Victim Thinking: “I deserve to be hired!”

At QBQ, Inc. we sometimes rail (yes, rail) against anything that smacks of victim and entitlement thinking. We’ve blogged on this topic many times, like here and here and here. 🙂

Knowing our point of view, Lois, a longtime believer in the QBQ! book, sent us this email:

John, when I read an opinion piece in the Kansas City Star, I thought of QBQ! and its message of personal accountability. To be honest, reading it makes me cringe. What do you think of it?



To give you a hint to the article’s message here’s the first sentence: “I have a four-year degree from a respected university, great references, good job experience … and I applied for unemployment recently.”

So far, I’ve only shared the piece with a handful of people. Some responses:

Tracie: “I’ve battled my own inner ‘entitlement beast’ when I’ve felt I should’ve gotten a promotion or raise, but as I discovered by reading QBQ!—don’t blame, look in the mirror!”

Torin: “Victim! Get a Starbuck’s job while you search. Just because you can’t get one in your field doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs out there that pay the rent.”

Danielle: “So, because you can’t find a job in your niche, you’re going to rely on the government?!?”

Ethan: “I’m a huge fan of delivering pizzas when income is needed. Try it!”

Mary Anne: “Life is like a game and we play with the cards we’re dealt. It isn’t the player with the best cards that wins, but the one who knows how to play with the cards she has.”

In a moment, we’d like to get your opinion on the article.

But first, allow me to actually agree on one point with Vanessa, the “Gen Y’er” who wrote the piece. She touched on a pet peeve of mine, so allow me to speak to execs and human resource departments everywhere:


In Outstanding! there’s a chapter titled “Hire Character,” and I’m proud to know that my only famous friend agrees. Dave Ramsey once said:

I have hired thousands of people for real jobs that pay real money. To this day, I’ve never hired someone based on where they went to school.

Dave knows that success and achievement are not about colleges and credentials, but rather … character.

In Outstanding! we tell the story of Valerie, who strived to meet face-to-face with someone—anyone—at the hospital where she had submitted a resume. She had drive, energy, and passion.

She wanted to work, but she was blocked at every turn. Unable to ever contact a live human being, she was eventually turned down over the Internet.

Too many employers have chosen this dysfunctional path of not only requiring excessive class credits, degrees, and credentials but also hiding behind online job application systems that make it near impossible for outstanding candidates of character who desire to work to, well—stand out!

Go ahead, execs and HR people, defend your processes. My response, though, will be this: You’re only hurting yourselves when you miss out on the best people. The pendulum has swung too far in this area. Become an outstanding organization and swing it back. Make this a people business again.

Now, with that mini-rant behind me, let’s be clear regarding the Kansas City Star article: It’s never good to become a victim. It’s always better to ask an accountable question—a QBQ—such as …

“How can I get under, over, around, or through this roadblock?” 

Practicing personal accountability sure beats watching Netflix from my parents’ couch. (read the article and you’ll understand)

Okay, so—after reviewing the Kansas City Star piece, join in the discussion by answering these questions:

Is the author playing victim or does she have valid concerns? What do you think? 

If you’re not a QBQ! QuickNote subscriber, sign up here.

64 Responses

  1. Her reaction is wrong. Imagine for a second what type of employee she “might” be should a principal actually hire her. Picture the parent teacher conference where her “it’s all about me” attitude comes to the surface! Unfortunately her “gen y” or whatever she has labeled herself, and her generation entitlement thinking really stinks. Is it possible that this attitude showed up during some of her interviews? Is it written all over her resume? I wonder if her “great university” ever thought about teaching personal responsibility to its students? Get off the couch and do something for someone else instead of wallowing in self-pity. Others might just see your good deeds and be inclined to hire you! Good things happen when you show up for work – work of any kind.

  2. Great topic John!

    It is obvious this person does not have the drive to succeed. If she did, she would have spent her college years getting the experience she needed to be competitive, not just attending classes and getting “that piece of paper” (which is not enough). I have been fortunate enough to have been in my “dream job” for 23 years. I got here by studying hard in school AND spending my own time and money volunteering at several positions in my field (which I knew would pay off in the long run). Education + experience = success!

    I wholeheartedly agree about hiding behind technology. We have made it a point at our office to not only conduct interviews with top candidates in person or by phone, but to also personally call those who did not make the cut and offer suggestions on how they can be more competitive next time. Believe me, that personal touch goes a long way!

    1. JD, I have been searching for new employment and one thing I truly appreciate is when an employer let’s me know that a position has been filled and takes the time to let me know anything I might be able to do to improve my chances in a similar position or interview. The help is extremely appreciated.

