IT Employment

Never underestimate your work reputation


You hear all the time about the advantages networking has on your career. To those of you who are on the introverted side, the thought of networking might make you cringe. If you're like me, networking conjures visions of making a cold call to the uncle of the wife of the cousin a guy you used to work with to see if he has any job openings.

But networking, in the best sense, is a simpler, more organic endeavor. You start "networking" the day you start sharing office with other people. Here's what I mean.

If your co-workers (and your boss) find you knowledgeable and friendly and easy to work with, they will carry that impression of you when they go on to other jobs.

If you're undependable and absent-minded and are a general production headache, they'll remember that too.

Even if you're a certified genius, but you're surly and you give off a palpable aura of bitterness and acrimony, it's more than likely they'll remember that aura before anything else.

And in either of the last two cases, if this person happens to be hiring for another company, you can rest assured they'll go with their gut feeling about you.

Think about it. If you had a bad experience at a certain restaurant, you wouldn't go around recommending it to your friends even if it's entirely possible they'd have a different experience. It's just human nature.

Also, don't discount the notion of six degrees of separation (roughly the idea that anyone can form a chain of personal contacts leading to any other person, with no more than six links in the chain). Consider the nightmare of going in for an interview for your dream job and discovering the interviewer is the man or woman you worked with years ago that you smarted off to every chance you got.

You can't be nice all the time. Just don't underestimate how the attitude you have now can impact your life in the future.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

42 comments
HeidiAH
HeidiAH

People often mistake predatory behavior as leadership, which it is not. Sadly, many people are selfish and operate completely unconsciously. Additionally, in our culture, this kind of bad behavior is often rewarded; however, it is often rewarded by very same kind of people who were rewarded for that behavior, so it becomes a vicious circle. (For further examples, consider the current examples on Wall Street...) However, I could not live with myself if I behaved that way, so I will just have to be the person I want to be and know that rewards for bad behavior does not make it 'right/correct' behavior for the good of all.

RayJeff
RayJeff

For the first six years of my IT career, All of my IT jobs were in a small city. All three were in the city's colleges and universities. Anyone who has worked in education, knows that the education community is a very, VERY small one. So, through six degrees or less, everyone is connected to someone.

mapexvenus
mapexvenus

Let me put it this way: I will do all the networking I need to do for professional reasons and to get the job done. I will talk to people and be nice that I don't really care about, and will bend over backwards if I need to. As long as this is what it takes to get the job done, which is what I am paid to do. However, I am no longer interested the minute my coworkers want to start talking about their new landscaping job at home, their family life, or what they did over their weekend. I am simply not interested. Other items I am not interested in: Office gossip, one co-workers opinion about another co-worker, whining, and other crap that DOES NOT get the job done.

Reuban
Reuban

While a lot of what was said is common sense, it assumes that whats said about the introverts is true. It only applies when the person is genuinely undependable or a production headache. Even if they are surly or give off an aura of bitterness and acrimony, there may be valid reasons which others may not be aware off, or choose to be unaware to avoid taking sides. The politics might be eroding their own work ethics, but a lot of employees do treat ethics as 2nd priority. Lets not discount the factor that office politics could also trigger in such a perception, even if none exist in reality. Often with introverted high achievers, they tend to generate a lot of jealously among co-workers. Their high values might also offend other egos with better access and influence. From a management viewpoint, while the effect of such negative sources should be quickly minimized, both to set an example and establish appropriate behavior mindsets, the lack of such action might serve to encourage and embolden those personality types, who ironically are often egotistical extroverts. The likely result is that with the gossip and manipulation that extroverts excel better at, the introverts suffer the harrassment and branding. They presumably profess to highlight the introverts supposed "shortcommings" to management and in water cooler chit-chats "out of duty" to the company. Now for the introvert who had to put up with all this, the last thing they would care is what the offending person carries along for their next interviewing session, if they ever make it to that level. This is natural too, but this is an unsolicited inflicted emotion, whereas the other is a self-inflicted emotion, borne out of their own deliberate and controllable actions. In such cases, the introvert is not the issue here and as one other person commented can be managed up or out based on if the negative behaviours are wrongly perceived or genuine, respectively. In this case, I would recommend that the introvert stick to their ethics and execute their work diligently and if ever they were in an interview where the offender was interviewing, they would know that that is a company they would not want to work for. Its the extroverts that need to be tackled in such cases and quickly, as their negative behaviors could become cancerous and I have seen this at another company I used to work in.

