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The Almighty Buck

The Laid-off Techie 810

LazyBoy writes: "ZDNet News has this article entitled "The world of the laid-off techie". Yikes! Things have been bad in New Jersey for a while (telecom slump). How are they elsewhere?"
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The Laid-off Techie

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  • Things in London... (Score:2, Informative)

    by IanBevan ( 213109 )
    ... is bad. Don't be looking for a contract here anytime soon....
    • by Big Dogs Cock ( 539391 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:03AM (#2985977) Homepage Journal
      Yeah - looking at Computing, they've got 8 pages of job advertisments. This time last year, it was ten times that.

      I've got a feeling though that over the next six months, systems are going to start going wrong or need to be updated and a lot of companies will realise that they do need some people with some skill. IT is so fundamental to the way companies operate these days - it's not going to go away any time soon. There has, in the past, been a problem with IT being regarded as an end in itself - resulting in millions of $ being spent on systems which don't actually help companies very much. This will have to change.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Contracting in the UK is dead, and it won't come back. Tony, Gordy and their chums have seen to that.

      You can either be a wage slave for EDS and their ilk or find another career.

      A good deal of bread and butter contract development has gone (and more is going) to body shops in India and Eastern Europe. Try competing with those guys (C++ development at £15/hr).

      I'm off to Cornwall to open a arts and crafts gallery with my wife (also a former software developer). Fuck programming for a living!
    • Its is bad - gone are the days of peeps who knew HTML+JavaScript making 100k on contract - hell these days even making 50k on contract is difficult given the amount of peeps on the market. And the permie jobs are few and far between and again there is one hell of a lot of competition. However it is possible to get a job still or contract - I'm just finding that I am having to weigh in with prices at the low end of the market and deliver a high end product/service on several small contracts rather than one big one.

      The real problem is that things are probably going to get worse rather than better - big companies are still shedding, the remaining dotcoms are running out of money, there are no really BIG ideas out there for companies to focus IT investment on - I dont see a REAL recovery until mid 2003 when Im hoping 3G will pull the market back up. *sigh* In the meantime at least I get to read a lot more than I used to ;)
    • There's nothing about - It's the new year and agencies tell us new jobs will be signed off, but even in permanent roles, vacancies are being put on ice once they have been approved, or before they are officially signed off.

      To add to the mix I know of at least two situations where the person recruiting is so busy that he hasn't had time to interview people - catch 22.

      Companies seem to be cut right down to the bone by redundancies, now that they need people it seems that they are having problems either justifying the new bodies, or finding the time to do the legwork of recruiting.
  • by jhol ( 301546 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @06:55AM (#2985965) Homepage
    But after eight months without a job, the 37-year-old Raleigh, N.C., resident had burned through his 401(k) savings and was nearing the end of unemployment insurance.

    How did that happen? $401k in 8 months? Am I missing something here?

    Maybe he should try relocating to find a proper job.
    • Re:Burning cash (Score:2, Informative)

      by ekrout ( 139379 )
      How did that happen? $401k in 8 months? Am I missing something here?

      I'm not sure if you're joking or not, but I'll bite.

      A 401(K) is a savings plan that many employees use to place a small percentage of their income into. Generally, they're tax-sheltered accounts that allow you to invest in a variety of stocks, etc. in order to let your money work for you a bit rather than burn a hole in your pocket.

      So, he could have easily had as little as a few thousands dollars in his account that he was forced to live off of while out of work.
    • Even if he had a maybe 50 thousand in his 401k, he would have used it all. That area is expensive.
      • That's $6,000 a month. It's not *that* expensive. I spent some time down there in RTP and saw plenty of ads for "why rent when you can own?" with mortgages starting at $250 a month. Not a mansion of course, but still.

        You don't have to drive too far to be reminded that you are in North Carolina, after all.
        • Hey, I live in North Carolina, and I'm still managing to just about double what I make every year...... I'm only 18, and making more money then anybody I know my age.
    • Re:Burning cash (Score:5, Informative)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:09AM (#2986250)
      How did that happen? $401k in 8 months? Am I missing something here?

      I'm assuming that you're not American, a 401(K) is the mechanism used to save for retirement. In UK terms, it's a bit like a private pension, but it's also like an ISA, because you get to choose directly what goes into it. But it's not like an ISA because there is no maximum limit.

      You can access the money in your 401(K) for a number of things, off the top of my head, education and buying a house, and I guess unemployment too.
  • by StrawberryFrog ( 67065 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:01AM (#2985969) Homepage Journal
    Someone's got to say it:

    How many of these people are MBA's vice-presidents of marketing or business analysts.

    They don't mention anything about out-of-work programmers, sysadmins and webmasters. I'd think that a lower percentage of real techies are out of work.

    Replies welcome any out-of-work C coders. Anyone?
    • I'd think that a lower percentage of real techies are out of work.

      Guess again. All the people I know out of jobs are hardcore geek types. The marketing people I know actually had no trouble finding new jobs.

    • The vast majority of the staff laid off from my company where technical staff (based on popularity with management rather than skills it seemed) although they did remove one manager who was utterly incompetent. There still remains a useless manager or two, and the sales people who arn't actualy selling are still here and are even being promoted. Something can't be right :-}
    • All of the people who cared about what they were doing got laid off from my last place -- and while there's contracting work out there, full-time employment is VERY thin on the ground. Certainly, since last year, the average time out of work has been 6 months and up -- for GOOD, strong developers. You know, C, C++, assembly, the whole kit and kaboodle.

      Time to go to school again while the economy rights itself.
    • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:44AM (#2986056) Journal
      [Raises hand] Here...I'm in Des Moines, out of work after 15 years of compiler maintenance, enhancement, and development.

