How to talk to a colleague about strained collaboration?

A month ago I wrote that I had found a new job in The Hague and had difficulties in collaborating with a specific colleague there. I planned to have a conversation with him about it to solve the problem, but I kept postponing it because I dreaded the idea. This continued until a workday at the end of July, when the colleague in question was giving serious criticism. His complaints he addressed at me about the timely processing of customer support requests where the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. To my own frustration I didn’t have enough time for customer support due to other tasks.

I was about to explode, but remained calm and asked the colleague if he had time for a private conversation about our collaboration in a few hours. Those extra hours proved useful to me to calm down. Because the conversation could easily degrade the relationship further if I handled it poorly, I considered the conversation tactics I would follow.

First the most important one: don’t assume bad intentions. Even though you might experience the interactions of a colleague as structurally negative and disdainful, it doesn’t mean the collegue intended it so. Many people, myself included, often don’t understand what kind of impression they leave with others. This means it’s better to ask a question like “are you dissatisfied with our collaboration?” instead of more closed questions which make assumptions. Such as for example the question “why can’t you work together with me?”, which presupposes that colleague can’t stand you. I was surprised to hear that my colleague didn’t have an issue with me.

With this knowledge you can continue to talk about the impression the communication of your colleague leaves with you. Do this without making any claims, for example don’t say “you are constantly complaining about me” which comes across as accusative. Focus on the fact that it’s about your impression or interpretation and leave out the intent of your colleague. If you say “I get the impression that you are always dissatisfied with my work” it’s easier for the colleague to say that this isn’t correct. The colleague will likely understand that he should tone down his criticism and convey it better.

Try to give examples of recent interactions with the colleague which you considered uncomfortable. This makes the issues easier to understand. On one issue, my colleague’s tendency to micromanage me and others, I couldn’t mention clear and recent examples. We saved it for later discussion if necessary, but because I mentioned it I did get the idea that the message landed.

Some smaller problems are quickly solved. My colleague promised to use my complete first name instead of “Alex” and to avoid the “what do you think yourself?” question if I discussed a problem with him.

To conclude, it is important to remember that not only the colleague should change, but you as well. I promised that I would bundle my questions more so that I would ask him for help only once or twice during the day. I sometimes have the tendency to ask questions too often, which interrupts my colleagues in their work too frequently.  I would perform a more comprehensive investigation before I presented a problem to him. Though he didn’t ask for it, I said I would write more documentation to explain complex procedures. If the documentation is good, the assistance of the colleague is needed less often.

New job in The Hague

Shortly before quitting FRISS I had started three concurrent job application procedures. I ended up signing with an IT-company in The Hague, which sells smart cards, smart card printers and the software to manage them. I started in my new job in March. I will discuss the job applications first and then my new employer.

The first job application was with the Dutch Ministry of Finance for a job as (junior) policy adviser. I passed the job application letter selection. Because I wanted this job so badly I prepared better than usual for the interview. I even practiced it with a career counselor, something I had never done before. I thought the interview went well, but it seems I always have to deal with extremely choosy interviewers. After I was refused I asked for and received detailed feedback, but I was too upset to memorize it well. Except for a remark about inadequate analytical skills, which shows the unwillingness of interviewers to look past first impressions and consider proven accomplishments. Such as an scientific publication for example, which the vast majority of their candidates wouldn’t have had. If that doesn’t vouch for analytical skills, what does?

The refusal felt devastating to me. Why does fate forbid me to get a job which I was trained to do, through my education in Public Administration? My suspicion is that there is a relatively large amount of applicants for jobs like policy adviser, while IT personnel is relatively scarce. Not long after the refusal the cognitive dissonance arrived. I got fed up with soliciting for government jobs, certainly after the realization that my current salary with my new employer matches the minimum salary of a senior (!) policy adviser. I can anticipate what will happen with that salary if I acquire some more experience and certifications like Scrum Master and Lean Six Sigma.

I had two other job applications, after two recruiters had invited me. Of course it felt good to be invited instead of having to take the initiative. One of these companies was Doculayer, which produces an Enterprise Content Management system. I liked the diversity in their team of employees, was impressed by their product and thought they had an attractive office building. I didn’t like their location right next to a big highway and the long bike ride to their office, which necessitated using public transport. The salary was attractive, but  offered more.