dblove
dblove

I think there are lots of strangeness in work places. I have had high-fly career so far for 17+ years. I am a very outspoken person, very passionate about what I do and at the same time very emotional. For example, I once spent all night to prepare for an very important presentation, came in only to find out that the Manager cancelled it for some very silly reason. I even cried! I have no toleration for silly and useless egoism at work place. I will be open with such things. If it doesn't work out, I quit and find other jobs. When I quit, I will be open about why I am leaving, even it it burns bridges for me. Trust me, I have had no problems finding an other job within one week of posting my Resume. High paid jobs! I bravely give my former employer references. Even those who wanted to fire me had given me excellent references regarding my technical skills and communication skills. There could be two reasons, 1) they don't want to face legal issues. 2) They know I am a honest individual and that they can not help the situatuion and that they are wrong. I have a friend who is in the same profession. Whenever I talk to him, he is so stressed out about this one person who irritates him all the time. He shivers and his face goes red. He has been working there for 6 years and would not find an other job. He won't say anything because he is afraid of losing his job or buring bridges. We spend most of our life time at work, working. My advice is, if you want to live longer in a stressful situation, do what your personality would dictate even if it means burning bridges. If the work is not good for you, then you quit and take another. It is just not worth it.Stand for justice! Afterall it is the world of opportunities! Interestingly I notice, people who are not commited in their personal lives (like that friend never married or have a steady girl friend) are highly commited to their profession and vice versa! Strange!

dehawk_1
dehawk_1

i am the consummate professional, knowledgeable and hard-working. these traits don't develop by chance - my ability to offer lucrative approaches to marketing technology services shaped those traits. however, along the way i have had to be decisive, convicted and accountable. amazingly, my real voice contributed to me offending practically everyone EXCEPT customers. so despite my proven track record, the folks i've offended have decidedly contributed to me being blacklisted.

Guitockey
Guitockey

don't forget the customers. In IT, regardless of what level, most of us have to deal with the end user, either directly or indirectly. Their feedback to bosses and co-workers about you can be positive or negative as well. The adage that the "customer is always right" doesn't always hold true (I can't make a distant end phone un-busy just because the customer wants to talk to that person!), but good customer service skills are essential. I had a co-worker who was great technically, but pissed off just about every customer he came into contact with because he was so abrasive and disrespectful. I've been a contractor for the DoD, and have seen many times a customer become an employer and vice versa, or a customer on one contract become a customer on another. It's a good idea not to burn bridges with these guys either!

femijumo
femijumo

It do happen,the best approach is to be your best and give your best at all time learn what you need to cope and make yourself a force to reckon with.

scoutlady
scoutlady

Great article, great advice! Even when you're feeling very discouraged, you've got to have compassion on the people around you and maintain a habit of being pleasant. It's true that memories fade fast about accomplishments but remain vivid about any bad or abusive behavior. Sure, I know Darth Vaders, but I believe in positive networking. I got my current job because I heard about it volunteering in a professional association. I had a supervisor when I first went to work who was always willing to write letters of reference for employees, and I learned from him to be willing to give references to good people. I'll write letters for deserving young people, too. I may never be at the top of any heap, but I do manage to land on my feet in tough circumstances.

msharvey
msharvey

LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/, is a great example of this type of networking. Its helped me catch up with former employers and co-workers who know my character. I haven't had to use any yet, but just getting back in touch with everything and seeing how they are doing feels great.

norin.radd
norin.radd

I knew this dude with mad db and network skills. He was always bullying the noobs. They called him Darth Vader. Management couldn't fired him because he was the only one who was able to debug the db in no time. There was a girl who couldn't stand him and one day he got fed up with her and completely corrupted her roaming profile. She couldn't log on properly to the network and was never able to complete her assignment on time. She got fired. After he got rid of her, Darth Vader, decided he had to move on. The company had no challenging assignment for him and even thought he was making good money he wanted more for himself. He wanted to quit in style. He waited for that perfect peak time of the year, data was pouring in like crazy and as usual network problems occurred. The IT Manager called him on an emergency situation while he was taking some time off at his cottage. He decided it was the right opportunity to quit. The company lost a fair amount of money for not been able to fix the leak. The IT Manager got fired and the next quarter the DotCom-Start-Up was shut down. Darth Vader started his own Cie and was able to absorb most of the clientele his former employer own. He also hired the girl he had mess up her roaming profile and strangely end it up marrying her. Life is strange, people are strange. Never underestimate The Power Of The FORCE...

