Spotting the Dead-End Job: A Primer: Page 2

Posted November 14, 2000
By

Janet Ruhl


(Page 2 of 2)

Ask probing questions to determine where the project is in its development cycle. You want to be sure you are not being brought in to kill it or take the blame for its failure! Ask how successful past projects have been in this company. Try to get an idea of whether this project has the support of top management. Ask about the current funding status of the project. If there is no budget as of now, your "managerial role" may turn out to be a chimera.

Finally, be alert to personnel issues: Are you allowed to meet the people you will be supervising? Do these people even exist? And if they don't, will you be hiring them yourself? Ask the people you meet how long they have been with the company. If everyone is a contractor or a recent hire, be sure you are really dealing with a startup, not a sinking ship whose rats have already left!

Danger Signs of the Dead-End Job
Most existing company systems involve obsolete technology.

The project you will be working on is staffed mostly by contractors.

A uniform physical environment suggests "herd o' techies" mentality.

People in charge seem ignorant of the technology they manage.

Old projects have been in process for years without reaching completion.

Budgets are tight or nonexistent.

You are offered "creative" alternatives instead of a market-rate cash salary.

There is no project champion in upper management.

Think Twice if You're Seeing Only Green

Don't let yourself be manipulated by greed. If more money is the only enticement on the table, be careful! You may take the job only to end up a few years later with obsolete skills and no possibility for further employment.

Be wary, too, of a company that wants to pay you in stock options rather than cash. An offer of options may mean future riches--or it may be a sign that a company is about to go belly up and lacks cash to pay the people it is bringing in for a last-ditch survival attempt. Another danger flag is a company that asks you to start at a low salary with the promise of a raise once you have been trained in some new technology. Often, these promises never materialize, so be sure to get the offer in writing.

Finally, be alert to other subtle danger signs: Is the physical environment one of monotony, with acres of featureless cubes and dozens of people performing a job similar to the one being offered to you? Who is conducting your interviews? Do they seem to understand technology and have a grasp of what your previous work experience implies?

When in doubt, trust your feelings. Your uneasiness with an offer that looks great on the surface may mean you have picked up subliminal hints that not everything is what it seems. //

Janet Ruhl is the author of "Computer Job Survival Guide" (Technion Books, 2000) and the founder of Realrates.com. She can be reached at ruhl@realrates.com.


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