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What IT Contractors Can Learn (or not learn) from George Costanza

Busting Some Myths Seinfeld Taught Us About Job Searching

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One of the hottest sitcoms of all time was Seinfeld, the 9-season TV show about "nothing" created by comedians Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. It showcased the misadventures of four extremely selfish and quirky individuals living in New York City who, although sometimes faced consequences, got away with some devious schemes (at least until the final episode when they were sentenced to jail under a Good Samaritan law).

Perhaps the most dishonest character on the show was George Costanza, who was known for his many failed careers and plans to get away with doing as little as possible. While he often succeeded, he also often failed. Have you ever watched Seinfeld and considered implementing some of George's outrageous plans? Just in case, we decided to review some of Costanza's greatest career failures to create a list of (what should be obvious) job search and career tips:

Making Up References Does Not Work

In Season 3, Episode 17 (The Boyfriend Part 1) George lies to the unemployment office, telling them that he has a job interview lined up as a latex salesmen with Vandelay Industries. To cover the lie, he gives them Jerry's phone number and asks him to start answering the phone "Vandelay Industries". In the end, Kramer ruins everything when he answers the phone and knows nothing about the scheme.

There is rarely a scenario where lying to a recruiter about references, or anything for that matter, will turn out well. Even if your friends are all up-to-speed and willing to help you, there are technologies and other industry techniques that are sure to hold you back. The lesson here is to always be honest.

Sign a Contract and Know the Details of a Job

In Season 5, Episode 8 (The Barber) George ends a job interview unsure if he actually got the job and, if he did, what he would be doing. He decides to show up while the hiring manager is on vacation and spends a week "working" on the Penske File. A series of events follows, including some successes on George's part, but in the end, he's back to being unemployed.

This is an extreme example and independent contractors know to always have a contract with your client or agency. But are you always reading it thoroughly, along with the job description or statement of work, to understand the terms of agreement and what's expected of you?

What You Say and Do without Thinking Could Burn Bridges (or lead to worse)

In Season 2, Episode 7 (The Revenge), George quits his job during a confrontation, clearly a decision made on emotion. He decided to return to work on Monday, pretending nothing happened, but the damage had already been done. He gets made fun of by his boss, seeks revenge for it and ends up fired anyway.

It's not uncommon for us to see IT professionals burn bridges by speaking rudely to recruiters or clients, or even quitting out of anger, without thinking it through completely. The result not only ends the current contract but can have negative consequences on future work.

Bargaining is Good, but Don't Get Greedy

Throughout Season 4, Jerry and George work together on their "show about nothing" and pitch it to NBC. With the many ups and downs throughout the process, one of George's biggest regrets might be his negotiation. He decided to get tough and turn down an initial offer of $13,000 for a pilot, but ended up settling for $8,000.

Bargaining and contract negotiation is a natural part of the job search process when working with recruitment agencies or even directly with a client. Both parties want to leave with an agreement that is beneficial to everyone. There's an important lesson to be learned from George about expecting too much or being too pushy. It could lead to a lost opportunity all together and having to settle for something less later down the road.

Bonus: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone (it actually worked!)

Season 5, Episode 21 (The Opposite) is an example of one of George's obscure plans that actually proved beneficial. George decides to live the opposite of how he regularly would. From ordering at a restaurant to dating, he takes a complete reverse approach to everything in life. The result: George lands himself a new job!

You may not want to go as extreme as Costanza does in changing your life, but there is something to be said for stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new ideas. When something isn't working for you, a change is often the best solution.