  3. She is playing the victim. There are many jobs out there that will pay the bills but may not be in the career path as your education. In 1997, I lost my job; but within 2 months, I was working 4 jobs to make ends meet. These jobs were not in the area where my education degree applied, but you do what you have to. I believe since she likes to teach, could she not get a job in an outreach program for kids, teens, etc. or maybe do volunteer work in this area. There are many well-connected people who serve on the board and the social networking alone would be worth the time.

  4. Look around Vanessa. There are plenty of “all around baby boomers” with 4 OR MORE years of schooling, UMPTEEN certificates and credentials, over 20 years experience and “over-qualified” in many other ways standing in the unemployment line right along with you! Imagine having a mortgage, car payments, children in college, and dwindling retirement, and having to navigate the same job market…

  5. I get where she’s coming from. Frustration can eat away at you. But instead of sitting back and binging on Netflix, as she suggests, why not get up, put on a nice outfit, and hit the pavement? Go visit some of the places she’d like to work and make some contacts? Network a little. Offer to volunteer. Offer to intern. Make herself available. Distinguish herself above and beyond the pile of resumes already sitting on someone’s desk.

    Instead of bemoaning the situation, go out there and look for chinks in the armor. There are companies that will work around their own systems; HR directors and hiring managers that will gladly give a go-getter a chance. But to do that, you have to actually be a go-getter.

  6. The young lady cites several facts that are indisputable. Having said that, however, the question is, “What are you going to do about them?” If that is the world you live in, are you going to just give up and quit? These are obstacles to being hired. But not insurmountable. People in every generation faced adversities that at the time and in their context, were just as daunting. But in many cases, especially in past years, unemployment was unavailable or socially unacceptable. So people found ways around their predicaments.

    As we all know, there are things in life that happen to you that you can’t control. But what you can control is your reaction. That’s called accountablility. My dad was fond of saying that it is easier to get a job when you have a job: regardless of what that job is. So be accountable, determine “how” or “what” you’re going to do to improve your lot in life, and find a job of any type (that’s not illegal, immoral, or unethical) and show future employers the positive attributes that any successful employee should possess.

  7. I see this from both sides….is she playing the victim? YES, if you really want a job you don’t give up and watch TV all day. You are not the victim until you have applied for every available position!! BUT we (I am taking accountability for all of us tech happy people) have made applying for a job harder. We can’t get that up close and personal interview any more. A resume much like an email can be misleading. We always say if you have something really important to say do it in person. We need to offer that same consideration to applicants.

  8. My jobs have evolved from “opportunity” and willingness to take on work, no matter what as long as I could fulfill the job. I was a housewife who needed money to buy her husband a gift. I started as a factory worker for three months , bought his gift and applied to be a state cleaning person. Worked there seven years, had two kids and quit to help care from my brother for a short recovery period. I later went to another factory while volunteering at the Red Cross and as an EMT firefighter. At the factory, I helped a heart attack victim and went from building computers to a long term safety job making working lives safer! No degree yet but somewhere joined the military as a reservist. The job factory went belly up and now I was in demand by several employers for managerial jobs without a degree. I applied for a nursing job once and got it without being a nurse. They only thought they needed a nurse and I was less expensive. I went on to work in insurance claims and doctors offices, all based on various licenses and experiences. MY premise was opportunity. If it comes along, accept it because it leads to more of them.
    I have worked up to five jobs at once for many years, served 22 years of military, served 22 years of factory and 30 years as EMT,Red Cross. Now at an Environmental Company hopefully cleaning up contaminated communities and taking care of the humans who do the job! Work life is all about opportunity and effort and now that I know QBQ – personal accountability. In this author’s case – I want to offer – what can I do to help out of habit now! All my opportunities are still contacts from that first factory job and those exposures. My current job goes well because I take personal responsibility which I did not do as well as I have since QBQ exposure this past year! My licenses and now two Associate degrees after age 59, came from military, employers and volunteer agencies that sponsored me to accomplish them on my own time! Life is good to me on earth even though my adult son is home with us and totally 7 yrs incapacitated from an accident. Ask what can I do to help and not why is this happening to me? QBQ taught me that and I can do even more, even better than before!

  9. I had a completely different opinion of the article. I thought it was a very good approach for her to write the article and get some free publicity. I wonder if she got a job offer after someone read it. I have one child that is in college and another that will be starting this fall and I am worried about them getting a job in this day and age. A lot of the colleges are now realizing the need to teach their students how to land jobs, this isn’t the era of “who you know” to get in the door. It is how do I get to the front step.