The company of my current employer is much smaller with a rather unassuming office in a large residential house. While I worked with colleagues from every continent at FRISS, almost all my current colleagues are white and male. On the other hand, I can reach the office in half an hour with my bike, it’s located in a nice neighborhood with a beautiful park nearby. The good salary offer came after I had told their recruiter that it was difficult to decide between Doculayer and my current employer. As mentioned in the previous post, I gained € 1.000 in gross salary. For the first time ever I feel respected and valued by my employer instead of a replaceable pawn to reap in profit.

Unlike the job interview with the Ministry of Finance, I didn’t do any special preparation for the job interviews at these two companies. I was just myself and asked as lot of questions, roughly equal to the amount I answered. Maybe I didn’t leave a good impression with them either and they were so desperate for new personnel to choose me anyway? Or maybe I held up fine during the interviews while the ministry was searching for unicorns and had a lot of choice? I have no idea.

My job is challenging. Basically I have to learn about the company’s products and software from the ground up again, because it is totally different from the software made by FRISS. The documentation could use improvement. Many processes suffer from administrative overhead and could be optimized. The ERP software which we use intensively, SAGE, is quite terrible and should be replaced. We use a very old on-premises version of SAGE based on Microsoft Access (!) which is very slow and user unfriendly. On the IT Service Management side there is decent incident management, but there is a lot of potential to improve the problem management. The the amount of incoming incidents could be reduced greatly if their root causes would be fixed. We need better monitoring software so that we are immediately informed when business critical systems go down.

Of course I like to be challenged. However, the reality is that I can barely keep up with my regular work. This consists of solving incidents with our software, placing purchase orders and processing incoming and outgoing deliveries. I don’t have enough time, I feel like I’m so busy evacuating water from my boat that I don’t have an opportunity to patch the hull leak. I hope to get more efficient in my daily work in the coming months so that I can free more time for structural improvements.

There is one thing which has been much more troubling though. The collaboration with one of my direct colleagues is very strained. I feel he treats me with disdain, like an inexperienced intern rather than a colleague. He works much longer for the company, is more experienced and has unrealistic expectations of how fast I can get acquainted with my new job. The vast majority of the interactions he has with me are negative because he always complains about me. Even though he is not my manager he frequently micromanages me and orders me around. When I ask him questions on how I should solve more complex incidents, he frequently answers with the question “What do you think yourself?”, as if it were an exam. I experience this as very condescending.

I consider myself easy to get along with and can get along with everyone else at my current employer. I did have one direct colleague at FRISS with whom I collided occasionally, but over time I developed a professional understanding with him which enabled us to get along. I still didn’t like him on a personal level, but in the end I did develop some respect for him as my colleague. With this guy, I don’t know. I’m not sure if it’s genuine passive-aggressive behavior or just social ineptitude. So far I’ve started to behave slightly more assertive towards him and I ignore his complaints and more counterproductive advice, but that’s not a road I want to go down further.

I thought I’d endure it for some months and wait to see if our collaboration would improve, but after four months it has not. This matter has been detrimental to the enjoyment of my work. If it continues for longer, I definitely should speak to him about it. The fact that I’ve been postponing that conversation tells me that I consider it difficult and want to avoid it.

Comment 17-12-2018: at the request of my employer I anonymized my employer’s name.

Quit my job with FRISS

February 2018 was my last month at FRISS. After two and half years I found a new job with ID Ware. I will write about my new job in the following post and look back on my job at FRISS in this post.

In the coming paragraphs I will primarily discuss what I didn’t like and didn’t go so well at FRISS, but I want to be clear about the good things. I appreciated the interaction with my colleagues very much, especially those from the group who participated in the lunch break walks and who I got to know quite well. I liked the (international) diversity and how I could discuss the intricacies of Indian food for hours with my Indian colleague, as well as other subjects with co-workers from many other cultures. My manager was a nice guy. The management team held monthly meetings with all employees near the end of a workday to discuss the progress and direction of the company. This was combined with a free dinner after the meeting. This was very transparent way to keep employees informed and involved in the company.

But there were several factors which diminished the enjoyment my job gave me. Most importantly, the salary. Since I joined my current employer ID Ware, I make € 1.000 more before taxes. I did benefit from the experience I gained with FRISS and an ITIL Practitioner certification to get to my current salary, as well as some good negotiation moves. However, I’m still mostly doing essentially the same work as with FRISS. If you consider that, the gap is quite large.