      Perversely humorous item: I went over to itmoonlighting.com, entered my vitae, and let it do its search for temporary jobs. Exactly one turned up--it was pretty obviously a college student who wanted someone to do his homework for him and was willing to pay $200 for it. (In case he or she is reading this--write your own RPN calculator for polynomials, OK?)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      out of work ?

      no

      making less money coding c/c++ then I would if I was pumping gas?

      yes

      envious of the local tech's that got laid off allready?

      yes

      why?

      They got the first dibs on the jobs at the local gas stations and quicky marts.

      my pay has been going down rapidly in the past year while my work load, and amount of crap I
      have to put up with has increased.
  • by johnburton ( 21870 ) <johnb@jbmail.com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:01AM (#2985972) Homepage
    These are quotes from the article about the jobs that people were laid-off from :-

    "Here I am throwing mail with an MBA"
    "sharpening her resume as a marketing manager "
    "write scripts for now-defunct Web soap opera The Spot"
    "quality assurance (QA) job "
    "product manager for software development "

    With the possible exception of the QA job, none of these sound like techie jobs. They are all just fairly unskilled jobs that happen to be in a technical company. This article is very misleading.

    • With the possible exception of the QA job, none of these sound like techie jobs. They are all just fairly unskilled jobs that happen to be in a technical company. This article is very misleading.

      Are you an idiot? These people were working tech jobs prior to losing their tech jobs and taking non-tech jobs.

      The jist of the article is that while "unemployment" is over 5%, the uncounted "UNDERemployed" is an ever-growing mass because unemployment benefits run out quickly (8+ months is quick? It is when you're holding out for a job!)

      These people HAD to take non-tech jobs because there was nothing else! They are underemployed because they are skilled people in unskilled positions. I would say that the article is right-on and you're just not reading very carefully... typical though -- trying to read just enough to make it seem like you know what you're talking about so you can post a comment on Slashdot...

      Try again!
      • Uh no. Those were the jobs they had before losing them, not the ones that had afterwards. Please read the artical before calling me an idiot.
        • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:49AM (#2986074) Homepage
          "A year ago, Jose Carlos Cavazos was enthusiastic about his new career in telecommunications and his position with Nortel Networks. Now he's throwing mail on the night shift at a U.S. Postal Service distribution center for $13 an hour.

          Geez, you only have to read the first line.

          He was working in an unnamed position at Nortel. The article goes on to describe that he's got an engineering degree from Texas A&M (one of the best) and while he was operating with an MBA (probably because he wanted to move into management where more money was) he still has a tech background and is a direct victim of the tech slow-down. And in this case, since he was working for Nortel, it didn't matter if he was pushing a broom under their roof, it was a tech company he was released from.

          Reading the following details, you will see that it's an artical that illustrates that it's the tech 'industry' that's failing, not merely tech 'jobs.' And again, these people still have 'tech' backgrounds. As managers and leaders, do you think the people under them kept their jobs or do you think they fired management and kept the underlings?

          Peter Peets has a different take on layoffs. The Chapel Hill, N.C., resident took a job in December 2000 as product manager for software development in a regional office of Cisco Systems. He got laid off four months later in a downsizing that eliminated 8,500 Cisco positions, and he spent the summer fretting about his mortgage and how he'd fund the college education of his three children.

          Again, a person showing technical ability but happens to have been in a managerial position... why? Because most people (not you) realize that when management gets the axe, the people under them have already gotten it.

          It's not misleading, you're misreading.

          I suspect you're quite comfortable in your position..? Don't fool yourself into thinking they axe management and marketting before they lay off the "line workers." It's the "workers" who get axed first. They show management getting it because it's more dramatic though they ASSume the reader understands that in some of these cases, hundreds and thousands of people below them got the axe first.

    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:58AM (#2986090)
      "Here I am throwing mail with an MBA"

      His first degree was in Engineering, so I presume he simply mentioned the MBA because it's a graduate degree and world emphasize his point.

      "sharpening her resume as a marketing manager "

      From the article: She is versed in programming, account management, and customer

      "quality assurance (QA) job "

      At many software companies, new hires would start in QA before moving to bug fixing, then adding features, then real new coding...

      "product manager for software development "

      ... and then to product/project management or system architect.

      They are all just fairly unskilled jobs that happen to be in a technical company. This article is very misleading.

      There is a great deal more to the production of software than just typing funny words into a text editor.

      • "sharpening her resume as a marketing manager "
        From the article: She is versed in programming, account management, and customer

        You may be horrified to hear this, but not all programming is computer programming. In this case it probably means organizing marketing programs.

      • Your last line really says it all, and knowing that is the great differentiator between the new-grad programmer and a seasoned developer.

        Like any other university grad, I started my career thinking project management, documentation, and QA were just for people who "couldn't program." The past 15 years in the industry have taught me that real design documentation, project management, and QA are critical to the success of a project. It's only the little one-person jobs that don't "need" those features, and those tasks are now the domain of office automation software, not development teams.

        On the downside, the first areas of a development team to be hit when there are budget cuts are QA, design/documentation and programming teams. Good managers hang on because they have a knack for getting the most done with their ever-reducing resources, but the poor ones are out the door as quickly as the rest of the team.

        Many people have mentioned that some staff get retained because they "get along" with people in management. Where is the surprise here? If you don't get along with anyone except hard-core techs, how can you hope to collect business requirements (from people who don't speak geek), follow up on bug reports, or convince anyone that your work is important? Take the arrogant hard-core computer geek attitude and you just alienate the people you're supposed to be servicing.

        While I'd rather program for fun, my job is servicing business needs. It took the first few years of my career to learn that, and that bit of experience is the main reason most placement agencies want people with 2-3 years experience or more. Working on part-time jobs during your education that are one-person development projects doesn't develop those skills and understandings, which is why interviewers only want to know about the work you did after graduating.

  • My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:04AM (#2985980) Journal
    Some years ago, 1995, I got through a 5-month unemployemnt period.