  10. Boo hoo! Take control of your destiny. As an HR Professional, I’m looking for people who are accountable and who solve problems. I’ve already got a bunch of people willing to tell me what the problems are! The only person who REALLY cares about your career is you, so you are the only person to do anything about it.

  11. I guess she is not thinking of starting from the ground up? My first job out of college was being a clerk and an agency serving people and children with developmental and physical disabilities. A clerk, my foot in the door, somewhere, anwhere! The rest was up to me! That was in 1996. A lesson learned from my baby boomer parents was always have a job, don’t ever consider yourself beneath any job, because you may need that little job some day and Lord knows you need money we don’t have to give you. Now that I sit on interview panels I see lengthly gaps between peoples jobs and THAT’S always a red flag. Thank goodness my resume had ALL my jobs which were related to the field I wanted to be in or not, because it showed I had a job, and could keep a job and when I switched jobs it was always for better opportunity not matter the pay grade.

  12. Some things never change. When I attended undergraduate college in 1976, I often asked my classmates what they were going to do when they graduated with BAs in Art, Philosophy, English, and so on. Most of the times they hadn’t a clue, or thought they could teach. So,the same lesson exists today: learn what jobs are available in the career field you are looking to enter.
    Yes, it’s tough using all automated procedures to apply online and get rejected (sometimes immediately!) via email. I know. I work for the federal government and all promotion applications are taken and processed online. If I’m lucky, I may make it through the initial process and face an interview with a panel of people. After the interview, I still won’t know how I did until I get that email telling me whether I’ve been accepted.
    But, if you can’t get a paying job, and you don’t have the experience, and you can’t hone those skills without a job (it’s been the same Catch 22 situation since I graduated), think of alternative opportunities to sharpen your abilities. Try volunteering doing the same work for free to get the experience, or something similar to what you would like to do. Maybe you made a mistake and need to reconsider your chosen profession. Better now than have a mid-life crisis in 10-15 years when you’ll really have a hard time changing careers. Consider the military to get experience. Consider freelancing.
    Those are just a few suggestions off the top of my head. Good luck, be persistent, network, try parttime or seasonal work, and always look at every opportunity from different angles. Don’t just settle for the obvious answer.

  13. I still haven’t graduated, am very tech savvy, and I don’t have a problem finding work. The difference is, I go and find people, I kick doors in and put my resume in, I put my name out there, I WORK to get a job and then I WORK to keep a job. She sounds like she’s just putting her application in and waiting for people to call her while she hangs out at the mall.

  14. Job boards contain between 10 to 15% of the jobs available. The other 85 to 90% are found and filled by actively networking. The young lady just needs to leverage her network and earn that coveted reward called employment. I’m currently rowing the same boat, and am excited about serving others as I network to my next role. My glass is FULL – half with water and half with air – my network.

      1. Just in case someone is so inclined, here is my corporate culture desire statement and LinkedIn URL:

        Possessing a set of enduring core values, I am seeking employment with an organization that places an emphasis on high ethical standards, views success as a combination of financial gain in tandem with authentically serving its customers, provides a place where professional career growth is actively supported and strikes a healthy work/life balance for its internal customers.

        Thank you John…my brother-in-law (also named John) recommended QBQ to me a couple of years ago. It is a great book and a message sorely needed in today’s world. Thank you for having the courage to birth such a work.

  15. Try relocating…
    Choose one of those highly desirable districts – can anyone say Detroit?
    A personal family member drives in excess of 100 miles a day to and from a similar district. It pays the bills!

  16. Ugh. As a member of “Gen Y,” junk like this makes me sick to read. I work in a university library, and I guarantee she’ll never get hired without any kind of volunteer work or something showing that she took initiative and tried to at least get a little practical experience in the field in which she wants work. There are so many good volunteer opportunities, and many of them lead to jobs. Also, I’m sick of the refrain that “we’re good with technology.” No. We know how to post stuff on social media and do ten things on our smart phones at the same time. Basic technological skills like mapping network drives or even attaching files to email consistently stymie some of my colleagues who are supposedly “Generation Y tech geniuses.” Finally, her phrasing of “showing students how freaking awesome literature is” makes me think that perhaps her cover letters and resume aren’t so well-written after all.

    Terribly sorry to have jumped up on my soapbox, but I’m sick of this victim mentality crap, which I see worsening with each generation that comes through my library’s doors. Glad Dave Ramsey linked to this today!

