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Post-College Anxiety

By br284 in Culture
Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 06:25:55 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

Come Jan. 1, I have exactly five months to figure out what I will be doing for a significant part of my life, finding a way to do it and pay the bills, and deciding where I can do it. I invite all of you who will be going through this, or have gone through this to read more.

As I have sat at home working on a few projects and assignments (my college has finals after winter break), I find myself worrying about what I'll be doing once I'm kicked out of my dorm room and out into the "real world". The short version of my current situation is that I don't know exactly what I want to do, which makes life difficult.

A bit about me for the uninformed: I'm a graduating senior (originally) from northeastern New Mexico with a degree in computer science. I've worked for various sorts of organizations, from the manual labor of fixing and installing windmills to working with (at the time) some of the world's fastest supercomputers for the federal government. I've successfully pulled off major software development efforts (a voting system for a Northwestern politics course) and I've done small-time helpdesk work. I've lived in a couple of interesting places, most notably a third world village in central Belize and St. Petersburg, Russia for close to eight weeks each. I feel that I've had a wide variety of experiences and seen quite a bit more than the average Joe.

Given this background, I'm struggling with what it is that I want to do right after school. My girlfriend has it easy, she's been all set to get a PhD in electrical engineering probably since the fifth grade. Me, however, I'm a bit tired of the academic environment. I would like to go back to grad school one of these days, just not immediately.

At the moment, I have a couple of options: 1. I could continue looking through jobs through the university and online job sites. (Monster.Com seems to be an excellent resource.) 2. I could go out on a limb and try to get some sort of government funding to pay the bills while I work to develop the world's greatest open source ArcInfo replacement, or 3. Do something completely unrelated to my degree or previous experiences such as getting a job in an unrelated field in order to jolt my currently clouded perspective. Not all is lost, however. Despite my indecisiveness in the things mentioned above, I know that I do want to live and work in a place that is small, but not too small, and has a visible change of seasons. (I've missed snow this year.) For the jobs that I've applied for thus far, there has been a strong bias for jobs that are in the northern parts of the USA (and Colorado).

Now, before this article is construed to be a "tell Chris what he should do" article, I would like to state that I'm generally not interested in what other people think I should do. (I'm a bit of a jackass in that respect.) What I am interested in reading about is how you or someone you know dealt with this, or how you might be planning on dealing with this major life transition. If you feel like killing a few minutes on a post, by all means, let us know how you made this transition and how it worked out.


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Post-College Transition was / is expected to be...
o Quite difficult and jolting. 19%
o Less of a major change than expected. 25%
o Dunno, will get back to you in a few months. 19%
o College? I don't need any steenking college. 12%
o Eh. 23%

Votes: 56
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Monster.Co m
o ArcInfo
o replacemen t
o Also by br284

Display: Sort:
Post-College Anxiety | 46 comments (40 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
MAEK MONY FA$T!!!!1! (3.66 / 6) (#2)
by scanman on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 01:26:43 AM EST

Why not start one of those USENET pyramid schemes?

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

Groups in your field (4.00 / 3) (#3)
by ahsyed on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 02:15:35 AM EST

I'm still in my third year of college, so while I can't give the "looking back" experience...I can give the "looking forward" experience that you have. I have been working with people at my company that are in the same field as me (Systems Engineering) to see what paths they took. I'm also a part of many student organizations like IEEE that also have many resources for indecisive folks like us. Anyways, good luck in the "real world". I'll be seeing you there in about a year :)

No one ever knows (4.88 / 25) (#4)
by rusty on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 02:56:08 AM EST

One of the great joys in leaving college is the bitter thrill you will get watching those smug bastards who just knew what they were going to do with their life shoot out of the gates, slip, falter, fall on their asses, and end up working at Borders.

Most of them recover eventually, but it means they take longer to figure out what the rest of us knew from junior year on. That we all have no idea what we're going to do.

Basically, what happens is this: You leave college, get your shiny dimploma and whatnot, then you either go home for a while or don't. My advice is don't, because you most likely won't do anything useful while you're living in your parents house. It'll be like waiting for next semester, but next semester will never, ever come. Eventually you'll realize this and also, at about the same time, you'll realize that you're not actually "saving money" by living at home (beer, movies, playstation), and probably that all your friends have their own places, and then you'll feel really lame, and the lameness will build and build, and grow stronger day by day, until one day, you will finally leave. You will not be significantly better off for the 5 or 6 months you spent at home, so just skip it.

