Category Archives: Personal Development

Learning to say NO

Thank you to Kendra Little who is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday topic on “Interviewing Patterns and Anti-Patterns” – and what advice I might have for someone preparing for an interview. But instead of regurgitating the obvious advice you can find in other places, I’d rather talk about my own personal experiences, in-particular about a specific dark period in my professional career and how I avoided jumping into yet another bad experience.

I have written about my career lows elsewhere in these pages (and if you are really interested, you can read about them further in this post: SQLRally and beyond), but for your benefit, let’s just describe this particular stage of my career as me having hit a professional brick wall. The early promise and excitement of my (then) new job had turned into daily dread and anxiety as I drove into work knowing that I had 8 hours of unhappiness ahead of me each day.

How did this happen yet again? Another position, another problem, and another difficult situation to navigate and I was starting to think that it really *must* be me. There must be something wrong with me to be experiencing problems all over again.

One of the beautiful things about a long commute to work each day is that it gives you time to think. Time to mull over your problems, and time to think about potential solutions. How did I get here? Why are things the way they are? And then it dawned on me – I had never said NO to any job offer EVER. When I first interviewed for this specific position I had some niggling doubts. They weren’t big doubts, but nether-the-less these numerous niggling little doubts existed in the back of my mind. They were formed from subconscious observations of characters that I had met in the interview, things they said, the type of environment I would be working in, the skill level and skill sets of the team, and the management style of the people who would ultimately control my destiny. But my conscious mind took control and I had accepted the offer. I told myself that this really could be a great move if my subconscious was wrong…

The problem was that by the time I interviewed for positions I was already unhappy in my current job and was ready to leave, so when offers came my way I was usually so grateful for a new opportunity (and fresh start), that regardless of whether the job offer was a great move or not I said yes. I didn’t value myself highly enough, and perhaps my confidence was taking a beating.

I started thinking back, and wondered how things would have worked out had I said “thanks, but no thanks” to some of those offers.


I decided that I needed to learn how to say NO in order to understand my own worth, so I set out on a mission to reject a job offer. Now of course, had I found and been offered the greatest job in the world, then I would probably be forced to delay my mission a little longer, but knowing that the slightest doubt in my mind about a position (and anything less than punching the air over the salary package) would result in me rejecting an offer gave me great strength of purpose, direction, and momentum. If I got one offer then another offer would surely only be around the corner.

So I started applying for jobs and attended my first interview fairly soon after. The company was a relatively small player in the global market, but the opportunity sounded quite good, however, I was not punching the air and there were a few minor niggles regarding some potential responsibilities that I’d have to take on. Whilst the position was an (apparent) improvement on the one I was currently doing, I decided that I needed to put my plan into effect.

I said NO.

I suddenly felt empowered and respected myself just a little more for doing so. I needed to do this again!

Within weeks I had been offered another position, and that did not tick every box. I readily turned it down and was starting to enjoy being able to choose the turns in my own career path rather than stumble blindly down it.

Several more offers later I eventually received one that I absolutely could not refuse and the rest (they say) is history. That is not to say that every move I make works out, but I am doing them for all the right reasons. Not through desperation to get out, but because they have potential. Now I frequently reject offers that are either not good enough for me or not suitable for me. I understand my own self-worth a little more and understand how (and when) to say NO.