Zia Hassan

No Hand Holding

During my senior year of college, I attended a number of job interviews on campus. At one of them, I was interviewed by three separate people.

The first person asked most of the questions I had been prepared for. We talked “a little about me” and went over my accomplishments, strengths, and weaknesses. I robotically told her that I am a quick learner, but also gave some examples to back it up. I’m not sure how true it was.

The second interviewer asked me about my willingness to comply.

“If I said, be in Texas by 9am on Monday, would you be able to do it?” he asked.

“Absolutely!” I said. I hadn’t really thought that one through. But I didn’t want to seem hesitant.

The third interviewer didn’t have any questions for me at all; instead, he asked me to ask him questions.

I would later learn that having questions prepared for an interview is arguably more important than giving good answers. I hadn’t prepared anything, so I went with “what’s the culture at your company like?”

He thought a moment and then said: “Well, there’s no hand-holding.”

12 years later, this comment still sticks with me.

What it does mean to refuse to hold someone’s hand? Holding a child’s hand helps to them to keep moving, helps them to keep from falling. But what happens when an employee at this company falls, since they inevitably will in their first few days/weeks/months/years at a new job?

Do they offer a hand to get back up off the ground?

I now know that what they will do is come after me with metrics and numbers and goals. I know that they’ll expect a lot from me. And I would never expect anyone to coddle me.

But it takes a while to learn a new skill. It takes time to adjust to the demands of a demanding job.

And if you’re not willing to hand-hold, at least at first, then who will take responsibility if and when I fall flat on my face?

To join a company or an organization is to become part of a team. And if a team’s culture is every person for themselves, and if you fall over we will intentionally avoid helping you get back up…

Then that’s no team at all.