  17. I used to protoest the opposite. I’d blame the system because I felt I wasn’t recognized/rewarded for my work ethic in a workforce that placed too much emphasis on a degree – where I felt a degree wasn’t required (how insightful of me). “What about us with our nose to the grindstone each day; putting forth our best effort while some college kid was doing just enough to get by and partying their way on their parent’s dime?” I bet you can guess how much that way of thinking helped rocket me to the top! 🙂

    I have to say I am excited at the idea of how an article/op ed might be the step that gets ones foot in the door though! Still, what a tightrope walk trying to convey those thoughts on the matter without sounding like a victim – couldn’t rush it… ah, TIME… who knew all that free time might turn out to be a saving grace!

  18. My husband and I were discussing my lack of progression in my Master’s degree. It is an online degree and I need to find my own place for my practicum and a preceptor (with a specific list of qualifications who needs to sign a contract with my University for no pay). I have come to the conclusion that I need to write a personal letter of introduction with an explanation of my university’s proposal, then make an appointment with the dean of each place I could possibly do this practicum for a personal interview. My phone conversations do not get positive results. My white hair may be a detriment, but my vitality will shine through.

  19. As a hiring manager for a large corporation, I also find the hiring process to be very impersonal and frustrating, but I am required to follow a specific process. With that said, it is important to get yourself out there in any way. We have a referral program, and we hire a lot of people that are referred by other employees. Tell everyone that you are looking for a job and be positive about it. The person who refers you is putting their reputation on the line. In addition, there are a lot of things you can do to make yourself look positive and interesting on your resume. Volunteer. It makes you look active and ambitious. Take a job, just about any job. An employer will appreciate that you are willing to work hard and do what it takes. My daughter knew early on that she wanted to work with children and possibly teach. I encouraged her starting in high school to take every opportunity to volunteer with children and to mentor others at her school. It’s experience. Her first paying job was as a tutor. It doesn’t pay much, but it is great experience on her resume. She also understands that it’s tough to get a teaching job right now, and while she is in college, she is keeping an open mind just focusing on the fact that she wants to work with children. You just have to do whatever it takes.

  20. When I graduated from college in 1992 (yep I’m old), I had grandiose ideas of being hired for $50k per year in a management role. I was recently married and had to make some money, so I took a $10/hour job in a call center.

    I proved myself and within 7 months was promoted to a training position and doubled my pay. After 2 more years, I was promoted again, 2 more years and promoted again. I think you see the picture.

    Get your foot in a door, work hard, impress people. In this day and age it is visibility in person by proving yourself as a hard-working, intelligent individual who can contribute to the organization.

  21. I am a Life Skills Teacher/Coach, and the majority of youth that I work with are very book smart and dedicated to their studies. When I ask them why they don’t get a part time job in the summer or even on the weekends, the majority of them tell me that their parents do not allow them because their parents prefer for their children to focus on academics. I don’t blame the parents entirely; however, there has to be a balance. Character overrides academic excellence in my book.

  22. She is playing the victim, yet speaking the truth at the same time.

    I really dislike her last line – that is where the victim thinking comes out, and makes her sound like the entitled Gen Y she says she was brought up to be.

    However – have you seen the unemployment numbers for teenagers and younger adults? They’re abysmal. That job at Starbucks? Already taken by someone who has worked before, and who maybe knew the manager (or something…HOW do people get those jobs?) My daughter has put in applications ALL OVER for years and has had exactly two interviews. The current technological hiring process STINKS. People are, in fact, told not to call. They’re told not to come in. Often the manager who would be doing the hiring isn’t even allowed to consider someone unless their application is forwarded through official channels. Jobs at pizza joints, sandwich shops, and the like all go through a computer sorting system that spits out young, inexperienced people who haven’t worked – and they often don’t take into account whether they’ve volunteered or led groups or done anything at all besides HELD A JOB.

    It’s the reality right now. I don’t have a solution, and I don’t have an answer for the QBQ on this one – what is a person to do when the computers hold all the power.

  23. Hi John,

    Thanks for the link and the discussion. “Gen Y-Me” came to mind, but that’s not helpful now, is it? (sorry)

    QBQ! could be an excellent tool to help this young lady, and many more like her, to recognize that she has the power to find a solution. So say we all.


  24. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s what we have here and it’s a dangerous game to blame everything and everyone else and not ask the QBQ to determine what could be done differently to achieve the desired result. Who you know does matter and how you tap into those relationships does matter. I’m sure her article was written at an emotional low and hopefully she has moved on from her victim thinking. If she were my daughter we would be looking at this differently. Hope she does as well.

