At some point in every one of our careers, we’ve all been hurt by bad employment/workplace experiences. Does it sting? Of course it does - no one likes to feel like they have been taken advantage of. But should you let it dictate the rest of your career? Absolutely not.
After being a headhunter for a while, this job has opened my eyes (and ears) a lot more to the concept of empathy and understanding. Yes, my job might just be to help developers get the jobs they so well deserve, but I can honestly tell you that it is a lot more than that. I learned that by connecting with the human behind their roles on paper, by understanding the person themselves, I can do my job better. All is fine and well when I successfully guide developers to land their dream jobs, but more often than not, I speak to hundreds of developers who turn down fantastic opportunities because they have been burnt in the past by awful experiences; whether in the workplace or through the use of recruiters.
As much as I understand that we all need some time to feel sorry for ourselves once in a while, I always advise these developers I work with to transform the negative experiences and energy into fuel for the next step in their career. It doesn’t have to be all bad, all the time. By learning how to rationalise that bad experiences don’t determine the trajectory and outcome of one’s career, it turns a negative mindset into a positive one. I have always believed in finding a silver lining in every bad situation. My rationale is that yes, while this awful situation does suck and it is never fun to be handed the short end of the stick, but at least I am learning something from this experience. For this, I am a better person and I can learn to make better decisions in the future. Learning is the key step towards growth.
I also can understand that some recruiters/headhunters can seem disinterested in what is best for you and your career, and just be out to look after themselves. It unfortunately happens in this industry, and it does need to change. However, I also know that there are a lot of great recruiters and headhunters that genuinely care about you and want to help you progress in your career. They are passionate about their job and will stop at nothing to help you. I can vouch for that, because I am one of those people who does care about my job as a recruiter/headhunter. I see so much value in helping people get the roles they deserve. It is what makes the jobs so special.
Thus, I always recommend that developers (and or candidates in general) not hold their cards too close to their chest. While it may be good to not expose the hand one wants to play, keeping it too close to the chest will only make it harder to initiate any negotiations further down the line. I am understanding of the anxiety and the stress it can bring, but if you are open and honest from the outset, this will make it much easier for the recruiters like myself to help you find exactly the role and salary you are targeting. Remember, communication is a two-way street - you won’t get what you truly desire if you’re not telling me exactly what you are looking for.
You may feel like you do not want to give too much away because maybe it didn't work out in the past (and that’s understandable, you want to protect yourself), but by removing the “oh if I reveal too much I’ll just get hurt” mantra, you effectively open yourself up to more opportunities. You are giving yourself and your career the chance. A good recruiter/headhunter will always do their utmost best to help you; they are effectively your cheerleader when it comes to negotiations with salary, job title, start dates, working hours etc. Trust is important, and believe me when I say that this does the opposite direction too.