101/bad-resume-guy/ and Bad Resume Guy 2 – http://www.ITintheD.org/index.php/3576/bad-resume-guy-2-is-it-me-youre-looking-for/ and make sure it’s solid.
Now…realistically…where are you on The Path?
You shouldn’t be expecting a killer job with lots of flexibility, perks, a signing bonus and a $100,000 salary plus bonus structure while the tassel from your graduation cap is still hanging on the rear view mirror of your car.
The old rules don’t apply any more.
Your parents aren’t going to be there to tell you how awesome you are.
School was nice, but that’s not the real world either. Professors and teaching assistants might have graded your papers a little harshly from time to time, but they’re nothing like a boss. Remember something – you were paying to be at school, and they wanted your money and so things weren’t really quite “real” there. Now you’re expecting to get paid, which means that the pressure’s on you.
And while it’s entirely possible that you’ve spent the last 20 or so years of your life in a protective bubble where everyone told you that you were an awesome and outstanding individual, those people can’t help you any more.
You’re going to have to learn how to stand on your own two feet, realistically assess where you are, what you have to offer a company that might make them interested in bringing you on board, and if you’re even in the right field.
Ever heard the old saying “Paying your dues?” Sadly, many people apparently haven’t heard that adage and don’t understand what it means.
It means that you don’t walk out of school expecting someone to hand you a $100,000 a year job with a signing bonus, kickass perks and a suite on the top floor with a great view.
It doesn’t work that way in real life, folks.
I don’t care if you’re 22, 39, or over 50 – what matters is what you’ve done, and where you actually are, not where you think you deserve to be.
If you spent ten years in another industry where you used skills that might crossover, that’s great, but don’t expect someone to treat you like you’re an experienced coder with 10 years experience in development based on the 10 years you spent with an ad agency.
You may well have been the world’s greatest car salesman in the world, but that doesn’t really mean you’ll make a good account executive for a staffing agency.
Even within the same realm of technology, I’ve seen this horrible mistake get made – just because you’re a proficient MSSQL DBA doesn’t mean you know Oracle, or MySQL. Knowing .NET inside and out doesn’t matter if someone’s looking for a java developer.
Yes, if you have a conversation and can convince them you can learn something new it may help your cause and get you in the door, but you still won’t be walking in the door with your full “seniority” behind you. Would you want a somewhat decent open heart surgeon to perform the delicate, critical surgery your brain needs due to an injury? Probably not – you’d prefer the experienced brain surgeon who was available, I’m sure.
You’re taking a new direction on your Path, and you have to expect it won’t be the same as the way you’ve been going so far.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to a reasonable setting of expectations:
– You find a position that matches up with that location on The Path
– You work, you learn, you grow and you expand your skills.
– You move into a new position…with the same company or elsewhere as needed…but you prove yourself at each step of the way.
– You lather, rinse and repeat the above.
You can always be perfectly content where you are and stagnate.
Historically, that hasn’t worked out very well though.
You should always be looking ahead of you on The Path, even just to make sure it’s still there if nothing else.
If you find yourself coming up on a dead end, it’s time to re-evaluate things.
And if you’re not sure where you’re going, or which fork in the road to take…don’t be afraid to ask. You can call them “mentors”, “associates”, or even just “friends”, but you should always have people around you that you know and trust enough to ask about The Path.
If all else fails…reach out to one of us.
I think we’ve proven by now that we’re nothing if not brutally honest.