First job/warning signs

Subject: First job/warning signs
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 1997 10:05:22 -0600

I got my first job the same way some others have
recommended: when IBM (Toronto Lab) was hiring programmers,
I sent in my resume along with a cover letter that said
"since you're hiring lots of new staff, you'll probably
need writers too, so drop me a line if that's the case". I
got my current job the same way (FERIC was building its own
building, which suggested they were expanding, which
suggested that I send a letter...).

Getting the IBM job was a particularly bizarre occurrence.
One day, I got a standard "don't call us, we won't call
you" rejection letter from IBM's personnel department, and
as I was filing it, the phone rang. It was a manager from
IBM who'd seen my resume. "No offence, Geoff, but I don't
see anything on your resume that would suggest we should
hire you as a writer. Why'd a forestry grad student with no
technical writing experience ask for a job as a technical
writer?" I spent 5 minutes telling him why, referring to my
resume as I did (and as I'd done in the cover letter, which
had evidently been removed by Personnel). I was in his
office for a formal interview an hour later (barely time to
dust off my suit and run for the subway), I was filling out
forms for Personnel two hours later, and I was working for
IBM the next week. To me, that's criterion number one for a
good boss: willingness to think outside the box, and to
take things beyond face value.

When I informally interviewed at FERIC, I was on vacation
at the time: hair down to my shoulders, disreputable beard,
and no business suit. I got a call that said if I could be
there in an hour, I could talk to the research director. I
borrowed Dad's suit (too short in the arms and legs) and
his dress shoes (too tight), trimmed the beard, and hit the
road running. Talked to the RD for an hour and went out to
lunch, and made sure he knew that I was opinionated and
stood up for my opinions. I don't recommend this approach
(really!), but I figured if my looks and my attitude would
stop him from hiring me, I wasn't going to fit in at that
company anyway. He hired me based on my knowledge and my
skills and my references. Criterion number 2 for a good
boss: they read the book, not just the cover, and they
respect intelligence more than conformity.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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