'Be So Good They Can't Ignore You'

We know this quote from the multi-talented Steve Martin is easier said than done, but it's a goal we should all keep in mind. You don't have to be great at everything, but if you are amazing at something, you will stick around in the memories of those you meet.

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So Good [Swissmiss]


    I did this many years ago, in the mid-1980's, to get a job I wanted badly, when the person running the department in which the job was located, did not want me anywhere near his department.

    If you KNOW something is that right for you, it may take multiple years to become un-ignorable, but at least for me, it was worth it.

      Was it worth it? How did you overcome his aversion to you?

        @sockparty, oh my heavens, it was SO worth it! It was a silly student job at uni that offered the best computing resource access on campus (accounts with system privileges, higher disk quotas, UNIX box just for the staff's use that never got slow, access to manuals that others didn't have access to), a private office so that I could work on my own assignments when off-duty without constant interruptions by well-meaning students who were stuck on something, etc. I got to learn lots, and I worked on a number of neat programming projects. I've only had one job I'd consider more rewarding since then. And there was a great set of coworkers to pal around with, with whom I've maintained connections TO THIS DAY, almost 30 years later. (One, who was one of the managers there, is still the person I run to for professional and personal advice when I need it -- my parents passed decades ago, as did aunties and uncles, so I'd otherwise be quite lacking in the advice-from-elders department which, guess what folks, you still do sometimes need even in your 40's).

        How did I overcome the problem person's aversion to me? Wish I had a fairy tale to tell here, but I don't. I never did, mate. That individual eventually terminated me about 18 months after I got the job, when he didn't like that I'd received an email entitled "UNIX hacking expertise". Never mind that it was from a Bell Labs security researcher inviting me to participate in teaching a class on UNIX security, of course. :-) Somehow, he got away with that. This was in the days before the Internet, when I couldn't easily publicly answer all whispered charges against me. It emboldened him and he made further attacks on me, attempting to get me kicked out of school. Only thing is, he broke a few university rules in his attempts to find fault with me, and this (1) did not sit well with everyone, and (2) was poorly enough done that it left sufficient evidence to hang him. The manager I mentioned above didn't care for the problem bloke's all-out assault on my reputation, and risked HIS OWN (full-time, somewhat senior) job to help me prepare and file a complaint against the problem individual that eventually caused the problem's dismissal from his departmental Director role due to his poor (illegal, discriminatory) treatment of me.

        But see, the thing is, the guy didn't interfere much in my life whilst I worked there until he saw that email that gave him a chance to tell everyone, "See, barb is even known as a hacker outside the uni! She's terrible, I tell you!". We just stayed away from each other - a valid tactic in keeping the peace in an office when you're 17 as much as when you're 45. It was extremely well known that we didn't get along and that our relationship was one of tolerating respective necessary evils, and that worked well enough for me for 18 months. Would I prefer having been able to stay at that job until graduation? Yeah. Would I prefer not having had the opportunity at all? No way. I didn't lose the learning I'd done, when I left the job. I kept that, and the friends, and the memories of the fun. And, perhaps not insignificantly, the knowledge that I'd achieved something (getting the job) that I'd been told multiple times before was impossible.

          Thankks for sharing that, your story is full of a lot of good advice. If LH has a 'best comment' competition, I would nominate you :)

          Do you mind if I probe a little further and ask what is it that you did that actually got you the job after being initially turned down? How did you get it if the problem person was the one running the department?

            Sockparty, Sorry for the late reply, but I just noticed your follow-up question.