You will get a job of some kind. For most of us, this involves sitting down and figuring out what on earth we can con someone into paying us for. Heard of HTML? You're a web developer! Got a history degree? You'll probably work for a PIRG. Everyone else, just go right down to Borders and apply. They give you health insurance.

You'll hate your first job. This is right and good, because it will suck. You'll pretend you don't hate it, and in a way you won't, because you'll initially be all wrapped up in being on your own. But eventually you'll notice how much it sucks, and you'll quit. Don't worry-- they expect you to. It'll seem like a horrible traumatic event, but it's what you're there for. There are entire industries that operate solely on the underpaid labor of young go-getters straight from college who are excited about being on their own.

I can't stress this enough: Do not go to work for Enterprise rent-a-car. It will look like a really good opportunity. It isn't. You'll hate it. Borders is a much better choice. Same health care, but no one makes you pretend you give a shit.

Let's see. First job out of the way, you'll be looking for that second job. Please tell me you managed to learn something at your first job? A useful tip: Figure out what the guy that trains you does, because he makes more money than you. This should take about an hour of careful observation. Make sure your next job requires those skills. It will pay better.

Now you're getting on your feet. You will probably have some cashflow trouble right around in here, and discover the joys of credit cards. It's ok to not pay them off all the way, because the credit card companies actually don't want you to. It's an economic miracle, it is. This is also when you will lose your youthful enthusiasm to "never get into debt to the evil credit card companies!" if you had that problem before. Don't sweat it.

You'll be wanting to move out of that bug-infested rathole you moved into now, too. Find a less bug-infested mousehole instead. Think of it as "cozy", and anyway, it's better than that last place you had. Sheesh, what a dump. How did you ever live there?

Now's the time when you should have some grasp on what the obvious way for you to make money is, and perhaps even some idea of what you enjoy doing with yourself. Now's the time to make A Plan. The biggest problem most soon-to-be-ex college students have is they try to make their life plan senior year of college. Forget it. You don't know anything, you cannot possibly make a life plan. This isn't meant to be insulting, it's just the result of watching myself and many other people all do this at once. Don't even bother -- figure out where you want to live (i.e. geographically) and what job you can get. That's all for now.

But returning to the timeline, now it's been between 1 and 3 years since you got out of college, and you've moved approximately once and quit at least one job. If you haven't yet, quit it right now. I don't care how secure it is. Quit. If you don't, you'll wish you had.

So now's the time to make your Plan. This Plan should have two steps:

  1. Figure out what you want to do.
  2. Do it.
Step one is very, very, hard. Really hard. Most people never accomplish it. But then, most people never realize they have to, so you're already ahead. If you successfully complete step one, step two is a breeze. It'll happen by itself, without you even noticing.

Alright, that's all I can really say is definitely true. The above comment comprises pretty much "What I Know About Life" so far. Ain't much is it? Well, it's more than I knew in college.

Out of curiosity, how many of you did I just describe? I don't know if this is a uniquely American, late 20th century life path, or if it's been roughly the same for decades, and across cultures. Anyone else want to compare and contrast?

Not the real rusty

That's me! (none / 0) (#7)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:12:46 AM EST

Except I didn't quit my first job (out of college). It quit me...after only 9 months I kept my second job (and technically my third, which was a promo at the same location) for slightly too long, especially considering the IT Boom that was on. Now I'm two years past that. I know what I want to do, in broad terms, but nobody is hiring for that right now.

Still, I'm poised to be perfectly happy when the ideal job comes along...

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]

compare & contrast (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by quartz on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 12:57:35 PM EST

I knew what I wanted to do with my life the moment I saw my first computer. Throughout high school I didn't do a single homework; instead, I spent 8-12 hours a day in front of the computer. When I graduated from high school I took a computer-related job, learned everything I could from experienced co-workers then moved on to another job. Lather, rinse, repeat for about 7 years. I've been a DTP guy, a web designer, a DBA, a sysadmin, a network security consultant and a dozen other computer-related things, and finally settled for programming.

Meanwhile, I went to college and got a degree in journalism. Why not computer science? Well, comp sci is a traumatizing experience in my country which I felt I'd better avoid (horribly taught, antiquated equipment, dinosaur profs); but since college costs nothing where I come from, I still wanted to go to college. So I chose journalism because at the time I was very curious about the mechanics of manipulating people, and what better way to learn about that than the study of journalism? It didn't help me professionally, but it satisfied my curiosity.