    It was quite hard to keep in a good mood but I went through by doing as many benevolent work as I could (development, Acorn/RiscPC User Group, continuous self-teaching of things like web development, GNU/Linux hacking...).

    As these activities involved lots of professionnally valuable material, I ended finding a job as a Macromedia Director teacher for unemployed, then as an interactive devices developper, then as a webmaster...

    The hardest thing was gather some money to buy some book but I benefitted from my bro's Internet access, in the university and I could print many many RFC's, man pages, etc.

    So, my advice is that one should remain busy learning interesting potentially emerging new technologies so that this unemployement period appears to be constructive, after all.
    • Re:My experience (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cyphgenic ( 455493 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @08:02AM (#2986099) Homepage
      One can also spend the free time to expand one's horizons.

      It takes a huge psychological toll [...] Imagine making $100,000 a year and then foaming lattes for a living [...] they're taking jobs that aren't glamorous, but they've taken the first step.

      To become who one is requires a lot of risk taking and looking at hard truths. A lot of dot-commers spent there time in pursuit of money; a lot of geeks in the pursuit of tech.

      The slump is an opportunity to do other human things, for example, philosophy. :-)

      What is my role in society?

      What can I hope for?

      Who am I and what is my destiny?

      Is it tech? Is it being rich? How can you be sure?
  • by Gandalf04 ( 447716 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:05AM (#2985984)
    So with all of these way-overqualified former dot-commers taking up all the blue collar jobs...where does that leave me and my fellow struggling student workers looking for summer jobs? (Don't even get me started about the severe lack of the "necessary" internships.)

    Even more troubling, where does that leave me once I graduate with a BS in EE?

    ~~as one famous philosopher once said: GADZOOKS!~~
    • You're in trouble if you are graduating soon. I won't bother trying to raise your spirits. We had an Engineering Career Fair here last week and it was truly pathetic. Few companies bothered showing up (though they registered months ago), and the ones that did were only hiring a few people (if any). And no, this isn't a small school out of the way--this is a Big Ten University, with good rankings in engineering.

      So, if you are graduating soon, you should really try to find yourself in grad school. When all this blows over, you're going to be much better off coming out with your Master's (if not your PhD). In EE, a BS just may not be enough to get you doing whatever it is you want to do. Many big companies hire BSEEs just for marketing and uncreative tech work. If you want to actually design things or lead others, you need an MS--though an MBA works, too.

      Just make sure that you get a support offer from a professor before you apply to a school. If you've already got a job, you are nearly guaranteed to get accepted (even with a low GPA, okay test scores, etc). The main limiter to how many grad students there can be in a given department is the funding. If funding has been found for you, you're golden.

      Good luck, though, with all your studies. Also, if you're interested in the material aspects of EE, there will be more jobs for you as they are still in reasonably high demand. Same with the analog design jobs. And microwave design. If you can, transition yourself into these types of specialties. There aren't nearly enough people who can do well at it, and they aren't quite as sensitive as the IT, programming, or even digital logic careers.

  • by The Cat ( 19816 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:08AM (#2985990)
    That's why I spent seven years learning programming, object-oriented design, business logic, server admin, web development and project management: so I could attain the dignified and much sought-after title of:

    "techie"

    Kinda answers the whole question of the importance of the software engineer, doesn't it?

    The rest of the rant would be redundant. It's all been said before. The only people who matter to a business are management and the HR department. Everyone else should just be prepared to watch their kids grow up in poverty right under their college degrees on the wall.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      1. Resumes don't matter in any way shape or form.
      2. If you're over 25 you are obviously "burnt out" and of little
      use to any company.
      3. If you have 5 years experience of exactly the API that your
      future employer seeks then you might get the job as long
      as you don't try and fuck them over by asking for a decent wage.
      4. In the UK I.T. is obviously booming as our IT minister still
      insists that everything is rosy and let's get that cheap labour
      in as fast as we can, as well as training up toilet attendants
      to do Y2K work.

      Bitter? You bet
      Unemployed? What do you think?
      Experienced? Only 20 years but hell I'm not 25
      and don't know every parameter of every function in the J2EE spec so I'm screwed.
    • by smagruder ( 207953 ) <stevem@webcommons.biz> on Monday February 11, 2002 @11:38AM (#2986986) Homepage

      The Programmers Guild [programmersguild.org] is a recently established organization aimed at American programmers working together to safeguard their profession, their craft and their rights.

      On their website, they state the following reasons for why they started the organization:

      • We were concerned about the declining prestige of the programming profession. A programmer is becoming regarded a interchangeable body rather than a skilled individual.
      • We were concerned about the public's perception of the software industry and the rampant hucksterism going on, from Y2K to Internet IPOs.
      • We were concerned about the declining quality of software, both commercial and custom.
      • We were concerned about the lack of minority and older workers in the profession.
      • We were concerned about legislative issues, such as tax laws, non-compete clauses, software patents, and immigration, while the programming profession has no voice in government.
      • We were concerned with improving productivity among programmers.
      • We were concerned with the difficulty in connecting programmers to jobs.
      • We were concerned that the growth in technology jobs is not being used to benefit the population at large.
  • Sydney is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shanep ( 68243 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:09AM (#2985994) Homepage
    god bloody awful.

    I think my resume is quite good. I have electronics/telecoms/computing back to the late 80's including defence and stock exchange network support, but now I need to resort to getting certifications to get work.

    In Sydney, no MCSE, CCNA, etc, no work.

    The market is saturated with newbie wanabies who have plenty of cert but almost nil experience, so it's hard to get noticed when companies are expecting cert.

    So, I'm fixing that now but I kinda wish I would'nt have to. Most MCSE's I've met would'nt know a kernel if it blue screened on them.