Another very significant detractor was the IT Service Management software I had to use for the job. I felt like a chef who was compelled to work with a blunt chef’s knife all day long. This software, called GAIA and made by a Dutch company called AllSolutions, was a downright nasty piece of software from the Stone Age. It could apparently do everything but did nothing well. The difference with modern IT Service Management software was like night and day. It couldn’t even send e-mails to report the closure of an ticket or automatically record the name of the person writing a comment on a ticket. The finance department used it as well for financial administration. Everyone I spoke to hated it, except for the guy who administered the application because that skill had made him irreplaceble.

I addressed the inadequacies of GAIA in the first weeks after I joined FRISS. I didn’t have the time and persuasion skills to get things moving quickly. Eventually a new CFO did have a sense of urgency and took the lead because GAIA was so unsuitable for the finance department. Shortly before I left I participated in the effort to migrate to a modern ERP system, but I felt FRISS should and could have been looking for something else years earlier. I think I have to partially blame myself for not pushing harder and not being able to convince people of the need to change.

Apart from tools the processes were not optimal either. Even though I had a very good understanding with the Product Owner (Scrum terminology) of the development team, it was my experience that our feedback and suggestions almost had no influence on the work of development. I think this is because the Product Owner’s hands were tied and he had to listen to the CTO and the Product Managers. Of course prioritization is needed, but when it takes ages to address issues which harmed the productivity of Support and even the occasional bug which is harmful to customers, another extreme is reached. I felt that the CTO and Product Managers were pushing development too hard for all kinds of new hyped features while the basics weren’t receiving enough attention.

An example of insufficient basics was the implementation of watchlists for adresses of known fraudsters. This functionality was a filthy hack at best. The feature was so user unfriendly that the customer generally couldn’t upload these watchlists, so they would sent them to us. We would then use some SQL queries to insert the watchlists in the database. Because the customers who used these watchlist were using a deprecated (but still supported) version of our software, development didn’t work on improving the functionality. The idea was that the improved functionality would be implemented in the version which did see active development, but it was never prioritized. That’s why this situation could continue for the full two and half years I worked at FRISS. The customers must not have been pleased, because we would charge them a small fee for the time it took us to process those watchlists for them. I was downright frustrated because nothing was undertaken to improve the situation (I did bring this up more than once) and I was essentially doing something which the customer should have been able to do themselves.

Apart from features not working properly, I became pessimistic due to the lack of progress in making our product scalable. With our product it was possible to have the same functionality implemented differently for every customer. This made it more difficult to diagnose issues and increased the workload for the Support team.

Because I wrote and sent the communication about new software releases to our customers I was well informed of the work done by our development team. This gave me the impression that the development of our software in general progressed slowly compared to the fte’s in the development team. Every new release contained a rather small amount of new features, and most of these were rather trivial. I was not alone in this sentiment, but I can’t explain why it happened. I certainly don’t think our developers were lazy, but it might have to do with the process. New releases came every four weeks at the completion of the sprint (Scrum terminology). Obviously the major new features can’t land every release in such a short time span, but even so I felt that they landed exceptionally sporadic.

Talent management was lacking. I didn’t expect to climb up the ladder quickly because I signed up as a Support Engineer and my aid was essential to manage the workload for the Support team. However, half a year after I started two new people were posted from an external company. They had acedemic master’s degrees unrelated to IT just like me, but respectively no and equal experience in IT compared to me. I was surprised when they soon started working in the Consultancy team while I remained in Support. Ironically, one of them asked me for help on several issues after getting promoted. I also noticed that it was possible for management to offer someone else who was not satisfied with her job another position, even though nothing was done to address my dissatisfaction. I considered all three of these people pleasant colleges, but as you can imagine I felt treated unfairly. Shortly before I announced that I would leave FRISS I was told to expect a transfer to Project Management. While I appreciated this very much, the offer was not as attractive as the one ID Ware had made me.

Finally, the grim environment of the Papendorp business park was another motivator to leave. Especially because I liked to take a walk with colleagues during the break. Papendorp is a desolate collection of grass and pavement, with an asphalt factory and a large highway close by. If FRISS needs to consider a new office due to growth in the future, I sincerely hope it is situated in a more attractive environment which stimulates the senses more positively.

I’ll summarize the morale of this story on how to keep employees motivated, management literature style. Pay your employees a competitive salary to make them feel appreciated and prevent other companies from hyjacking them. Give them good tools to execute their daily work. Support them in their search for better tools if they need them. Take care to listen to the wishes of your Support team next to your Product Management team. Support gets different insights from the users of your software, which Product Management won’t have. Balance development of new features with polishing existing features. Employ sound talent management to make sure there is no misalignment between the skills of your employees and their actual work, in a way no one feels left behind. Provide an attractive working environment, both indoors and outdoors.

