One of my prized posessions is my 1999 copy of Kirk Waingrow's "Unix Hints And Hacks". Sure, it's out of date, but as with many things in Unix/Linux, a lot hasn't changed. It inspires me due to its long-range perspective even today. This post is specifically inspired by Chapter 10: System Administration - The Occupation. That's the sort of real-world experience chapter most Unix books lack. The following is solely my own perspective and Waingrow is not responsible for any error!
All jobs are not created equal. Choose wisely as you accept Support Engineer, Technical Support, Developer, Support Technician or any such job. Any of them can go south due to personal situations, market conditions or company strategy, but I think I've identified a few types of issues that are common in this field. Watch out for...
THE MAIL DROP AVALANCHE
Use a special email address for job offers. These days, the tendency of businesses to push much HR activity to the web, and the possible tendency of yourself to browse listings rather than contact companies directly will lead to an ornery amount of job search spam. When the listings responses start to share your address (many HR outfits have multiple sites and names, or have been purchased by other outfits) it can get out of control, so make sure the search doesn't gum up the works in your main or personal email account. Listing sites and headhunters haven't performed nearly as well for me as a grapevine network or looking at a company's job listings on their own company site.
THE WALL OF CONFUSION
Use third party research or your grapevine to try to find out what's happening inside a company before you interview. There might have just been some turnover that could not only result in the loss of corporate knowledge but could have confused relationships between job functions and between departments. Like "Responsibility Creep" examined below, you may be seen as fresh meat and as the repository of work offloaded by others. This is possibly the hardest thing to discover about a potential employer. Glassdoor.com and other sites may be useful but that's not a sure thing, since both disgruntled ex-employees and current managers can post comments. Same with Reddit and so many other places. Try any local business journal newspapers/sites for stories about the company or industry.
THE ENTRAPMENT CONSPIRACY
(Note: the next predicament is couched in sneaky, dramatic possibilities but could also result from entirely appropriate reactions to business incidents.)
There exists the possibility of your joining a company at which a legal issue is already in progress. This is not common but considering the state of computer security today, it could increase in frequency. Let's say John Juggler is on the board of a company that relies on internet presence to do business. The company's 24/7 server exposure and intentional lack of a full-time administrator (to save money on employee costs) has resulted in the data loss of 90,000 complete customer records. We all know that this never happens but (in my invented example here) it did and since there could be legal repercussions, not only have they hired an admin but a Computer Information Security Officer was shopped for. You got the job. There is indeed a legitimate need for such a person. There is also a need for Juggler's organization to have a fall guy in case anything requires it. In the board room, sanitized language is used by Juggler and others, as they're looking at the likelihood of future rules in the coming year imposing a 90-day maximum to apply a mandatory data breach notification procedure. The cleanup could go longer than that. Juggler also makes a note to talk to the lawyer about how one might legally prevent a CISO from performing the federally mandated notification for as long as needed to circle the wagons. Good times! A new CISO would benefit by doing a security audit, as soon as he/she had the authority, noting time/date stamps and logging info on and after the CISO's hire date. That way, one could indicate to the Fed (if they ask) when one became aware of the situation. And that new CISO should send out best practices emails to all users immediately upon taking the reins of responsibility, and regularly after that. It is also incumbent upon the new CISO to assess how serious upper management truly is about getting on board with enforcement of new security procedures, which could create friction with those who would protest as to complexity and ease-of-use. Security improvements need to be implemented from the top down. They must come from the board room.
I've seen this happen with remarkable speed. A bunch of people I didn't know in a company with which I'd just started began calling me for everything. When given a task, they instinctively sprung into action by phoning the new guy to do it. Some duties were unrelated to my job description, but I didn't respond with the idiotic "That's not my job" retort. I countered by researching the organization chart, finding out who answered to whom, and got bureaucratic. I indicated that I could get involved if their boss, Person X, talked to my supervisor, Person Y. See, it's my supervisor's (and possibly a client's) choice as to what I do daily. Not anyone else's. So properly one goes through channels in order to change that to-do list. Things began to cool off mysteriously after that point. ["It ain't what they call you; it's what you answer to." - W.C. Fields] Another variant of this can happen if deliberately intended by the company to economize on people: for years I've seen job announcements that almost went on forever, detailing activities that described what it might take two to three people to do. An announcement for Tech Support? Check to see if it involves additional desktop support, on-call availability, website help, DBA work, network management and the ever-present "other duties". This predicament may even be forced onto unsuspecting managers and supervisors if someone above controls the funding for hires, and begins allowing one hire for every two attritioning out. I saw that one happen for years; it wasn't middle management's doing and I suspect was completely contrary to middle management's well-being, wishes and needs.
I don't mean to discourage you (variants of the above situations could happen in many industries), but only to help warn against any rude awakening that might be in store. Talking with customers of the organization you're considering can also reveal helpful information not available anywhere else. Good luck!