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Now What?

By stewartj76 in Op-Ed
Sat Apr 07, 2001 at 05:00:32 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

As a victim of the current e-commerce shakeout and general economy slowdown, I am currently out of work. With all the hiring freezes currently around, I have been thinking about what else I could do and what else I'd like to do. So, if any other readers out there have changed careers from software engineering, I'd like to hear about your experience. If so, what do you do now, what made you go that way, and how did you get in?

For those of you who want some firsthand information about the current job market, I'll tell you this: it is way down and ready to get worse. As an example, last year at this time, I posted my resume on monster and dice. Every day I would have an answering machine full of messages from recruiters or companies looking to hire me. So I took a job at a startup (and moved) and we lost funding and I got laid off. Now, repeating the same process, I average maybe a phone call every 2 days. Of course, some of this is caused by the move to a less high-tech area(from Denver to Grand Rapids, MI).

So I've been considering a different career path. The parts of software I enjoy are:
  • creating the idea,
  • implementing and debugging it,
  • showing it off,
  • teaching myself what I need to do the project.
The parts I don't enjoy are:
  • being inside,
  • static hours,
  • PHBs (as a catch-all for clueless management),
  • dealing with project parts that are out of my control (ISP screwups).
Like I've told some of my friends, I got into this career in college because I have a good mind for problem solving, and I could get a job with a bachelor's. Notice, nowhere is "I love writing code" mentioned. Now, having said that, I am also still looking for a software job on the hope that the first two have just not been right for me and the right job is out there. Thanks in advance for the input.


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Now What? | 26 comments (23 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
being inside? (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by delmoi on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 02:55:34 AM EST

Well, I suppose you could go outside and take a laptop with you, but that does strike me as a rather odd thing to complain about. Most outside work is manual labor, not really creative stuff.

And I do find it kind of hard to belive you actualy enjoy debugging :P
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Manual work can be creative (none / 0) (#6)
by peeping_Thomist on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 10:39:38 AM EST

Most outside work is manual labor, not really creative

A lot of people who do manual work outside, such as landscapers and carpenters, do creative work.

[ Parent ]
Sign Painters too... (none / 0) (#21)
by jester69 on Mon Apr 02, 2001 at 12:00:06 PM EST


I know it is an almost obsolete trade since large scale printing of billboards on vinyl tarpaulins became cost effective, but after college I worked as a billboard painter for a year. I was outdoors, doing extremely creative work, and had the best view ever. There is simply nothing like being 5-10 stories up standing on a one foot wide plank. A billboard on a pole sways in the breeze like a ship. Quite an experience. (It helped me to get over a fear of heights too.)

However, I was glad to get out when I did. The job was labor intensive, long hours, low pay. The work required one to be in close contact with nasty solvents, lead based paint, and charcoal dust. Sometimes it takes experience in manual labor to help one realize that being indoors for a job isnt so bad after all. I really appreciated having an education and being prepeared to move toward a more cerebral occupation. I had options that many of my co-workers didnt, and i was grateful for that.

Now, where does one find a job that pays handsomely for whatever one feels like doing at the moment? Not limited to but including: playing with the dog, taking a nature walk, watching telivision and, of course geeky stuff like kernel recompiling.

The Jester, 69
Its a lemming thing, Jeep owners would understand.
[ Parent ]

How about those who dropped out? (4.75 / 8) (#3)
by Carnage4Life on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 03:41:42 AM EST

When I hear people bitch about how the dotcomm massacre has made the job market suddenly tighter than it was believed possible just a year ago I can't help but remember the following K5 stories: Finish College, Or Not?, To college or not to college? and Higher Education.

The downturn seems like a good reason why some of us should have stayed in school. Currently there are a crop of developers in industry who know only the basics of computer science and web programming. In a world where venture capital doesn't flow freely and certain dotcomms willing to spend $70,000 a year on high school grads while giving employees Ferraris for job referrals have abandoned such policy, it begins to seem like there may be a growing unemployable segment of the software developer community. Not unemployable in the sense that they cannot get any jobs but unemployable in that they won't be able to get jobs comparable to their skill and experience level.

Could this be the catalyst that leads to the unionization of the Tech industry?

Doubtful (none / 0) (#5)
by lucas on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 05:21:34 AM EST

I'm not certain what the inexperience of other people has to do with unionization, unless you mean my experience fighting for a job for someone less experienced.... or less-experienced workers getting together...