Assessments: useful but tiresome

During most of my job applications, assessments which test intelligence have given me a hard time. I like to think that I possess above average intelligence when compared to the average university graduate. I have an average grade of 7,8 for my master’s degree, a grade of nine for my master’s thesis and a publication of that master’s thesis in a scientific journal. Not something which the average master’s degree student has, right? The assessment results don’t agree though: some judge me to be a weak candidate and others an average candidate compared to others with a master’s degree. What does that make me? Did simple hard work contribute more to my above-average academic results than intelligence? Why is there such a discrepancy between my assessment scores and my academic results? Are assessments nonsense?

I can only answer the last question for now. It’s tempting to slip into cognitive dissonance mode and consider assessments an unsuitable method to select job applicants. When I discussed this with others, such as my university’s career advisers, they often voiced similar sentiments. However, scientific studies are unambiguous: intelligence is the most accurate predictor of job performance (Schmidt & Hunter 2004). Also, the combination of an intelligence test with either a work sample test, an integrity test or a structured interview is the most valid and useful way to predict job performance (Schmidt & Hunter 1998). These are facts we can’t deny.

But I keep thinking, shouldn’t there be a causal relationship between intelligence and academic results? Yes, intelligence and achievement motivation are the most important predictors of academic success, according to Busato, Prins, Elshout and Hamaker (2000). Then why not just ask candidates for their academic grades instead of having them take an assessment for, say, € 30 for every candidate? Of course, if they would actually look at my grades the odds would be much more in my favor. I’ve asked this in the past to an HR employee, they thought that (standardized) assessments allowed them to compare candidates more fairly. There is a lot to be said for that: lecturers at a university grade open-ended answers to exam questions. When they grade bachelor and master theses, even more variables come into play which can influence their objectivity. On the contrary, assessments contain a huge amount of multiple choice questions for which results are calculated automatically.

I do not think it is good thing however to discount academic results entirely. So far I’ve experienced far too many job application procedures which suffer from assessment tunnel vision. Don’t get a good score on your assessment? Away with you then. They don’t seem to consider academic performance in the equation, which would make their judgement more balanced. These assessments are taken in the space of an hour or two and can yield bad results if the candidate is having a bad day. Academic results are the results of years of work.

Finally, what is really tiring me is that these days, you need to take an assessment for almost every job. If you say to the HR employees you can provide them with results of a previous assessment, they often insist that you take their company’s different assessment. I have a suggestion: design an (inter)national standard intelligence test which is to be taken by every student at their educational institution before they enter the labor market. Forbid the use of non-standard intelligence tests on pain of death. Put a lot of psychologists and assessments bureaus out of work in the process and give those who apply for jobs some peace of mind.

Evaluation of job applications, 2012 to 2015

In my previous post I mentioned I got a job with FRISS on 23 June 2015. After a trial period, I received an annual contract, my first one ever. I’ll be eternally grateful to FRISS for pulling me out of the financial insecurity and uncertainty with my temporary contract at OGD. Before that, I had applied for plenty of other jobs since my graduation in August 2012. Let’s review these job applications.

The kind of jobs I applied for was highly variable. To mention some recurring categories: traineeships (management, IT, financial and other), consultant (often IT), policy advisor, PhD’s in Public Administration, personal assistant to politicians, service desk employee, service manager, service level manager, service delivery manager.

I’ve made an spreadsheet to keep track of all my job applications with application dates, deadlines and response dates. I’ve also listed the results of my efforts. I think I’ve tracked almost all job applications, perhaps not the earliest. So let’s see the statistics.

In approximately three years I applied for 106 jobs. Of these 11 were open applications (not aimed at a specific vacancy). During 8 application procedures I had to take an assessment: for 5 assessments I failed, for 3 I succeeded. The applications resulted in 19 job interviews (a share of 18% of the total).

Some of the job application procedures also included inhouse days. On these days you participate with other applicants in a program which might include visits to customers of the company or an introduction to company by its employees. Even though it didn’t get a job with these companies, I generally have positive memories about these events. EVG Start, a company training employees for posting at IT companies, is a good example. They had an inhouse day at a data center and a useful exercise on presentation skills.

Unfortunately, there are more companies which treat job applicants like trash. TOPdesk for example. The job interview I had with them was my second since I graduated. Due to a combination of inexperience and nerves I botched the interview. As I expected, I was not accepted for the job. Yet, when I applied a year later for a totally different job posting, I was told they would not consider my application because I had not made a good impression a year ago. In my reply I acknowledged that I had not made a good impression then and appealed to the possibility that people can change, especially after a year, but they would not have any of it. TOPdesk was my only experience with an HR department which brands you for life.