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

Start again somewhere else. Once you have a reputation it is not going away. Les.

TechRepublic
TechRepublic

While I agree that the introverts of the world are often excellent performers it is very much more difficult for them to be noticed by others than the extroverts. Extroversion and narcissism are valued throughout society. It is simply human nature; survival of the fittest. We value strength more than we do kindness or productivity. How many introverted figures have made it into the history books? History is full of extroverted people, including many who were blatantly cruel and oppressive. Even the kind and gentle historical figures (Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Christ) were extroverts. Yes, there are many extroverts in middle management who do as much harm as they do good. But they get the jobs because they have the guts to stand up and tell their stories so that others can benefit from their experiences. The most highly paid people in the world add little in the way of concrete substance. Politicians, lawyers, sales people, entertainers -- most of them EARN TOP SALARIES FOR TALKING. I have no opinion or judgement as to whether one route is "better" or more ethical than the other. However, my advice to the good and conscientious introverts of the world is this: Join ToastMasters. Take a Public Speaking course. Write a blog. Somehow, learn to make your voice heard and do not fear whether someone may not like it, because there will be plenty more who WILL be interested in what you have to say as long as it comes from the heart. B

TechRepublic
TechRepublic

While I agree that the introverts of the world are often excellent performers it is very much more difficult for them to be noticed by others than the extroverts. Extroversion and narcissism are valued throughout society. It is simply human nature; survival of the fittest. We value strength more than we do kindness or productivity. How many introverted figures have made it into the history books? History is full of extroverted people, including many who were blatantly cruel and oppressive. Even the kind and gentle historical figures (Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Christ) were extroverts. Yes, there are many extroverts in middle management who do as much harm as they do good. But they get the jobs because they have the guts to stand up and tell their stories so that others can benefit from their experiences. The most highly paid people in the world add little in the way of concrete substance. Politicians, lawyers, sales people, entertainers -- most of them EARN TOP SALARIES FOR TALKING. I have no opinion or judgement as to whether one route is "better" or more ethical than the other. However, my advice to the good and conscientious introverts of the world is this: Join ToastMasters. Take a Public Speaking course. Write a blog. Somehow, learn to make your voice heard and do not fear whether someone may not like it, because there will be plenty more who WILL be interested in what you have to say as long as it comes from the heart. B

TechRepublic
TechRepublic

While I agree that the introverts of the world are often excellent performers it is very much more difficult for them to be noticed by others than the extroverts. Extroversion and narcissism are valued throughout society. It is simply human nature; survival of the fittest. We value strength more than we do kindness or productivity. How many introverted figures have made it into the history books? History is full of extroverted people, including many who were blatantly cruel and oppressive. Even the kind and gentle historical figures (Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Christ) were extroverts. Yes, there are many extroverts in middle management who do as much harm as they do good. But they get the jobs because they have the guts to stand up and tell their stories so that others can benefit from their experiences. The most highly paid people in the world add little in the way of concrete substance. Politicians, lawyers, sales people, entertainers -- most of them EARN TOP SALARIES FOR TALKING. I have no opinion or judgement as to whether one route is "better" or more ethical than the other. However, my advice to the good and conscientious introverts of the world is this: Join ToastMasters. Take a Public Speaking course. Write a blog. Somehow, learn to make your voice heard and do not fear whether someone may not like it, because there will be plenty more who WILL be interested in what you have to say as long as it comes from the heart. B

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Reputation is hugely important on my campus and of more value to [some] department chairs than degrees held by instructional personnel. I acquired my current position as a direct result of demonstrating a very good work ethic, organizational skills, effectiveness 'against all odds' in my previous campus duties along with my ability to deal with a problem boss. Others were watching and when an instructional position came open it was offered to me. My current boss is great and I love what I do. In addition, while I was still a student I set the networking in motion. Many classes are overflowing, and I demonstrated proficiency in the coursework along with a willingness to help other students. This went over well with my instructors, giving me the opportunity to get to know them on something besides a student-teacher basis. Had I not been reputable, no way my new boss would have even considered me for the position. Had I not spent the effort to establish positive 'acquaintanceships' (is that a word? lol) with the faculty, I wouldn't have been offered the position.