However, during the time someone is organizing a union, they can be learning stuff, studying perl or something... I mean, regardless of where you are, the job market is Darwinism in action and the people who don't learn their shit get left behind.

[ Parent ]

Less experienced workers getting together (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by Carnage4Life on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 11:41:21 AM EST

or less-experienced workers getting together...

That was exactly my point. We suddenly have this mass of semi-experienced programmers who suddenly cannot make as much money as they were just a little while ago but have developed this feeling of entitlement with regards to salary, benefits and perks.

[ Parent ]
i agree (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by rebelcool on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 12:59:29 PM EST

with the downturn, companies can now afford to be more selective about who they hire. I've seen really, really poor shitty software written by the so-called programmers that were hired, and the people companies are looking to hire are far more educated and better programmers all around to fix things.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Hey, you picked my shittiest story (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by Miniluv on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 04:36:33 AM EST

As one of the people highlighted, cuz I wrote the third story mentioned, I'll give a little rebuttal.

I still have the same job I did when I wrote that story. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting at the same desk and computer as when I wrote it. We're venture capital funded, but we have a product. We have a business model, and we have suits running the financial show. Thus, we're suceeding.

I still have a GED, no college. I'm still considering college, but haven't made a commitment for I fear the inevitable post-college stupidity. I also fear the seemingly inevitable onset of intellectual arrogance.

From speaking with the people around here who do the hiring, what they really fear are not college dropouts with experience. They fear college grads without it, and college dropouts without it. They fear people with short resumes and long resumes, instead of "middle length" resumes that contain useful information. Short resumes mean no experience, no education or no skills. Long ones mean lots of jobs.

Ultimately, the tech industry is going to weed out those who don't belong in it. This happens in every boom-gone-bust industry. People who don't have the skills get canned. People who don't have the desire get bored, or get arrogant and quit. In my mind this is a good thing, and quite possibly the only thing that'll save the "industry".

If I wanted a new job in the IT world, it wouldn't be that hard to get. I could climb another step into a full system administrator role, because I have some experience. I've picked up some skills, and can sell myself. Sure, the market for job applicants isn't as hot as it was a year ago. Crying about that is ridiculous, because the market a year ago was ridiculous.

If anything the past three years proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that capitalism works. The market got insane, and it auto-corrected. Of course everyone who understands capitalism seems to have forgotten how it works and is bemoaning this as unforseen, unexpected and disastrous, when it's nothing of the sort. Of course the people moaning the loudest lost the most, that's always the way it works.

Maybe now people will stop taking jobs because they believe in the technology and instead take them because they believe in the company, the product, or the business model.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Re: Hey, you picked... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by tom0 on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 02:59:31 AM EST

We're venture capital funded, but we have a product. We have a business model, and we have suits running the financial show. Thus, we're suceeding.
Oh my- if only it was that easy! Look at the landscape, and how many companies with products, business models and suits have imploded... Remember, your VCs gave you that money knowing that only one in a dozen or so companies doesn't flame out.

If your company was scaling back right now, I doubt you'd be so smug about this.

I still have a GED, no college. I'm still considering college, but haven't made a commitment for I fear the inevitable post-college stupidity. I also fear the seemingly inevitable onset of intellectual arrogance.
What the heck is this all about? The "post-college stupidity"? The "seemingly inevitable onset of intellectual arrogance"? I don't know if somebody messed in your wheaties or what, but I think you have some funny ideas about what happens in the "Ivory Towers". Maybe they hired some wet-behind-the-ears college kid as your superior?

[ Parent ]
Sorry to hear about your layoff- (4.33 / 3) (#4)
by ramses0 on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 04:10:56 AM EST

...the description you've given describes an entrepeneur fairly well, either that or a promoter (but then you'd be dependent on that whole 'outside influences' thing :^)=

As far as recommendations for a career change, there are very few which will let you be outside as well as not have static hours. Satisfying the first half of your wishes, I think of a cook/chef. Avoiding your dislikes, I'm thinking park ranger, perhaps as a community liason.

If you're seriously still interested in software, it *is* possible to code outside if you've got a macintosh with airport support. (a *very* nifty thing we have in my office). Avoiding the static hour grind is *very* difficult, and is something that's very company-dependent.

If you seriously believe in yourself, your ability to save companies money,and/or the U.S. economy, you should consider going into consulting. Much $$$, much implementing, problem solving, and self-learning, plus you have to show off your work when you're finished.

Good luck.