    • Re:Sydney is... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 )
      THANK YOU!

      same here... unless you are guru level unix/linux. but the problem is that I made a very bad career move in 98 - managment. worst mistake ever!

      I had teams of people that were all guru's in their own right - and still are - that worked in my departments (linuxcare founders among others) - and i was the mis/it mgr... and I was good at it. very good... but I had to spend way too much time managing - and all the good work went to the people on the team. (as it should) but in this market I cannot find a thing... and the longer you are out of a job - the less likely the companies are to hire you, as they see the gap in work a very bad thing (tm).

      problem is that most of the people doing the hiring are clueless and scared.

      too much more can be said on this issue...
      .
  • With the end of start-up dreams, times are now bad for techies. One year ago, finding a job was a easy as posting a message on Dice (or equivalent sites), and waiting 24 hours. Then, you just had to choose for the best offer.

    Nowadays, finding an IT job is *difficult* , especially as opensource techies. Not a lot of company are hiring. Either they already have their technical staff, or they moved to external consultancy services.

    There were plenty of new jobs because there were a lot of new companies popping up everywhere. Now, it's over.

    I'm looking for a job for weeks with no success...


  • Delusions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by saihung ( 19097 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:14AM (#2986003)
    We all became convinced that things that people at "normal" jobs take for granted - eg working at the same office for more than a year - were irrelevant. Hell, why work hard or show up on time when the recruiters will swarm your phone as soon as you put your resume on Monster? Before 2001, I could literally find a job within a week of starting my search, and the quality of my references or the reasons for my newly-found state of unemployment were mostly irrelevant. Imagine my horror when that all changed in April 2001. Ahh well, at least I'll get all of those taxes back thanks to making less than $10k last year.
    On another note: is it my imagination, or do most of the people in that article seem like the same marketing wonks who should be the first people to be 86'ed from a failing organization anyway?
    • We all became convinced that things that people at "normal" jobs take for granted - eg working at the same office for more than a year - were irrelevant. Hell, why work hard or show up on time when the recruiters will swarm your phone as soon as you put your resume on Monster?

      I dunno... my last job was heaven to me; I worked my ass off, and had a great time doing it. Going anywhere else is going to be a painful experience. But I was fully hoping to spend 5/10 years there.

      And then the layoffs started happening. Again and again and again.

      I think it's the same thing; you can't expect to keep the same job year in, year out because everything has become a commodity. People don't want to hire, because they need to be able to jettison staff fast if their earnings dip, so it's all turning into short-term contracting work.

      Kind of sucks really.

      Si
    • Re:Delusions (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @08:10AM (#2986114)
      do most of the people in that article seem like the same marketing wonks who should be the first people to be 86'ed from a failing organization anyway?

      I find this attitude interesting - if a company is in trouble it's usually because it has cashflow problems. The "techies" will refuse to accept that there are any problems with the product, and maybe there aren't. But the people who get money into the company are the salesmen and the people who work out what you can produce that the market would be willing to buy (and at what price) are in marketing. At the end of the day, a bad product with good marketing will have a much better chance of its company surviving that a company with a good product but lousy marketing.
      • I think you havea good point about a company needing good marketing - however, if a company is failing then wouldn't it make sense to adjust the marketing dept. first? After all, as you say a good or bad product can benefit from good marketing so that should be the area of first concern. If the product itself is just bad you can at least try to use the people there to fix it, though you may need to get people who know what they are doing to lead them.

        As for my own experience, in any company I've been at I would have said laying off lots of the marketing and middle management types would have been a lot more healthy than laying off the technical staff. Almost all technical staff I've worked with have been very productive and done good work, which I've seen a lot of slacking or just simply inept (some actually creating MORE work than if they were not there through needing to fend off poor ideas on the tech side) marketing people in my day.
  • Safety versus Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by weave ( 48069 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:14AM (#2986004) Journal
    It's the old line, high risks, high rewards, low risks, little rewards.

    I'm lucky. I got a programming job at a 2-year college in 1982. I grew through the ranks and am now in charge of a 25-person tech support team. (Management sucks, but that's for another /. story comment.)

    My pay is around $50K and I sat by in my safe job while others I knew, many of them my students from my evening classes I taught, some my former employees, many friends, flew off and made huge bucks and taunted me endlessly about what a fool I was to stick in my "low pay" job.

    I've also known a lot of them to use their income to buy $40K+ cars, huge houses, and saddle themselves with all sorts of debt.

    As for foolish me, I will be able to retire in five years with a full state pension, medical benefits for life, and still be just 47 and able to do some of those high-risk high-return jobs later.

    A bit of gloat? Yeah, perhaps. Human nature. Doesn't mean I don't feel bad for them nonetheless.

    However, tech is still the future and the job market will turn around and the big rewards will return. So while it might be necessary to throw mail around and make $13/hour for a while, just don't fall behind in your tech skills. One day they'll pay off big again.

    My advice, however, is next time around (or if you still have a fat job), squirrel away some cash for a rainy day, keep expenses down, and stay out of debt. Then next time a dry period blows through, you may just have enough saved to not have to work, go back to school and learn those new skills you've been wanting to get, and then come out the other side stronger and end up in the long run, much better than I am. Because everyone knows, intelligent risk taking, while it often has short-term losses, over the long run, pays off much better than the guy (like me) who plays it safe. No one gets rich playing it safe...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      tech is still the future

      Undoubtedly- except not in the West because we're way too expensive. You can get highly skilled developers and designers to build your software from India, Asia and Russia for a small fraction of the cost of a US or European developer. And they'll be doing hardware next.

      We've had the good times and we've priced ourselves out of the market. It was cool while it lasted.

      • Undoubtedly- except not in the West because we're way too expensive. You can get highly skilled developers and designers to build your software from India, Asia and Russia for a small fraction of the cost of a US or European developer. And they'll be doing hardware next.