The most ridiculous and downright stupid attitude was shown by the HR employees of KPN. When I applied for their management traineeship which required an academic master’s degree, I was told they only accepted candidates who possess a VWO secondary education degree. No consideration was giving to the fact that my academic achievements were above average. In the Netherlands, VWO gives access to university. I took a different route and got a HAVO secondary education degree, then went to a university of applied science, then to a university. Whether you have HAVO or VWO degrees doesn’t matter, a master’s degree from a university is the same end result for everyone. This was too difficult for KPN’s HR department to comprehend. I was infuriated. If I was not good enough for KPN, I decided they were not good enough for me. I quickly canceled my mobile network and internet subscriptions with KPN’s subsidiary companies. They will never receive another cent from me.

New job at FRISS

On 23 June 2015 I signed a contract with FRISS for a job as Support Engineer. I started work at 1 September and still enjoy my work. I like the informal culture and all the nice colleagues. FRISS is still a young company, reminiscent of a start up. This gives more flexibility than an older, more formalised organization. In FRISS taking ownership of issues is welcomed, which I greatly appreciate and take advantage of.

Of course, it’s not all moonlight and roses. While I had grown used to TOPdesk in previous jobs, FRISS uses the software of AllSolutions, a small Dutch company. Its software is an ERP system, a jack of all trades and a master of none. We use it for financial administration, projects and service management (issue tracking system), but except for a few persons the vast majority of employees isn’t satisfied with it. I think it’s wholly inadequate for service management when compared to more refined software from competitors. This software is the equivalent of giving a chef in a restaurant a blunt knife. Due to the lock-in and difficulty of migrating to something better, I’ll have to endure it for the foreseeable future.

Another disadvantage is that the commute to work is quite long, three hours for a return journey. Fortunately the public transport connection is quite good, I spend my time in public transport productively with reading the newspaper. A third issue is that there isn’t a single euro for education budget. This is in stark contrast to my former employer OGD, where I got certifications in ITIL and PRINCE2. And on OGD I was on a temporary contract, with FRISS I have a annual contract.

Even with these downsides, FRISS is a company for which I’m motivated to give my best. I look forward to starting up a few projects in the coming months to improve our processes and efficiency.

Worried about sedentary work

For a longer time I’ve been worried about the risks of sedentary work due to the nature of my job in IT. A study published in June 2015 by Buckley et al. (2015) in the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed those fears.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time, like many desk workers do, increases the chance of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes significantly. Even if you do perform enough moderate to intensive physical activity outside of working hours, such as sports, you don’t prevent the damage incurred by continuous sitting for long periods during working hours.

I was already slightly aware of this. That’s why I always take a walk outside (while eating at the same time) for 30 minutes during the afternoon break at my current job. I do so with a small dedicated group of colleagues, but the majority of the other colleagues just seat themselves at the restaurant inside the office building for the whole break. Apart from that break, I do notice that I often sit non-stop for two or three hours at my desk while I work. I urgently want to change this now that I’ve realized the gravity of the problem after reading the study. The guidelines given by the study are that you stand or move for at least two hours, preferably four, in the office.

One solution mentioned in the study is using a sit-stand desk. Problem is that my employer has no desire to reserve budget to purchase these. It would also be considered strange if one person is standing in the office while the rest is sitting. I should probably just take a regular break every hour and walk the stairs to the third floor back to the first. But a sit-stand desk would allow me to avoid sitting without having to interrupt my work. I will press my wish for a sit-stand desk more when I might get to work for a different employer.

My career versus the crisis

I still need to catch up with blog posts. Even though this post is no longer relevant because I started with a new job in September 2015, I felt I still had to share my thoughts on career prospects from before that month, around May 2015.

When I started the fourth year of high school, the head teacher gave all students an inspiring speech. He showed a photo of a mountain and told us we were close to making it to the summit. “When you reach the summit, you will see taller mountains to be climbed in the distance”, he said. Those mountains were tough to ascend for me at times. During my first years of higher education, I almost got buried by an avalanche and was close to abandoning the climb. Someone even told me I would not be able to climb the most challenging mountain in sight. With my perseverance I did manage to complete the ascent of that mountain after all in August 2012. I found a postgraduate degree in Public Administration on the summit there.