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Try something weird (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by Skippy on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 11:25:12 AM EST

That first set of bullet points exactly describes the job of graphic designer. (At least the ones who don't run around handing napkin sketches to others to complete - they're really just idea people with the wrong title). You get to create, troubleshoot (and LOTS of that at the printing stage), show it off and the initial learning curve is a BITCH.

The problem is that the second set of bullet points can apply too. You are inside. Often firms are fairly flexible about hours as long as you get the work done. I can't say anything about PHBs but EVERY project is out of your control. EVERYBODY thinks they are creative and that they have the perfect aesthetic sense. So you'll have 50 ideas and they'll either not like any or like the one that you like least. And then they'll want to change the final product.

Seriously though, try something completely different. I was a obviously a designer for a while but I think the job I liked best was obstacle (high ropes) course instructor. I got to be outside, interact with lots of people, learned public speaking, kept in shape, and met lots of women who I could "rescue" :-)

Don't be afraid to try something offbeat. Its amazing how weird jobs can be applicable when go to get you next one. Interviewers totally freak out positively when they see large group public speaking on my resume. I still don't know why as its never been a skill required for a job since then but it impresses them. Anyway, good luck

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

speaking as someone who has also been laid off (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by Zero Whitefur on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 11:26:06 AM EST

I wasn't working for a startup, though, but a company in the auto parts supply industry. I've been looking these past three months and I've had about as much `success'..I'd be lucky to get a call every two days, it's been more like two weeks. I'm also in the Midwest, which, as you've alluded to, does not have a strong IT job market at all. I am much more of an UNIX/Linux administrator than a programmer, but even in the jobs that it appears I am suited for, I am being passed over for what appears to be any number of reasons (inexperience, location, etc.)

Location is a factor as the IT job market here in Northern Indiana is almost entirely barren..I suspect things aren't much better up in Grand Rapids. Have you considered Chicago or Milwaukee or going back to Denver, per chance?

One point that I cannot sympathize with you on, however, is being choosy. Although it might be more out of frustration with my job search thus far, I'd jump on almost any job offer at this point. Even if it turned out to be quite a bad job, I would try to work through it for the experience that I need. I can understand, though, why you feel differently, due to the differences in our education, experience, and choice of IT professions.

As stated in my diary, I believe I am close on the track of finding work and let us hope that you are also the track of finding the job you are looking for.

location, location, location (none / 0) (#13)
by stewartj76 on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 02:05:26 PM EST

Yes, I am considering getting out of town. However, with the job market being so scared right now, it is hard to get someone to offer relocation when there are equally qualified employees locally. I don't think I'm being overly choosy, however. I'm only trying to apply the skiils I already have. Most of the jobs around here are for VB or AS/400, which I have little to no experience with, so I would only be qualified for entry-level work.

Good luck with your job search, too.

[ Parent ]
I hear ya. (none / 0) (#19)
by Zero Whitefur on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 09:08:21 PM EST

And I understand completely with the relocation bit..it's probably why I've been passed over for several jobs that I had everything they were looking for. The firm I'm currently in contact with, though, doesn't seem to mind the idea.

I didn't know that you only had entry level jobs available, so I retract my earlier comment.

Peace and good luck,

[ Parent ]
location (none / 0) (#25)
by coffee17 on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:39:10 PM EST

Have you considered Chicago or Milwaukee

I just moved from milwaukee, and I'd say that while chicago might be a good bet, milwaukee is off. Perhaps it is just me, my appearance (long dyed hair and facial piercings (however, it wasn't dyed when I was looking for work in Milwaukee)) is extreme for the midwest, while merely mildly unusual in silicon valley. Anyways, I spent about three+ months looking for work in Milwaukee (for reference this was april-july 2000) without finding a damn thing, other than one company who it seemed really wanted me, but didn't want to go on the line for hiring someone who looked like me. Then I started looking in silicon valley, and in two days found a fairly decent job at a company which didn't look like it would die in the next few months (it's been 8+ months so far, and it looks like we're gonna make it).


[ Parent ]

"Phone call every two days" (4.80 / 5) (#9)
by ucblockhead on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 11:29:27 AM EST

You know, this is pretty much the way it used to be, pre-1995 and the internet boom.

And having watched people in other careers look for work, a "phone call every two days" is damn good!

Don't let the unrealistic environment of the last few years fool you.