        Worse than that... they are outsourcing other services to India, et al, as well! I get collection agents calling me from India about car payments being late. The booming telecom industry made that possible. :) I guess they forgot to care about being able to understand the people they are talking with. I can't understand half of what they say and I like to think I'm pretty good with linguistics speaking a bit of many languages, even a little English and some Japanese too.
    • Here, here, I agree!

      I took a slightly different (and slightly more profitable, in the short run at least) tack. I stuck with a dull internal IT network management job. We're about as far as you can get from high-tech, dot-com, but I've managed to keep my hands involved on internet tech and UNIX (Linux, FreeBSD) in addition to the typical Windows stuff, whiny end users, and so on.

      I *did* have a state University job before I came here, and I kind of regret not getting a full lifecycle on that gravy train. 25 year retirement w/full bennies sounds awesome. But when I had that job, I felt kind of trapped -- the money absolutely *sucked* relative to my living expenses. And too many people I worked with said "private industry while they'll still take you", since they felt that too long in a state job meant weak private industry hiring prospects. Glad I made the switch -- a slight reduction in security for a definite increase in earnings..

      I always felt a touch jealous of the dot-com people, the money they were making and the whole dot-com lifestyle. Now that these people are delivering my interoffice mail or whatever, I don't feel so bad anymore.
  • Try non-IT sector (Score:4, Insightful)

    by duvel2 ( 558047 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:15AM (#2986006)
    The recession that is spreading throughout the world has a lot of effects on employment. This is not only true in the IT sector, but just about everywhere.

    If you're still looking for an IT-job, the smart thing to do right now is to be searching for an IT job in a non-IT sector. Think banking, insurance, consultancy, ...

    According to Gartner, the only IT-sector that is currently booming, and that will continue to do so with almost absolute certainty, is the anti-virus sector. Jobs over there are however relativily scarce as there aren't a lot of (big) companies in this sector. Not something to place your bets on.

    All in all, take what you can for the time being. While searching for the perfect job for over a year shows a lot of tenacity, corporations usually value things like experience a lot higher.

    • ... the smart thing to do right now is to be searching for an IT job in a non-IT sector. Think banking, insurance, consultancy, ...
      People are doing that. Problem is, there are so many laid off techies (at least here in New Jersey), banks can afford to hire only people with banking experience, insurance companies can be picky and hire only people with insurance experience, etc.

      Shortsighted? Dumb, even? Very possibly. Reality? So my out-of-work friends tell me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:19AM (#2986013)
    Although this was a pretty good article, it smacks of the whiny 'I went to school! I deserve a great life and a high paying job' attitude that many of us have come to despise in those MBAs who think they know anything about running a business.

    It's enough to make sucessful business people puke, to hear the lame ass excuses people who have supposedly been trained to TAKE CHARGE, and generate PROFIT, for a company come up with.

    After years riding high end, high speed networking jobs, using my expertise and experience to the max, I got caught in the Nortel 'halving'... I had spent the last 5 years of my career kicking ass, and taking names doing high end routing, high end security, and integrating optical technology...

    Unfortunatly for me, jobs like that are now hard to come by. Luckily, I started out small, with my own ISP, and find myself somewhat gainfully self-employed supporting a lot of small 'mom-and-pop' ISPs,(and thier new crop of high speed customers, who cant stand the customer non-service of the larger carriers) who find that thier conservatice business plans are now paying off in spades. (ie, thier 'smarter' competition ran themselves out of business trying to do DSL for the same price as the phone company)

    I believe that doers do, and whiners don't. My last day at nortel was in december, and I am very grateful to them for treating us like human beings, and letting all of us down easy. I know that hasn't been the case for a lot of people who got 'down sized'.

    I hope someday to return, but in the meantime, I will continue to bust my butt, and make my own destiny.

    (PS. Health insurance for the self-employed is remarkable affordable, if you shop around)
  • I agree times are hard (having got laid of by a biggish now smallish teleco equipment manufacturer) but managed to find a job before my contract ended.

    In the UK at the moment there seems to be a shortage of real-time software engineers with a number of companies I know having a shortfall in that area.

    However in the IT support, web development, etc. areas then I agree times are very hard and not really showing signs of recovery despite what our blinkered politicians try to say.
  • by Anthony Boyd ( 242971 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:20AM (#2986018) Homepage
    "I'm vaguely looking for another job," Muldoon said. "I'll get a burst of energy and send out a bunch of resumes, and I won't hear anything. It validates the bad perception I had, and I get discouraged again."

    Well. No wonder the article is full of stories of people out of work for a year. Hell, if you interview people who are "vaguely looking" for tech jobs, of course it's going to seem like there are few jobs. Employers can tell who is "vaguely looking" -- these people have weak resumes to begin with, they don't follow up, and they're discouraged easily. What employer wants to hire people like that?

    Now, that's not to say that it's wonderful out there. As an employer, I've been used to begging for resumes for the last 3 years. When I had an opening 3 months ago, I was seriously inundated with resumes. The job market is swarming with candidates. Of course, quite a good number of the candidates I saw shouldn't have been in the industry in the first place. It was obvious from the few hundred resumes I went through that the layoffs throughout Silicon Valley have been mostly about letting go of dead weight. But even that is bad news for qualified people. Think about it: even if you're a genius, your resume is buried in a pile of 400 other lackluster resumes. If you want to succeed, you'll need to be aggressive.
    • Go into the interview knowing about the company
    • learn about the specific industry that company is in
    • Shake hands firmly, get business cards, and send thank you cards (or even email)
    • Avoid exaggeration now -- it's a small world (two candidates applied for one of the job openings I had, both got interviews, both were from the same company, and both claimed to be the lead developer -- we found out which one was telling the truth, and dropped the other without a word. An even better one was the three guys -- two applicants and one of their references -- who each claimed to be the manager of the other two).
    • Employers can tell who is "vaguely looking" -- these people have weak resumes to begin with, they don't follow up, and they're discouraged easily. What employer wants to hire people like that?