            "After being initially turned down"? LOL, you make it sound like that happened just once! I wish! I was turned down THREE TIMES. The fourth time, I so didn't want my friends (who already worked as part of the student team I wanted to join) to find out I was engaging in the seemingly-futile exercise of trying again, that instead of putting my application in the envelope in the team's public office during the day, I had a cleaner drop it in the envelope when she went into that room after hours. We all already knew it was a pathetic joke the admin wouldn't let me on the team, so there was no sense opening that discussion with my friends (who considered me at worst close to their equal and at best a few years ahead of them) again, as all it did was hurt and frustrate me. LOL, so there's another piece of advice -- if you want something badly enough, DO NOT give up, and don't let embarrassment at having failed before and suspicion that you will fail again, stop you from giving it a go. :-)

            Anyway... what did I do? I was my intelligent, persistent self. I excelled at MANY other things I did. Not everything, of course, as I'm not perfect. But between the first failed attempt and the successful attempt:
            1. I tried my utmost to ingratiate myself to everyone ELSE in that department (other than the problem), from full timers to fellow student staff, many of whom were already in my group of close friends.
            2. I answered questions from people who worked in the role I wanted, when they didn't know how to fix someone's programming or user problems, and got known among the wider uni community as the resource that the employees went to when they needed help. I'd done this all along. My reputation built over time.
            3. Through lots of learning and trial and error, I got to be known as the most reliable source of time-saving, correct answers.
            4. The admin in question kept trying to finger me for things (one of which I might have done, but most of which I had not) and kept not succeeding at it because in the process of defending myself I learned a LOT about how the school's computer security worked.
            5. I earned a school service award and an external service scholarship for my work in a similar position (with less privileges and access, and more limited types of work) in my major department. The department was feeling positive enough about me because of how much I helped their students and staff that they put a notice up on the dept bulletin board -- down the hall from the computer center. My peers in my then-current job were so happy I'd won the scholarship (and so annoyed that the best female geek in anyone's memory wasn't being hired for that better opportunity) that, in the days of big long continuous feed "green bar" computer paper, they made a 10m long "Congratulations" banner listing my accomplishment and my name, that they hung in the main hallway right in front of the department I wanted to join.
            6. I was paid to write an 8-bit computer game as a freelancer and ended up in the newspaper and interviewed on TV for this.
            7. I hit honors Deans List a couple times. Wow, she's academically minded AND has a reputation for practical skillz! :-)
            8. I was simply NICE to everyone. Whatever tales were being told about my technical exploits, the person you interacted with if you interacted with me was positive, and enthusiastic and very much as logical as an engineer (like you'd want to see in anyone in that job). And yes, a person who mentioned that, "Yeah, I'd love to work there, it's my dream job, but they won't hire me," any time people suggested that I get a job at the computer center.

            Oh yeah, there's one other thing that's implied but not stated. It's not enough to be too good to be ignored.... people have to know you are good, and how they learn this is that they experience it first-hand or hear about it elsewhere. My current employer, my customers (students, staff, faculty), many people at my hoped-for-future employer, people at external agencies (scholarship people), and random people on the street (who read the newspaper article about, and saw the photo of, the female teen "microkid" game programmer) *ALL* knew. Not because I talked about it (in those days, I was much more shy than I am today), but because they saw my results and because OTHER people talked about it.

            How did I get the job despite the problem person being the manager of the manager of the person hiring for the position? Well, given that the offer letter began, "(Department X) is prepared to offer you the position of student consultant", I'd have to say that it was over his strongly voiced objections. Yeah, really, "is prepared to offer you," is what it said. I still have it somewhere, nearly 30 years later. If the people working for you are screaming in a unified voice, "If you don't let us hire this girl, you're going to waste our time," because they recognized my existence would mean less work for them picking up the slack from other student staff who'd escalate more questions to them, it gets harder to say no, is what I'd guess. :-) Now add to that customers saying, "X and Y in your department couldn't answer my question, but Barb did in 10 seconds," multiple times a week, and no matter how much you personally dislike Barb, you might start to reason that as long as YOU don't have to deal with her (and as I said, we interacted only very rarely), you're OK enough with letting all these other people who WANT to deal with her do so, because you just don't have enough proof of your "evil hacker" claims for them to accept that as a reasonable excuse for your not hiring her.

            Today, this would probably be called "pull" marketing. Do everyting you can to get every customer/stakeholder who matters asking for the product (me), and then just happen to provide it. :-)

    Same goes for companies too, you want the best people provide the best job/environment possible. This is a factor which usually gets ignored. Its always repeated how employees should do/be/provide the best, but companies forget that good people want a good job/environment in which to perform their job.

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