I rode the economic boom for all it was worth, got a shitload of practical experience with computers and last year I finally started to feel the need for some sort of theoretical framework for that experience. Comp sci in my country is still shit, so I moved to another country and now I'm a computer science freshman with a 4.0 GPA. :) I also have enough money to pay for college and don't owe a cent to credit card companies or anybody else (I don't even have a credit card).

So I don't really fit your description. Sorry. :)

Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
[ Parent ]
That's basically me (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by Egore on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 01:54:20 PM EST

My life has been pretty similar:

  • Bright kid, but skipped so much school junior / senior years of HS (to study programming) that I couldn't get college scholarships. (GPA Dropped from ~3.8 to ~3.3, anything less than 3.5 is useless.)
  • Dropped out of three colleges (and successfully threw away two years of my life...).
  • Got programming job, didn't like it (with large corporation).
  • Quit job (less than a week away from my 1-year review).
  • Moved 800 miles south for no reason in particular.
  • Got new programming job.
  • Love new job (worked here for 6 months now, great fun!).
  • Over the course of the past 1.5 years have lived in 5 different houses / apartments.
  • Lived debt-free and vowed never to go into debt. Car died three weeks ago. Now $8000 in debt because I need a car... So much for that youthful enthusiasm against the "evil credit card companies"...
  • Still have no clue what to do with my life.
Rusty, I must say that your mock-up of life into the mid-20's is right on! :)

[ Parent ]
Anything below 3.5 useless? (none / 0) (#46)
by vectro on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 11:34:52 PM EST

I wouldn't say that; I got into UC Santa Cruz (A fairly selective school, and I had a 3.4 GPA in high school.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Where were you when I was getting started? (none / 0) (#20)
by jabber on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 07:56:11 PM EST

Oh yeah.. Figuring it all out, at right about the same time I did...

Yep, that's pretty much me to a T. The company names were changed to protect the innocent, but other than that... On the friggin nose.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

That's sort of me, except (none / 0) (#21)
by wiredog on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 10:50:08 PM EST

I am planless, and likely to remain that way. In job interviews I was asked "What are your Life Goals?" My thought is always "How the fuck should I know? I don't know what I want to be doing next year." I usually word that a bit better in the interview, however.

I know what I don't want to do. I spent three years in the Army (highly recommended for middle class white boys who aren't sure they want to go to college, btw). I don't want to be working in the Great Outdoors. There's about two weeks in spring, and two in fall, when it's nice outside. Otherwise it's either too hot, too cold, or too wet.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]

Smart man... (none / 0) (#42)
by farmgeek on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 04:25:19 PM EST

"I spent three years in the Army (highly recommended for middle class white boys who aren't sure they want to go to college, btw)."

Damn, you're quick. It took me eight, and I might add that the Army works for lower class white boys who are sure they don't want to go to college nearly as well.

"Otherwise it's either too hot, too cold, or too wet."

You forgot the too dry and the all of the above options.

My life sounds a bit like Rusty's though, swap college for eight years in the Army, and multiply the number of jobs by 10 and that's me.

I still don't have a plan other than to keep doing interesting stuff until I die. It's life. You can't plan for it, you just kinda bob, weave, and roll with the punches.

[ Parent ]
Welcome to purgatory... (none / 0) (#23)
by Skwirl on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 04:14:33 AM EST

> You will not be significantly better off for the 5 or 6 months you spent at

Hmm. I'm going on month 7, actually. I'd go get a job at Borders, but during those seven months I've done nothing but read antiglobalization stories on K5 and I'm afraid that working in retail will make my head explode.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]
The Aussie difference (none / 0) (#39)
by axxeman on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 12:42:57 AM EST

In Australia:
  • We mostly go to Uni in our own town, making college a rare experience and ppl mostly living with parents through uni
  • We get that shitty job (equivalent of whatever-Boarders-is) at 15 or 16, part time/casual, in order to have "pocket money". By the time we start uni, we've already changed at least 2 jobs
  • We work part-time through uni as well, and many people defer for a year or 2 and work before finishing uni - my course in fact has 1 year of work experience built in
  • Moving out is more governed by how well u get on with folx and the $$$ situation then by %genericEducationalTimeline
At least, that's my experience.

lec·tur·er (lkchr-r) n. Abbr. lectr: graduate unemployable outside the faculty.
[ Parent ]

Suicide? (2.42 / 19) (#5)
by qpt on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 06:02:53 AM EST

I am told that it is painless.

Drastic, perhaps, but it certainly would nicely wrap up all those troubles. Sometimes, it helps to think outside the box, after all. Or inside the box, as the case may be! (That was a bit of coffin comedy for you humor-impaired geeks out there.)