      Very true. There are three ways of getting a job - personal contracts, through an advertised position (direct or agency), or cold-calling. If you are looking for a job you must be doing all three, especially in the current employment climate. After you have a lead the next thing the prosepective employer sees is your CV. Most CVs suck really badly. You must (and this really cannot be overstated) get information on the first page of your CV that makes the reader interested in you. If you do not get this interest you will not get the job.

      Common Mistake 1: Having a shopping list of abilities on the first page (e.g. Languages: A, B, C...).

      They don't care that you know these languages - if they are needed for the job then you won't get the job without them, but don't use up prime CV real estate with a list. Instead, descibe what you have done with those languages and make sure the description brings out the abilities you are trying to sell - these abilities are things like problem solving, project management, tenacity, being methodical, broad range of exprience etc.

      The first page of the CV should be a pen portrait of what you have done and why your skills are relevant to the company you are approaching. It must make them interested in you, or it'll go in the bin.

      Common Mistake 2: Having one CV.

      Your CVs job is to sell you and get you to the interview. When approaching a company you should not be afraid of customising the CV to make make a better match between your skills and their requirements. For example, if you are proficient in both Java and Perl but the company your are sending the CV to is a Perl shop, then your all-important first page should be emphasising the Perl side of your skills.

      Common Mistake 3: Lying.

      Never lie. If you are caught in a lie (and it is quite likely you will be) then you will not be hired. This also includes the hobbies section - if you don't read books, don't say you do - an interviewer will ask and you will look shifty. He may not even realise that you were lying, but you won't feel quite right to him, and that's you canned before you start. Lying about technical abilities is even dumber - here they will know you are lying.

      There are lots of other tricks you can do - for example research the company and find out who you'd be working for and contract them - don't contact HR. When you contact them, explain why you would be a good choice for them (briefly) in a cover letter and attach your CV. The CV (or at least the first page) should be printed on high quality thick paper for two reasons: it gives the first impression of quality and care before anyone has even read it; and it looks good even after being passed about a dozen people.

      Happy hunting.
  • Slump in Denver (Score:2, Informative)

    by GuanoBoy ( 196948 )
    The telecom slump (crash) hit Denver pretty hard. I've been out of work for over 9 months without a good lead in sight. Right now, I'm working a $12/hr temp job that could get canned at any moment, but I'm glad to have it.

    Colorado seems to have this tendency to put all of its eggs into one economic basket. Before the telecom crash, there was the petroleum industry crash, and other economic downturns before that.

    I'd have to side with the pessimists. Many of the jobs during the golden years are gone forever. And forget the crazy salaries! $110K for an NT admin?! Sheesh.
  • Man, some of these articles really hit close to home!

    One of the problems is finding where the jobs are. In the economic boom, the recruiters helped everybody out. But although I consider myself a savvy job hunter, I'd had difficulty figuring out what companies are out there. National job boards are mostly useless because only a small percentage of companies need to advertise heavily to find a suitable candidate. Individuals need a good directory of company links in their local market.

    IT people are used to thinking of themselves as belonging to an exclusively IT company. In actuality, a lot of non-IT companies need help managing their network. Not as glamorous maybe, but at least it's a job.

    The real problem with IT unemployment is that people are reluctant to accept non IT positions. Why? You stop gaining new skills and quickly lose touch with what skills are in demand.

    I'm a technical worker out of work for 9 months, partly by choice. I used some of the time to update my skills. If only I had a crystal ball that allowed me to see what skill will be necessary for my next job, that would simplify things. As such, I'm busy learning about everything. A job interview revealed my ignorance about Win Active Directories, so I check out a book on the subject. Another job interview asks about XWindows, and so I pick up another book. Learning about this stuff is not very painful, but it's frustrating not having a clue what skill will land you the job. It's also frustrating trying to balance the time you spend job searching with the time to update skills.

    Is anyone spooked by all the defense jobs out there? As it turns out, I can't qualify for security clearance because I'm seeking dual citizenship. But if you looked at the postings, you'd swear that a good 50% of job opportunities are related to defense contractors.

    I had a good job with Dell; they treated me very well and there were lots of perks. In a day I'm going to a job fair for contract Dell tech support jobs, probably without benefits or job security. Hey, if it pays the bills, I'll be happy. (Just cancel that trip to Mexico for this year).

  • truth and whining (Score:4, Informative)

    by banky ( 9941 ) <gregg&neurobashing,com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:42AM (#2986053) Homepage Journal
    A lot of the people I know were "paper techies" who used to brag about how much they made. Well, who has the job now?

    On the other hand, I also know plenty of good people who got let go "just because". They were adequte to stellar performers, who were in the wrong business unit at the wrong time.

    If your skills are marketable, and you're lucky, you'll find a job. Bottom line. If you have so-so skills (see oddtodd.com for a good list of so-so skills) then you won't find a job. A professionally polished resume doesn't matter if everything "interesting" you did was for a bunch of fucked companies that didn't deliver anything.

    I think that's the crux of the biscuit. All the badass experience doens't matter if everyone looks at it and says, "but this company didn't *do* anything, and it failed". OTOH, if you delivered (more or less on schedule and at budget) a (blah blah blah buzzword) then you have something. You'll find work. Software is still being developed, web sites are launched, the world is still turning.

    We're just at the bottom of a cycle. At the end of the hype, everyone was saying "XML this" and "Web Services that". Well no one really knew what to do with all that. Once people start to figure out how to hook up the latest tech with the consumer/end user, the same way Netscape brought the web to the masses, you'll see it pick up. It may take 2 years, or 5. But it'll happen. The VC will go back to insane spending. All the MBAs and "Director of Multimedia Development" types will work again. Don't worry.