mikeadams1137
mikeadams1137

I am the probably the youngest IT Administrator in history, just to show you how much I know about the real world. Despite designing a bunch of systems, and maintaining daily operations at our largest terminal, that is the foundation of our company. I am regarded as being very technical and mature, however; at 20...very young...I am watched like a hawk...lunches...travelling...etc..it's ridicolous, and has ultimately pushed me away from the company. My question, for the IT pros, the managers in their 40s, fairly reputable back-grounds, plenty of experience... If a man can prove himself, and you yourself acknowledge him as very talented, why such close observation. I'll give a dime and a nickel to anyone who can answer that! Mike

NatureBuff
NatureBuff

I highly recommend this also. I joined about a month ago and am up to 98 direct contacts from the past. I have started adding High School classmates from 30+ years ago. It's amazing how you can find the one or two people from a previous gig that had all the answers when you got stuck and you lost track of them. Now I have found most of those individuals. Get LinkedIn!!!

somebozo
somebozo

been working in this industry for sevral years and always faced at abusive and unfair pay scale. I have to deal with morons and idiots as customers who may have lot of paper qualification but know turd about IT in reality. However they continue to occupy high positions despite they are screwing them employers network and affecting business uptime.

Nimmo
Nimmo

You would think there would be a little loyalty, anyway what goes around comes around.

zlitocook
zlitocook

And then the Feds catch up with you, if you cause disruption or data loss on a on a computer network you will be held responsible for the monetary loss. And that can run in to the thousands, I would not mess with any thing that is person, network or race related. It will bite back and you will find it hard to get another job in that field. I have been through some thing like this and you do not want this to happen to you. If you have already done it, find a good lawyer and hope it dose not go to court.

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Call it just a hunch but the way you banged this response out suggests either YOU were a fly on the wall witnessing the whole debacle or actually the perpatrator thus being an evil Sith.db Lord? I'm just playing with ya! Anyways, I thought it was nice turn of events when Darth rehired and married the girl. It makes for a great read! Thanks for posting. It was entertaining.

ManiacMan
ManiacMan

His attitude is deserving of some major karma to knock some ethics into him.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

"The most highly paid people in the world add little in the way of concrete substance. Politicians, lawyers, sales people, entertainers -- most of them EARN TOP SALARIES FOR TALKING." ;-) Les.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

"Even the kind and gentle historical figures (Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Christ) were extroverts." They are perceived as extroverts, perhaps, but that does not make them so. I am an introvert who has expended considerable effort and going on 4 decades in an effort to overcome my introversion. I cannot say that I am anything but an introvert who pretends to extroversion. But it works in an odd sort of way. :) We are social creatures to a large degree and one cannot avoid everyone and everything and be happy. edit goldarned typo

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

that there is a need for authenticity. Genuine people spot phonies in a heartbeat. Even a whole lot of phonies spot phonies. While probably covered in the word reputable - many phonies have a good work ethic. And they build a great network. But they don't always get as far in life as they would like. And they rarely receive the respect that the genuine article receives.

shawn_h
shawn_h

Mike, A recent study showed random neural firings in the brains of adolescents. People fear the irrationality of youth. There is phenomenon that might be called trauma conditioning. As you age and experience trauma after trauma, you no longer respond to traumatic events with panic. Instead, you treat them as old aquaintences. Like someone you once worked alongside or nearby, although you may not have cared for them at the time. This calm demeanor is earned over the course of years. It is often a positive (?) result of armed combat. That is why ex-military sometimes gain a hairs-bredth advantage versus their civilian bretheren. You can counter these effects. Look old, mature, stodgy, well groomed, well dressed, officious, etc. There is a grey-hair effect where elderly folks trust noone who does not have grey hair. If you are balding, it can actually render a perceived maturity dividend. No lie. In fact, test it on your perceptions; who do you think of as mature in your age group? Look at your behavior and determine whether you have threatened your fellows or management. Look at how you responded to the questions of others. Did you agree, when 'ol Grumpy suggested you should jump ship? Other folks will ask probing questions that, to you, may sound like kvetching. They will take away your response, your attitude as your own and not a reflection of their attitude. You own what you say. You also own what you do. Apologize for the things that you do wrongly. Own it? Own up. Then, show how you did/will correct them. Do not allow yourself to be goaded into statements. When you change jobs, try and avoid making derrogatory statements about your former employer. Recall that they hired you when you wanted to work for them. Consider at least a conscious moreatoreum for some period (a year, perhaps) before bad mouthing the old workplace or your old boss. By that time, you may have learned that there are far worse companies and people for whom you might work. You might be well advised to migrate to a more youthful organization that does not subject you to the same projudice.

