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Career Advice

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Peter Vogel          
I'm going to take this opportunity to give you some career advice. Don't thank me; this is just another service from the staff here at Smart Access.
I had a boss once who gave me some good advice. He said that you can do good work or do bad work, and you can look like you're doing good work or doing bad work. He also said that the two aren't related, though it might be easier to be thought of as doing good work if you're actually doing good work. The key point is that if people think you're doing good work, then you are. And if people think you're doing bad work, then you are.
As a result, it's very important that you manage your appearances very carefully. Recently, I was a witness to an unfortunate example of failing to manage appearances. One of our technicians had the false floor in our data center up and was doing some rewiring. All of a sudden, one of the operators at a terminal said, "Hey, my screen just went blank." Here was the unfortunate failure: Our technician said, "Oh." This was a tactical error of the first order, as it indicated that: 1) something was wrong; and 2) it might be his fault. Whatever happens, you must never indicate that anything has gone wrong -- then it can't be your fault.
Let's say that you're on the phone with an end user, walking him through some procedure when his computer bursts into flames. What do you say? Here's the correct script:
User: "Hey, my computer's on fire."
You: (very casual) "Mmmm hmm?"
User: "It is!"
You: "Oh, yeah. Don't worry about it."
User: "Oh?"
You: "Listen, though, you could do me a favor here."
User: "Really?"
You: "Yeah, sure. Is there a fire extinguisher nearby?"
User: "Yeah, around the corner."
You: "Well, could you go get it right now? I'll wait."
User: "Okay, I got it."
You: "Great. Now give the computer just a little shot with the extinguisher."
(It's really important that anything you ask the user to do is "just a little." This suggests that nothing has gone very wrong.)
User: Fooooosh. "I did it."
You: "Good, good." (even more casual) "Is the computer still on fire?"
User: "Yes."
You: "Oh, well, then that was too short a shot. Try it again, a little longer this time."
User: Foooooooooosssssshhh. "There."
You: "Great. And is the fire out this time?"
User: "You bet."
You: "Great. By the way, one of our technicians will be dropping around a little later. Tell him about the fire, will you?"
User: "Sure. Thanks."
You: "No problem."
By the way, we won't be charging you any extra for these career-enhancing bits of advice. It's all part of your subscription.


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