Keep in mind that I am not a paid actor, but only a satisfied customer.

Suicide worked for me.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

I just did something. Anything! (4.25 / 4) (#6)
by Tezcatlipoca on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 06:30:07 AM EST

I was curious,so as soon as I got a chance to work I did, even though I could not understand all what the job was all about. I avoided like the pest anything unrelated to what I studied (otherwise what would have been the fscking point?).

Once one begins to work one meets people, understands better what choices are out there and all of the sudden begins to realize that the job advertised in today's newspaper is better paid and one can do it.

Go and get yourself a job in the area of your expertise, never mind you have no idea what is it all about and that you are badly paid. Money will come later, experience is what one needs first.

In the middle of it now... (4.33 / 3) (#8)
by johncoswell on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:38:32 AM EST

I just graduated in May and am going through the transition right now. I've got a job doing something I enjoy, something I vaugely went to college for (Web development heavy in Perl coding and practical Flash), but someday I want to get into the animation industry, and that's a big step from the COBOL programming degree I have (no, really, that's what it is).

I've got bills up the wazoo, my student loans have come due, most of my friends from college are still there or live so friggin' far away that I'm lucky if I might see them on AIM once in a while, and, to top it all off, there are only two real centers of animation in the US -- NYC and Hollywood, both of which I've never been to (but I will be to the former at the end of January), so I have no idea if I'll like it there.

I guess after I finish slamming my head repeatedly into the walls of my apartment (yep, I've moved out) I'll figure out what to do. Maybe. I just need money, money, money. And a lot of luck. And perhaps a three minute demo reel. And some plane tickets to California. And some friends around me who want to animate, too. Is that so much to ask?

johncoswell - http://www.coswellproductions.org
Minnesota (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by dieman on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 11:27:45 AM EST

We've got Winter, Spring, and Construction seasons. The job market sucks here just as much as everywhere else, however.
Illinois (none / 0) (#24)
by Chris K on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 04:23:49 AM EST

No, seriously. We've got 100 degrees in the summer, negative digits in the winter, snow for x-mas most years, and we're right in the middle of the country. More specifically, Champaign/Urbana (home of the NCSA and U of I). Why do I suggest this? It's a college town. 1-easy transition to normal life. 2-colleges are a buffer for economic downtimes. 3-low cost of living. 4-plenty of computer companies looking for people. Argus is a good place to start. Plus, Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis are within reasonable driving distance. I just graduated myself, and got a job with....a small college programming for their distance learning department. Just a thought, good luck.
duxup: I think people who give should be hunted down and hugged. (IRC)
[ Parent ]
Do what I did. (4.00 / 3) (#15)
by /dev/trash on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 02:03:38 PM EST

Scoured the want ads. Applied to everything I was vaguely qualified for and waited. When t he grace period was near running out on my loans and my parent's were getting sick of the bills piling up, I signed up at the temp places. Manpower, etc.

Wallowed thru the rejection letters never thinking I'd get a job in my field ( comp sci ) until a local company called me. Actually got the offer for employment while at my temp job. Took the job, which was good because the temp place I was working at , had decided I didn't interact well with the other people (( which is strange how do you talk to the people on the floor where decibel levels were loud enough for ear protection).

Of course now I am loooking for work again since I was laid off because my position ( Software Engineer) was eliminated. Life is a circle.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site

Crime always looked like fun (3.75 / 4) (#18)
by spacefrog on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 07:12:15 PM EST

If TV & Movies have taught me anything, it's that a life of crime is exciting and can make you filthy rich.

Fun, excitement and glamour in an industry with no unemployment.

So much to choose from... White collar vs. Blue collar. Organized vs. non.

Great upward mobility. You can get involved in politics, labor unions, become a godfather, safecracker or any of countless other specialties.

My fears (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by MicroBerto on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 07:26:34 PM EST

I'm in my 2nd year (of 5 (or 6?!)) years of college, so I have plenty of time to go.. But here's what I fear most:

I graduate college, get some sort of job (or just move up in my current company), move off, and instantly have no friends. All of us split apart, and I'm a 23 year old with no social life. That's damned scary. At that point maybe I'll get a dog, or better yet have a woman to fall back on.

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip

Re: Your fears (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by camel bawlz on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 11:37:36 AM EST

I think if anything typical happens to you, you will find that even if you stay where you are your friends will still split off, leaving maybe one or two. The good news is that even should you move off, there are always ways to make friends, it just takes time. So yes, it's going to suck for a couple months. You can try talking to co-workers, neighbors, people online, etc.. I've moved a couple times, to finally end up where I started. I always found friends after a couple of months or so, and I found that most of my friends who were here before I left have disappeared, and the ones who are still here are in completely different situations, so it's difficult to hang out. But all of this is ok, it's how things are.