I'm not saying don't consider changing your career. I'm just saying, pay close attention to what people in whatever career you are contemplating are seeing. Beware the "grass is always greener" phenomenon.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

If you don't mind going back to school... (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by dennis on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 03:01:38 PM EST

...how about being a field biologist? You'd get to develop hypotheses and test them, teach yourself lots of new stuff to keep up with the field, and show off your work. You'd get to be outside a lot, and you don't get static hours in academia.

A friend of mine is a social psychology researcher, and he raves about the personal freedom he has.

That's weird (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by /dev/trash on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 03:36:57 PM EST

I've gotten maybe 4 or 5 phone calls total from dice and monster.

I think those sites are full of crap.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site

One way of making dice/monster/etc. work for you (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by Karmakaze on Mon Apr 02, 2001 at 10:02:17 AM EST

Everybody and their brother has their resume on Dice, etc. I got my current job through Dice, but, then, I hate my current job.

One thing you can try with the job posting sites is to take the few minutes to post your resume (can't hurt) and then go to the job search section. It's generally pointless to submit your resume to those jobs, because by the time you see it, they've probably been flooded with resumes. What's useful is to look and see what companies consistently list the kind of job you'd like, and then make a quick telephone call to the recruiter listed. If you can. find out their regular email (a lot of emails listed on the job sites go to a general HR pool - where resumes get lost), and send your resume in that way.

[ Parent ]

lots of crap (none / 0) (#26)
by coffee17 on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:46:25 PM EST

And what about the quality of the calls that you get?

"Hi, I didn't even bother to read your resume where you stated that you were looking for work as a unix sysadmin, and I'm going to ask if you want to babysit a bunch of windows users."

Or even worse, the people who'd call, then say they were looking for someone with more experience.

hello, I listed my experience right up front, how about you try liminting your search... sadly enough I was in "don't burn bridges" mode, or I'd have bitched them out for wasting my time. Happily, I was considering a job swtich before my then current boss was fired, and only listed email, and was more than content to bitch out the lusers who sent me html formatted email, or who clearly hadn't even skimmed my resume.


[ Parent ]

Michigan (2.66 / 3) (#18)
by Vann on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 07:52:13 PM EST

Don't let Engler hear you talking about Michigan being a "less high-tech area." I think that since he has sworn to make Michigan a technology leader, it is a crime to utter anything saying otherwise, or something.
Sex is tedious all year except on Arbor Day. -- Rusty
Take this job and shove it! (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by cable on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 04:54:40 PM EST

being inside,
static hours,
PHBs (as a catch-all for clueless management),
dealing with project parts that are out of my control (ISP screwups).>br>

For being outside, you could always be a Lumberjack, Lifeguard, Police Officer, or Contruction Worker.

You want flexiable hours? Become a Writer, Private Investigator, or start your own business.

PHBs, can't avoid them, there are everywhere, even on K5, and will vote down your article just for mentioning them.

Part of life is that things are out of your control. The only job where things wouldn't be out of your control would be God, and that position has already been filled and the big guy isn't going to give it up. Last guy who tried that got cast out and into a lake of fire. :)
Stuff happens and you have to deal with it. Co-workers may drop the ball, and you are expected to recover it. ISPs go down, computers crash, and commercial software is buggy. So what can you do about it besides complain and be called a Crybaby or Whiner by people you complain to? You can change jobs and hope the new one isn't as bad or worse than the old one. (I've been there, done that. Out of the frying pan and into the fire!) You can quit the profession and take up pig farming or something simpler. Or you can take it, and not complain about it, and find an outlet to get rid of the stress (get out that punching bag, take a Tai-Bo class, etc) or bottle it up and hope it doesn't come back to haunt you later.

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!

My thoughts... (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by tom0 on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 02:23:43 AM EST

It seems to me you sort of "wandered into" the tech field to begin with, and you're looking for a job to come to you now..

My advice would be to look for something interesting and grab it by the horns. Don't post your resume and wait for a message- look for a position you think you'd like and call them. You'd be amazed at how much better that works compared to just mailing (or worse, emailing) a resume or talking to recruiters. If ever there was a time you need to hustle, this is it.

I definately agree about this being a tough time to look for a job, and finding a good one will be even harder. With the job market so tough, now might be the perfect time to go back to school. If things turn around by the time you're out, you stand to make some extra dough and have more options. If not, you'll have some new credentials that will help. Right now, my (tech) company is actually on a hiring binge, but they're not hiring anyone with less than an MS, and we're mostly going after PhDs.

Now What? | 26 comments (23 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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