    Just make sure my latte is right, OK? Working in the NOC takes good Joe. It won't be long before you're bossing me around again. :)
  • Give Gov't a try (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I know this has been mentioned a lot the past couple months, but gov't is where its at right now. I'm currently in the process of converting my military TS clearance over to contractor and giving serious thought to doing gov't work again (I'm a sysadmin).

    The company I work for makes equipment for telecoms and we've been hit HARD the last few months with no sign of letting up (at least not for another 12-18 months...maybe).

    Say what you want about working for The Man, but The Man will provide me with a salary 1/3rd greater then I'm currently making (have clearance, will pay). Its a 5 year contract so unless I'm fired, I'm safe from layoffs. How many others can claim that right now?

    If the market improves, then maybe I'll go back private sector. But right now, gov't work is safe.

    • I'd love to work for the govmnt, but around here (near a major air force base), half the good positions require a clearance just to get your foot in the door, and I've never had the opportunity to get one. You can't apply for a clearance on spec - you have to already have one. Catch-22, sort of.


      In the mean time, I'm in at a major place via Manpower Technical, 6 month contract-to-hire (but I had to take a 30% pay cut). Still, it's better than the alternative, so I'm not complaining.

  • I'm living the fun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sennomo ( 537173 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:48AM (#2986067) Homepage

    Before the bubble burst, I had a measly B.A. in Spanish, but I still got hired at startups for various jobs, mostly web-oriented stuff like search engines. I made as much as $650/wk for a short while, which ain't too shabby for where I live.

    Since the bubble burst, I'd got a non-technical temp job at the county tax office. When I got laid off from that job a friend got me hired at a convenience store, where I do 9-hour shifts with no lunch break for $5.50/hr. I've lost my wife and son because I am unable to support them on a near-minimum-wage part-time job. I'm living with my parents because I can't even afford to support myself. Oh, yeah, and I have about $20,000 of college loan debt to pay off.

    So, I've decided to use up my remaining financial aid (even though it will add to my debt) to return to college for a B.S. in Computer Science. I'm hardly learning anything, since I already learned plenty on the job. (Unfortunately, my university does not count life experience for college credit.) Some professors have even told me that I am capable of teaching their classes, but that won't get me out of the credit requirements.

    I'm planning to get my B.S. in Spring 2003, and hopefully by 2004 I'll be seriously working and living with my wife and son again...but who knows. I don't want to get optimistic.

    By the way, I'm not alone in my neck of the woods. My best friend is in a similar situation. He has 12 years of programming and network administration experience. However, he has no degree, so nobody even wants to interview him. He's pushing 30 and has just entered college as a freshman.

    Ride the wave of prosperity!

    • Forget CS. Get a marketing degree. That's the only way to make a living. Remember, sales and marketing types are the ones that are not fired.
    • by GypC ( 7592 )

      I don't see how you could "lose" a wife and kid because of that. Did she move back in with her parents? And they won't let you stay there? That's really sad considering that there's people on welfare that manage to keep the family together... I'm sure there's some way you could work it out.

  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @08:01AM (#2986096)

    I am CEO of a small company which specialises in web development. It is still true (at least in my part of the world) that many "web design" companies have staff whos only qualification is to have taught themselves to "program" in HTML. Many of them are from non-techy backgrounds, often design or Mickey Mouse degrees like Media Studies. These companies often offer all types of services (such as those that really require real programming or project management skills) which they don't have the skills and experience to offer. So if these people are being made redundant and having a hard time finding new jobs - well, tough.

    To get a good job is hard. Always has been, apart from temporary crazy blips like the dot-com boom. Just because it is now hard to get a good job does not mean that good jobs do not exist, rather it means that the brief period of crazyness when mediocre people could get good jobs is over!
  • Out in California (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gwernol ( 167574 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @08:06AM (#2986107)
    Here in San Francisco - the epicenter of the dot-com boom and bust - the market is grim. Finding work, even if you are highly qualified and experienced is a slow, brusing experience. If all you have is a reasonable degree and a couple of years experience at some failed dot-com, then its essentially impossible to find work in the high-tech sector and damn hard to find it elsewhere.

    Over the summer of 2001 the City was flooded with laid off tech workers. For several months you literally could not hire a moving truck from any Bay Area rental company. Every one was hired and heading back east as yet another dot-commer left the City.

    Its not all bad news, however. Housing costs in San Francisco are falling back from the ludicrous heights they reached a year or two back. Its now possible to rent in the City for less than $1000 a month. You can now buy a decent home for less than $350,000. Neither was possible two years ago. The City is also becoming more civilized again as the white heat of the boom years cools down a little.

    Its also possible to detect a very slight improvement in the job market. This is partly because so many people have left the local market: noticeably fewer people are competing for the few jobs that come up. Its also true that as the economy slowly, slowly begins to come alive again, a few companies are starting to hire again.

    But it will be a long time before we truly recover. Anyone remember the mid 80's?
  • I was laid off with about 100 other contract workers last july. The market here is so depressed that the recruiters are leaving in droves. The few programming jobs that are getting posted are very vertical niches and as someone that always had a broad background in development, the positions are going to the couple of people that have been doing one thing for 15 years. it's tough going from $160k to unemployment when you've been working steady for 20+ years. Doesn't help when your kid's financial aid forms go back 3 years for income. So, here I am working with agencies that used to call weekly with people I've never heard of that have no idea what any of the buzzwords they get asked for mean. You want fries with that?
  • All the people interviewed in that article are wimps. They clearly say they are looking for jobs similar to what they had before. Tough luck chumps, go look somewhere else. They think that because they are taking commitment-less jobs while they look for another "fall-back-into-a-shitload-of-money-job" we should feel sorry for them? Get up and tough it out and look for a different type of job. I can't imagine someone with a MBA is limited to dot coms.
  • I began working at a private manufacturing company several years ago. It's not glamorous, but making $45k in a very rural area (read: low cost of living) doesn't seem too bad to me. Actually, I probably got hired on at a good time; I expect the salary offered would be lower now. Anyway, as the only "techie" here at this plant, I've been able to watch the tech industry crash and burn knowing that the only thing that could take my job away would be the plant closing, which isn't going to happen.
  • I'm in London, UK.