[GO TO HJELL!] They may be little bitches to kill, but I could spend hours lusting after their dead bodies - mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Better yet... (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by deefer on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 12:08:24 PM EST

better yet have a woman to fall back on.

Or, even better, fall forwards. Try it sometime! ;)

Kill the baddies.
Get the girl.
And save the entire planet.

[ Parent ]

Making new friends (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by rusty on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 12:56:38 PM EST

You will probably move, or your friends will, and either way, you'll have to meet new people. A good way of doing that is moving to a city, and living in some kind of co-operative environment, like a group house. Usually the rent's pretty cheap, because you're all sharing the common areas of the house. Yes, sometimes you end up living with lunatics, but it's also pretty low-committment. I met a bunch of people in DC by living in the basement of a group house. The fact that there are four or five otherwise-unconnected people around means they all know their own group of other people, and eventually you'll probably at least meet all of them. Work can be another good place to meet people, if you work with people your own age.

Either way, it seems that the majority of people have a drive to form packs, and even if you think you don't know how to meet other people, putting yourself in a situation where you have to will speed that process up.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

That's your only fear? (none / 0) (#44)
by /dev/trash on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 10:32:15 PM EST

Wow mine was that I'd never get a job and be poor and live at home. Friends are easy to get.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
The Answer (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by adamant on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 02:19:32 AM EST

I would suggest grad school. Really.

What an ignorant suggestion (none / 0) (#34)
by pkesel on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 03:00:39 PM EST

To blindly suggest grad school is a most ignorant suggestion. If you don't know what your intentions are, how can you say you need to spend the time and money on an advanced degree? What's more, how do you tailor your degree without knowing your needs? In most fields your advanced degree can push you into a much narrower career path.

Practical experience of my own and from several other of my friends has also shown that advanced degrees don't always pay off. Two chemical engineers have masters degrees. For one it has lead to a better position, but the other has found it worthless. One mechanical engineer has found that it has helped him do his job, but that it's not paying for itself. One electrical engineer says he'd never have done it if he had to do it over. Two others got advanced degrees that they pursued as career changes. They certianly didn't pay off. I did not get an advanced degree, but went to work with a bachelors. I now have ten years experience to their 5-8. I'm a software consultant, and I know that I make from $20000-45000 more than any of them.

Advanced degrees are good for those who find they need it, but they can be a big waste of time and a great financial burden for those who can't make use of them.

[ Parent ]
Grad School (none / 0) (#41)
by pridkett on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 05:08:21 PM EST

I'm in a very similar situation. I was originally supposed to graduate in 2.5 years (thank you AP credit) but will end up taking 5 years and getting three BS degrees in the process (thank you academic scholarship). This leaves me in a weird situation now. I know that I'm marketable, I've got three very relevant degrees to the IT industry (Elec Eng, Comp Eng and Comp Sci) but the question is what do those degrees get me? If I wanted to just get a job, make some money, start a family etc, I'm sure that I could jump right out of the gate and not have the need to go to Graduate School. However (perhaps unfortunately), I've got this fascination with artificial intellegence and artificial life. Both of those are relatively specific fields and both pretty much require advanced degrees. My other major interest is with parallel and distributed computing (the Grid is particularly interesting), this also requires an advanced degree. As would chip/architecture design and operating system design. It seems, from my observations at least, that if you want to do implementations you're fine with a BS, however if you want to do creation then you pretty much need a MS/PhD. This is the case with other disciplines also (as my friends in aerospace and mechanical engineering will tell you). This isn't meant to be held as global truths, but just suggesting to go to grad school is a little short sighted, it doesn't pay for everyone. Although, given the job market, if you can sacrifice 18 months for a masters it might be a good idea.
Read this story.
[ Parent ]
worked for me ... (none / 0) (#25)
by gregholmes on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 06:24:02 AM EST

If you know people in the locations where you would like to work, have them save for you / mail you the classified section of the newspaper, every Sunday.

I got my first job after leaving the Navy this way - the company flew me out for interviews.

Of course if you don't know anybody in your target locations, you can probably subscribe remotely by mail, or if you're lucky the paper may have it's classifieds online.

