Assumptions – How They Create Career Sinkholes

3 min read · 6 years ago


Assumptions and the sinkholes they create

AssumptionsAssumptions—we all make them when we manage our career!

Of course, this company needs someone with “xyz” skills.

My next job cannot be as bad as this current job.

Everyone lets people accrue vacation time from the time they start.

I will work for the local school district, and of course they have good health insurance.

I have either heard these from clients or I have made these mistakes myself.

Conscious Versus Unconscious Assumptions

Conscious assumptions are easy. It is the unconscious assumptions that will get you into big trouble.

Years ago, I taught a problem determination workshop for IBM. When you get stuck on a problem it is usually due to an unconscious assumption. Let me give you the example I told in that workshop.

Early in my career, I owned a 1976 Ford Pinto, a non-exploding one. It would not start and I diagnosed that it had a bad starter solenoid. Early one Saturday morning, I went to the local auto parts store and bought the necessary part. I installed the new solenoid, but it still would not start.

I spent the rest of the weekend diagnosing the problem. Finally, around 4 PM on Sunday I screamed in frustration, “It has be to the damn starter solenoid.” I bought another new starter solenoid, and this time, it worked!

My unconscious assumption was that the first new starter solenoid had to be good. It was NEW! It had to be GOOD! I wasted much of a weekend because of that unconscious assumption.

I will make a wager that most of you have experienced something like this in your life. I created a sinkhole that I fell right into.

Assumption Examples

Example #1

I had a client who had an offer in hand from a Fortune 500 employer. When we did some careful digging through the offer letter, we learned that:

  • The employer did not let new employees start accruing vacation until after their six month anniversary.
  • They were not offered company health insurance until after their six month anniversary.

What we discovered from a former HR employee at the company:

  • If my client asked, they would credit six months of vacation time into their account when they were hired.
  • If my client asked, they would pay my clients COBRA payment for six months until they were eligible for company health insurance.

Notice in both cases, the benefit was only offered if my client asked. Would you have asked? Probably not.

It would have been easy to assume that health insurance and vacation started at time of hire. It also would have been easy to assume that, once we learned of the reality, there was nothing my client could do about it.

Assumptions could have easily created a sinkhole for my client to fall into!

Example #2

In 2002, after a near fatal bicycle accident, I decided to pursue my Texas High School Math teaching certification. I was an engineer. I had taught adults for over 25 years in over 35 countries. There was a shortage of math teachers. I made the assumption that finding a teaching position would be easy.

It was not easy!

What no one told me was the public school system wants people who are highly compliant. Guys over 40 years of age and who come out of the corporate world tend not to be so compliant. Principals know that!

No one in my teacher certification class cohort who was male and over 40 years of age could get an interview. Nobody would talk to us! Only when school was about to start in August would principals begin giving us the time of day. Why? They had no choice.

My assumptions created a sinkhole that I fell right into. I did get a teaching position less than a week before school started, but it created a stressful situation that I would not want to repeat.

I can give you a lot more examples. Assumptions can be very dangerous!

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Assumptions – How They Create Career Sinkholes

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