From the top, I could see Career Mountain, which became my new goal. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but after my past achievements I was confident I could climb it without too much difficulty. While making my way to the mountain’s base, I was surprised to find myself descending towards Crisis Valley instead, where the Lost Generation languishes. Their weeping and gnashing of teeth grows louder as time passes on.

I’m disappointed and angry with my current career development. It’s basically non-existent. During my studies I got a part time job at OGD, an IT company. Since I graduated, I’m still employed by them on a flexible contract to do temporary work in IT. Since 2012 I still work as a service desk agent or assistant system administrator, because opportunities to get a job more suitable to my level of education didn’t work out. I might have gotten an annual contract for the work I currently do if I hadn’t been so optimistic about my chances of finding more interesting work elsewhere. I didn’t negotiate well with Human Resources either. But I want to emphasize that I’m actually very grateful to them. On their education budget, I acquired certifications in ITIL and PRINCE2. Without them, I would have had more difficulty in finding work and wouldn’t have gained valuable experience.

Each time I look at LinkedIn and see how other people I know from university did manage to land good jobs, I turn green with envy. When read in Intermediair, a Dutch magazine dedicated to career-building, how much people with specific jobs make or how quickly they found their job after graduating, I grow very jealous. Both activities are guaranteed to devastate my optimism and state of mind for one day.

I experience a complex, contradictory collection of emotions. I feel inferior and worthless compared to others who do have an annual contract while I have to suffer with the uncertainty of a flexible contract. On the other hand I feel superior to them when I scrutinize their profiles on LinkedIn. When I see spelling errors or notice how they landed great jobs with dubious, unrelated degrees like language studies and such, I content myself with the thought that they must be idiots who do not deserve such jobs.

Fortunately, my rational side never allows the emotional side to take over. Even though it’s hard and confrontational, I continue to read LinkedIn profiles of others to determine how I could learn from their accomplishments. Sometimes I ask them for advice. I use my network and request people I know if they can help me with circulating my resume, which is reasonably successful so far. Reflecting on my performance with job applications, I’ve determined that my application letters are good, but passing assessments with intelligence tests can be a problem. My greatest weakness is that I’m not convincing enough during job interviews. With some trial and error I’ve already gotten better at them, but I want to improve it further with the help of several Human Resources professionals I can count as friends.

However, improving my job hunting skills is harder than it seems. Because I’ve had no alternative other than doing temporary work in IT since I graduated in 2012, I’ve now reached a point where I’m no longer eligible for traineeships. In their desire for blank slates, recruiters demand that you have no more than a few years of work experience and that you are a recent graduate. Neither apply to me anymore, and increasingly my job applications are being rejected based on this argument. I argue that my work experience should not be considered because it’s all temporary work rather than a real job, no different from a part time job for students. The recruiters don’t care about my arguments, and why should they if they can choose from a steady supply of recent graduates? At the same time, my experience gained with temporary work is often not sufficient when I apply for jobs which are not traineeships and do require relevant experience. I’m between a rock and a hard place.

The only viable way to escape from this no-win situation is to forget about landing a traineeship and gain more relevant experience. I’ve made important strides in this regard: I’ve acquired certifications in ITIL and PRINCE2, with the ambition to get a Lean Six Sigma certificate in the future. As the Secretary of the Board for the South Holland branch of Dutch Green party I’ve gained experience with organizing events. I’ve continued to contribute plenty of content to the English Wikipedia. All these activities illustrate my skills, but will it be enough to convince the recruiters?

Some have told me it is best to shut up about my difficulties in the job market. But I’m done with keeping quiet, I want to tell the truth. We’re all human and every person has to deal with adversity in life. If you are a recruiter and conclude I’m unworthy of employment at your company because I still haven’t found a decent job since I graduated in 2012, I don’t want to work for your company in the first place. There are many people like me, maybe even worse off because they chose to study for degrees like Art History, who have a hard time in the job market. Don’t discard them because they were forced to do irrelevant temporary work due to the crisis. They do not need to be treated differently from starters, even if they are approaching their thirties and have more work experience. In fact, all the difficulty they face in the job market has probably made them more resilient than those people who come fresh out of university and manage to find a job within a month or two.

There is only one certainty for me, that I will persevere in my search for a real job. I’ve been telling this myself for almost three years now, but what good will pessimism do? Always keep thinking positively. It’s understandable I’m envious of colleagues with a better job and contract, but one of those is physically handicapped and another lost his girlfriend to cancer. In that perspective I should be content with my life, everything is relative.