Don't sweat it (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by jayfoo2 on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 08:22:34 AM EST

If you are the average person (of course you're not but bear with me) you will go through 3-5 career changes in your life. You'll get married, have kids. You'll move cities at least once. You'll get a hobby, get bored with it, and get another several times.

In other words don't sweat it so much. When I graduated from college 5 years ago I basically had a life plan that mapped out the next 30 years. I was going to work in finance, in New York. Now I'm living in Chicago, working in computers, and I'm happy as heck.

There are some things you should do, build your credit, expand your network, keep learning. As long as your doing those things it'll all work out.

Lower any expectations (4.66 / 3) (#27)
by jarnot on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 09:27:34 AM EST

Hi, I'm a CTO that's been in the computing field for ~13 years. One thing that I'd recommend to everyone who's just entering the IT/SE job market is to lower their expectations. The late 90's are over. Don't expect:
  • To make $70K+ for a starting salary.
  • Stock options and/or signing bonuses.
  • Jeans and t-shirts at work.
  • Easy interviews.
  • To find a good job on the first try.
I'm not saying you won't find the above, I'm just saying that you'll find far fewer now that the Internet bubble has burst.

To prepare yourself for any upcoming job search, be sure to:

  • Buy a good dark suit (black, grey, or navy blue).
  • Spend a lot of time on your resume and have 2-3 people (esp. someone in your field) proof it for you.
  • Read books on interviewing techniques, or better yet, attend a seminar.
Best of luck!

kuro5hin@com.jarnot (swap the domain)

Just one question... (none / 0) (#28)
by decaf_dude on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 11:21:54 AM EST

Are you hiring?


[ Parent ]
1st job and life after college (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by bADlOGIN on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 02:26:46 PM EST

I agree whole-heartedly with the above comment but I think that there are a few other important points. I'm not a CTO, but I am Software Engineer w/ a B.S. in C.S. 5 years exp. developing shipping products. In the job market do expect:
  • To make a living wage. The job market may be tight, but if you can make more money pushing a broom, there's something wrong with the offer. Don't take a low-ball, or if you do, start planning how your going to build experience onto that resume so you can dump the people taking advantage of you.
  • Some amount of B.S. from the other side of the table. Job descriptions are written for ideal candidates that either don't exist, would want more than the company is willing to pay, or would be bored out of thier mind w/ that task if they had the qualifications cited. I've had an annoying number of excited interview callbacks even in the last year where I found out just how beneath my career golas and capabilities the position is.
  • To pay attention to and learn something about the business world. If nothing else, every technical person who survives the "bubble burst" needs to be keen on the business side of technology. Good news is, this is not hard stuff compared to your Diffy Q and Electrical Eng. coursework. Hell, an MBA doesn't even have to write a Masters Thesis. That should tell you something.
  • To get further by networking and keeping good professional contacts than you will by "spamming" resumes. The "networking" buzzword sucks, I know, but it's the truth. People who know you professionally can speak to your character and skills. This does far more good than any wizardry you can pour into a resume.
  • To continue to learn! Can't stress this enough. If you can learn on the job, great. Also, consider studying for a certification exam that's related to your area (did Sun's Certified Programmer for Java 2 myself - worthwhile) or take a seminar. If your employer will foot the bill, even better.
  • To be freaked out:) The first few months out of school feel wierd. If you were like me and went from HS to Community College to University, you'll get this nagging feeling after two and a half months off that you should be buying books and getting class schedules and you're not. The feeling of comming home to no homework is pleasing but strange.
And Apart from all that, take some 1st job / fresh out of college economic advise from someone who as suffered it first hand:
  • Don't cary a balance on a credit card. This is the path to long term financial hell. If you can't buy it in cash or pay it off in a month, you don't need it. You'll want or flat out need furnature. You'll lack a good set of pots and pans. Don't load up the CCs with good stuff from nice department stores. Get the second-hand stuff from relatives and replace it slowly.
  • Don't buy a new car. They're pretty; the nice man at the dealership will be happy to help you with those new college grad discounts, but you will pay through the nose in opportunity cost and the value will sink as you drive it off the lot.
  • Get a financial plan of some sort and a budget. You sat down and navigated college courses, now buy some books and take command of your new income.
  • If you can keep living a little better than the poor college student you've been, you will do great.
Good Luck!
Sigs are stupid and waste bandwidth.
[ Parent ]
Wow (none / 0) (#43)
by /dev/trash on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 10:31:18 PM EST

I must have msised that craze. My first job was under 30k, was a hell of an interview, allowed us to wear non suits but not jeans, and um what is this signing bonus you speak of?