  25. While waiting for employment Vanessa could be utilizing her skills, along with her excellent resources, to create her own business opportunity by tutoring. No, it wouldn’t be the dream job with a regular paycheck and benefits but it would be building a resume and working in the same environment – working with students and helping them in the classroom. I would think Vanessa could also volunteer at afterschool centers to help with homework, etc. You never know who/what contacts you will make that could lead to a great opportunity! And those ‘silly’ questions on the application can be intentional to weed out applicants – hopefully Vanessa does not provide ‘silly’ answers to the questions!

  26. Though it is ultimately the author’s choice/responsibility to pull herself out of this place of victimization, there are definitely underlying societal issues that can be addressed as highlighted by her frustration: We are not teaching innovation in our schools or critical thinking. As someone who’s worked in a college for years, I can see that students who are innovative or excel at critical thinking are students who have taught themselves those skills. Our school systems (for a variety of reasons) primarily teach our children to only solve the problem they’ve been told to solve only by methods they’ve been handed. Building boxes around people makes it hard for them to stretch.

    The internet has given birth to nearly unlimited opportunities to earn money doing what one has a passion for-and not just in the way prescribed by past job hunting techniques, but in new, creative, expansive ways. Once she gets herself out of victim mode, she may find her way into a life she never dreamed possible.

  27. She has a point about some big corporations and their hiring process. But just making a point usually does not get your desired results. It is obvious to me that she is not meant to be a teacher. The universe has other plans for her. If she could get her face out of the TV, I am sure her future career is right in front of her.

  28. The only thing I agree with in this article is that our government, schools, adolescent sports and many parents today are breeding generations of individuals who think they are entitled — think exactly like she is expressing — I’m a victim. Everybody isn’t a winner. You may not be able to do anything you want to do regardless of how hard you work at it. There is absolutely employer loyalty, job security, and the promise of retirement for every generation. Those are just unoriginal buzz words that she has heard so many times she believes them now. The EMPLOYER isn’t responsible to make sure all of those goals come to fruition. YOU can be loyal to your employer; YOU create job security by being educated, nimble and versatile so if you lose your job, you are marketable; YOU can have a secure retirement if YOU plan and save for it!

  29. Ms Waters is a silver spoon entitled individual who feels the world owes her. I know this for a FACT. Perhaps she should publicly announce WHY she was escorted from her only teaching job she ever had.

  30. While victim thinking absolutely disgusts me, and I disagree with Ms. Walters view, these comments are getting harsh and personal. Think about this from the QBQ perspective, what if this was your daughter who wrote this article? How would you help her? Your daughter surely wouldn’t act like this because you would have raised her better, I’m sure you’re thinking, but humor me. This girl needs a mentor. She is a young adult starting out, I do know as a young professional myself I walked out into the world with an inflated sense of importance. Hopefully she can find a mentor who can help her work through this, and hopefully this article will serve as a lesson to her that careers are not just handed out once you get a degree. My job is to advise college students. Often, they ask me, “Will this degree guarantee me a job when I graduate?” and I tell them “No, that is something you are responsible for. We will give you the access to the resources you need, and it is up to you to use them.” Most of the time I look back at confused and stunned faces, but it’s the hard truth. You have to work hard, network – as Mark pointed out – be willing to start from the bottom, and lose the ego. But let’s not bully this girl, lets mentor her.

    1. Tracie, thanks for your forthright comments. I think what we’re seeing here isn’t a true intent to demean or be mean, but an intense reaction to what’s become somewhat commonplace: Entitlement and victim thinking. Some people are simply sick of it. This gal chose to exemplify it with her article. Certainly, I do hope someone will come along side her to help her think more accountably … but she’s gonna need to be open to that. But when she says her plan is to now collect unemployment insurance while watching “The Walking Dead” on Netflix, she doesn’t open herself up to much sympathy – or sound all that coachable. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    2. Tracie, cold hard facts are just that … and reality sucks. One must accept responsibility for ones actions. Until a person can do that I really don’t think they will go far – mentors or not. In this grown-up world accountability speaks volumes.

  31. I understand completely. I am just playing devils advocate here, because if we look at this holistically, there is a much larger problem here. The author of this article clearly suffers from bad case of entitlement, as do many people and not all of them are Gen Yers.

    The fact of the matter is that while reading all of her excuses and self pity remarks may make our blood boil, someone, somewhere is going to hire her and she will be in the workforce, and someday she could end up working with one of us. I have worked with, for and lead people who suffer from this “epidemic” and it is not easy or fun, but there is an opportunity to help these people change their attitude. If we start complaining about “What is wrong with people these days, why do they think everything should be handed to them?” aren’t we asking the wrong question?

    I agree. Jennifer needs to run for congress and change our culture 🙂 That may be the only answer.

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