wgloughran
wgloughran

I would hang to you like white on rice !!

kingttx
kingttx

Even though you may know your job inside and out and can design multi-subnet networks without touching a calculator, this doesn't mean your work ethic has been proven. Keep in mind that you ARE young. Although it may be insulting, many managers have an inherent distrust (healthy or not, misplaced or not) of younger workers that can cause them to place your work habits under a microscope. It is not comfortable, especially for a person that takes pride in their talent and in their ethics. Many folks your age are just coming into their own but still have some of that teenage angst and wild oats - not saying some older adults haven't grown past that point, but you get the idea. :) If it helps, one of the past jobs I held was a travel coordinator for a state medical university. I had to scrutinize charges on employees' state-issued travel credit cards, and this included many PhDs that thought they should be above reproach and use their card however they saw fit. I didn't like having to lord over their spending habits on the state travel card, but it was part of the job. Hang in there! Keep creating good contacts, continue to keep your work ethics in check, and keep improving your talents. You'll eventually find a good niche that will challenge you and keep rewarding you.

ManiacMan
ManiacMan

Welcome to the not so pretty world of corporate politics and bullsh!t

dpeplinski
dpeplinski

it's my experience that the assholes "win" where "win" = rise to the top. There are exceptions, and they these exceptions are wonderful.

Your Mom 2.0
Your Mom 2.0

Maybe this was the exception to the rule!

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

My first psych prof gave each of his classes a mini Myers-Briggs. I remember that he was amazed that I tested as an introvert. When he called me in to talk to me, the look on his face was classic. I do need alone time, too. I go absolutely bonkers after awhile if I don't get it. All I really want to do with it is just sit and listen to the quiet, too. "It can be a bit difficult for me, but it feels better than not saying anything and stewing on it." No kidding, there. :)

Fairbs
Fairbs

Boxfiddler, In my MBA program, we took a Myers Briggs personality test. The professor for this section was very much an introvert as far as the test was considered, but you wouldn't know this from his animated presentation style. How I remember it explained, he talked about how you can 'flex' your personality to move toward the extroverted end of the continuum. He said that by doing this it would take a lot out of him and he would need alone time to recover. I'm not sure that you can permanently move from introvert to extrovert. My personality came out as slightly introverted and I believe it. One of the things I try to do is make sure my point of view is heard regardless of how it will be taken. It can be a bit difficult for me, but it feels better than not saying anything and stewing on it. Andy

Bryan
Bryan

I've worked in many countries too.... Middle managers can be ugly, but the Top managers have good people skils. They have too to get were they are.

HMH
HMH

I have seen this many times too. Have worked in many many countries, East West...evreywhere in the wrold it is the same. If you have a network of "buddies" this is more than enough... You can then crush everyone underneath...to rise!

junkstuffy
junkstuffy

I worked as the Assistant Director of Public Works Administration (long story) and this guy was brought back because he knew everything about the sewer system. He was brought back to train a guy that took over his position. When I found out he was keeping all the information to himself he was given one notice to make this knowledgable. He didn't think I was serious and after the three month trial he was canned. I told him since he refuses to educate his replacement and leave a legacy then his replacement will have OJT and ended the contract. Kevin

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. if you have a guru in your organization who is the only person that knows everything about a system .. GET RID OF THEM. Get their knowledge out of them, move in other people to do their job and move them into another position. If they refuse to cooperate, sack them. These people are a recipe for disaster, as the above post shows. Les.

adamblevins
adamblevins

First, let me say it was the IT Managers job to recognize this issue and move this guy to a better assignment or can him. Second, I've seen lots of these types. Take solace in knowing that these types, uber-techies, generally have zero people skills. People skills are a major asset in the IT industry because they are so rare. If you can speak to an executive and give them only the information they want, without all the techno-babble, you will be worth your weight in gold. Darth Vader types will always be around, but, its up to management to manage them up, or manage them out.