Updated 02/20/2004
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[ Parent ]
*Corps (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by Knile87 on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 11:38:22 AM EST

Graduation's a long way off for me, thank goodness, but I find myself stressing about the transition a great deal. Every now and then, I think "Maybe I'll join the Peace Corps/Americorps" and get some experience while doing good for the world. One of my brother's friends joined Americorps, and she's fortunate enough that she's living with her mom, working, and receiving a stipend. I think her background is a bit more humanities-like, so I'd be interested in hearing if any of you K5ers have done something like this.

"We're all on a big ship! We're on a big cruise, across the world!" -- Iowa Bob, in Hotel New Hampshire

Some words of advice... (4.75 / 4) (#35)
by cr0sh on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 03:40:25 PM EST

Let me give a brief rundown of my experience:

I left high school to go to a tech school here in Phoenix - after leaving there, I worked for a few years programming for a mom & pop shop, which worked out well. After that, moved on to another company, making more than I did before, then I moved on to my current place of employment, where I am currently doing Java development.

During all that time I lived in a variety of apartments, ate a ton of fast food and garbage food (lots of frozen burritoes, ramen, and kool aid), but I rode a bike and walked everywhere, and I was young, so things balanced.

Only recently have I learned something - discovered something - that I wish had been beaten into me long, long ago:


I cannot stress this enough! Hell, do this now - while you are still in school. It is so easy - but it is something few people do, even adults - who should know better. It is one reason so many are in debt up to thier ears, why so many go bankrupt or turn to bankruptcy as a solution (and if you think you are at that point, trust me - you probably aren't. Look at the situation carefully - bankruptcy is not something to be taken lightly!).

How am I learning this now? I am saving for a house. Which is another thing to do: LEARN TO SAVE!!! Had I done this years ago, I would have had a house long ago - rather than now, at age 28. Mind you, I currently live in a nice house, but it is rented - I don't own it. You want to own a house and property - simple fact of life.

About the budget? How do you do it? Simple: Find out how much you make per month. Count everything that come in - that is your MONTHLY INCOME. Now, find out what you spend your money on - the basics: Rent, groceries, electricity, water, gas - as well as the other things: educational loan repayments, auto loans repayments, credit cards, etc. Some of these will have hard amounts attached to them (ie, amounts you can't make smaller), others will be more flexible. Once you know these things, add it all up - and this is your monthly OUTFLOW - it should be less than the INCOME. If it isn't, then you are RUNNING IN THE RED. Figure out what is soaking up all the money, and try to lower that amount in some manner (if you can't, then you have problems). If you have leftover, budget that amount, or some portion - for SAVINGS. The idea is to have zero dollars at the end of each month, with a portion of the OUTFLOW going into SAVINGS (ie, an account you don't touch - don't think of the money as "gone" - just as "extra" - get a savings account with a big interest rate, if you can). Some of your OUTFLOW you should set aside for allowance money (ie, money to spend on yourself).

Now, how does this work? Well, if you budget say $50.00 a month for the phone bill, but the bill comes and it is $35.00 - that is $15.00 extra dollars on the budget - which can be applied to savings, or maybe that other bill which was budgeted for $100.00 a month comes to $115.00 this month - see how it would even out? The idea is that your budget (which you need to write down and track on paper or a computer month to month - done right, you can even track trends, etc as the year goes on) is made up of values which are close to what is needed, but never more than the INCOME you bring in (and if you aren't bouncing checks, then you shouldn't have a problem making a budget).

When I planned the budget for my wife and I to save money for a house - I found tons of money that was just being "wasted" (ie, going toward entertainment expenses, runs to the Fry's electronics, books, junk, ebay, etc) - this is now being funnelled into saving for a house, which is coming along nicely.

I hope you take my advice seriously. If you were like me at that age, you probably won't, and blow it off - please don't. If you need more info or clarification on this, email me (keeper63 at home dot com). I would love to know someone isn't making the mistake I did.

Simplify (none / 0) (#37)
by Sax Maniac on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 10:09:48 PM EST

I think I can simplify the budget process described above:

1) Spend less than you make.
2) To ensure you do #1, <b>religiously</b> use Quicken.

(#2 used to be a pain long ago, but with electronic banking nowadays, it practically does itself.)

That's it. Quicken will show you where all your cash is going. From there, it's completely obvious where you're wasting your money.

Stop screwing around with printf and gdb and get a debugger that doesn't suck.
[ Parent ]
Don't worry too much (none / 0) (#36)
by adiffer on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 05:44:15 PM EST

The transition after college is partly illusion. It will affect you if you choose to believe it.

I'm one of those people who went straight to Grad school without thinking. What this really did is delay the whole issue of transitioning to a 'real life' until I was about 30. I'm near 40 now and the transition was finally complete last July.

Grad students and professors usually form an apprentice/master relationship. In exchange for a few years work, your master is supposed to prepare you for life afterward. This usually entails letters of recommendation to get the kind of jobs you want at a minimum. That's not quite how it worked out for me, though.

In hind sight, it's a good thing my 'transition' didn't work out according to the standard plan. I took a set of temp jobs after graduation in order to have some extra cash to make payments on a stuffed credit card while I worked as a part-time teacher. One of those temp jobs had someone that noticed me and I turned it into a regular job. I didn't care much about my employer at the time, but I did manage to learn that I appreciated meritocracies more than the bureaucracies I saw in school. I spent the next few years moving from one job to another mostly within that same employer and got myself promoted along the way. The experience has turned out to be as important to my education as all my schooling was.

The reason I think people shouldn't worry too much about 'life transitions' after college is that you aren't really done yet. You may not be attached to a bureaucracy any more. You may not be getting evaluations as often as you are now. If you don't really know what you want to do yet, why do you think you have to make the correct 'life-path' choice now? Make several choices and see how they come out in a couple years. Then make some more.

I wound up working for that one employer as they bought up other companies, went through reorganizations, and then got bought themselves. I'm far more employable and knowledgeable now than I was getting out of Grad school let alone college. I'm also having fun pushing my life in three distinct directions at the same time. (Software Developer/Designer, Rocket Scientist, and Physicist) One of those directions may make me rich someday, but they all make me happy.

What finally completed my transition was the purchase of a house for my young family. That had more of a quick affect on me than leaving school. Graduation was liberation. Buying a home for my family was adulthood.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.

My experience ... (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by dougmc on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 12:02:43 AM EST

My case may be atypical, but I'll share it anyways ...

I worked all the way through college. This was a good thing (I didn't graduate with debt) and a bad thing (I got lower grades than I could have with more time to study, I didn't get to have as much fun as I could have, and it took 10 years to get two bachelor's degrees.)

Actually, there's more good things --

I knew the value of money -- since I made my own, I was careful not to waste it. I didn't ever do a real budget, but I did ok.

When I went looking for a job, I already had a reasonable resume. I wasn't a graduate straight from college with no experience.

Actually, there never was any real transition. I went to school full time for 5 years, got a degree in Astronomy. Wasn't ready to stop, so I slowed down and took only a few classes per semester, and got a degree in Physics in 5 more years. Neither degree is relevant to any job I've ever worked, but they do seem to make employers happy.

If you were starting college now, I'd suggest working at least some of the time -- especially if you can work in your chosen field (waiting tables pays the bills, but doesn't always further your career.)

Since you're *not* just starting college, but instead about to finish it, I'll suggest this -- if you're not going to continue with school, start looking for a job *now*. If nothing else, it'll get you one-up on those who will graduate with you.

Advice, which you didn't want (none / 0) (#40)
by LazyBoy on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 03:16:49 AM EST

If you're serious about a PHD, consider doing it now. It'll be hard to go back to being someone's slave after earning a living wage. You may loose the drive to work the hours necessary.

Also, note that time goes by differently in the real world. Most of your life, up to now, was probably measured in semesters and school years -- nice intermediate goals. After a while in the real world, you'll say "How long have I been doing this?". Not that this is a horrible thing. It was just a shock to realize it.

Start socking money away in 401K's and various things before you get used to having money. That way you won't miss it!

Personally, I got out after the Master's because a company paid me full time to get my Master's with the understanding that I was theirs afterwards. Those were the days! I sometimes regret not getting the PHD, but there's no way I would attempt it now, unless I hit the lottery or something.

Having worked some summers "in the industry", my transition was straightforward. Sounds like yours will be too, once you decide some things.

I long for small, snowy towns too. But that's not where most of the work is. Understand the choice you're making if you stick with that.

grad school... (none / 0) (#45)
by rantweasel on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 07:03:12 PM EST

One other possible route for grad school is getting a job at the school you are about to study at. I work at a Uni, and there are at least a dozen people who I work with directly who have gotten graduate or undergraduate degrees through the Uni at a tremendous discount. This doesn't work for every field, but for anyone with the tech background for systems/DBA/programming/networking jobs, it is pretty feasible. It means taking much more time to get the degree, though...


[ Parent ]
Post-College Anxiety | 46 comments (40 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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