    I wouldn't have believed it possible a year ago, but I've been out of work since my last employer went bust in August 2001. OK, I'm not a hardcore CS-grad C programmer - I'm mostly a Perl programmer, with a minor in "anything-todo-with-security", and basic (NT, Linux, BSD) sys-admin skills. I'm not asking an insane salary. I've never been unemployed since starting in IT professionally in 1995, and this is now the longest I've /ever/ been unemployed. It's pretty fsckin' crappy, I can tell you. The only bright spot is having plenty of spare time for reading (Slashdot, Bugtraq, Incidents, Vuln-Watch, ISN, nanog,...), and finally getting round to writing some actual releasable-quality Free software - which is tons o' fun. Otherwise, frankly, it's damn depressing. And reading posts here saying "anyone who can't get work must be a loser or a prima-donna or a MCSE-mill twit" doesn't help! ;p
  • MBA? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zoomshorts ( 137587 )
    I am find it real hard to even believe that the MBA degree is worth anything. Let us look at what it says, Master of Business Administration. Doesn't this sound like a glorified secretary? If the degree imparted any real knowledge, then the holder of such a degree should be able to run his/her own company/business. Since this is obviously not the case, why then does such a degree exist? Management, management comes the chorus! Most MBA's go to work fo SOMEONE ELSE, rather than starting their own company. What kind of mastery does this imply? None, IMNSHO. Working for someone else may pay the bills, but I know of no business where a newly MBA'd individual would be allowed to MASTER the business right out of school. Work expierence is what counts. This guy is a ME, yet he is not doing ME work from the get-go. This looks like someone who can pass tests and get grades, but who is NOT working in a field for which he studied to be a part. This guy seems confused, someone told him that you get an engineering degree coupled with an MBA and you can go places. Look where he went. That fact says it all. Valued contributers to any organization are retained, or re-trained. Real world seems to be intruding on the fantasy world once again.
  • by helloRockview ( 205000 ) <[chris] [at] [cju.com]> on Monday February 11, 2002 @08:56AM (#2986207) Homepage
    One of the things that the Dot.Com revolution did was create a lot of techie jobs for people that were never techies in the past and probably shouldn't be techies in the future. One of the things that really amazed me a few years ago was the abundance of well-paying entry level tech jobs. Companies were paying $40, $50K, $60K and higher for people that had little to no experience in the tech industry. The result of this is a tainted job market of many people who still don't have a lot of experience, but feel that they should be making a decent salary because of what they made in the past....true delusions of grandeur. So many techies who complain there are "no jobs" are wrong - there just aren't any jobs to support their overly high salary requirements and their undeveloped skill sets.

    I'm an adjunct at a local major university in New Jersey and part of my duties include teaching classes in the CS department's continuing education arm. At times, it is difficult for me as an educator to make students face reality. Many students that enroll in our certification programs believe that all you have to do is sit through some classes to become a tech wiz and get a great paying job. The reality is that many of them don't have what it takes to become a good technologist. A student recently told me that he was very discouraged in his job hunt because he "spent three years making between $65K and $80K as an HTML coder". He now seeks a similar job with similar pay, but the fact is that he's has not demonstrated to me that he's even worth half of that salary in any technical position. While I am often tempted to use a "Here's a dime...use it to call your mother and tell her you'll never going to be a lawyer (or techie)" speech, I still must encourage my students to work hard to improve their skills. But it becomes difficult trying to get them to believe that they'll no longer get high-paying short-returns in this over-hyped market.

    Yes, times are bad. A lot of people out of work - even the good ones. But the moral of the story is that many so-called techies need to re-evaluate their career path and their place in the industry.

  • by SamBeckett ( 96685 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @08:56AM (#2986208)

    Why, oh, why, don't all of you out of work open source hippies try to sell your software!!!

  • by base3 ( 539820 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @08:56AM (#2986209)
    . . . that there are U.S. citizens being laid off, yet the H1B program is alive and well?

    Don't get me wrong--I'm not a xenophobe, and see nothing nefarious about the idea of allowing people from other countries to fill positions for which there are no Americans available.

    But it doesn't make sense to provide jobs for outsiders when our own can fill them.

    At this point it's pretty obvious that the purpose of the H1B program has all along been to depress IT wages and skew the job market in favor of corporate employers. Employers have been making up "special skills" or listing jobs with low salaries to show an "effort" to hire a U.S. citizen, then hiring indentured H1Bs for 1/2 to 2/3 the salary. This should come as no surprise, since the same employers used the same tricks to not pay the market wage for U.S. electrical engineers in the 80s.

    The program needs to be ended now. Current H1B visa holders should allowed to stay to the end of their terms, then they should return home to bring up the level of IT skill in their home nations, as the lobbyists and Congress said would happen.

    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:40AM (#2986373)
      then they should return home to bring up the level of IT skill in their home nations

      Believe me, that's your worst nightmare if you're worried about American jobs. Would you rather have the H1Bs working in the US economy and paying US taxes and spending money on goods and services in the US, or back in India/Russia pitching wholesale offshore outsourcing to Corporate America? Rather than actively supporting the US economy and indirectly providing jobs for Americans, the result would be permanent destruction of American jobs.
  • I was interested by the positive comments of the guy who has used being laid off as the catalyst to start his own business.

    Right now the economy is depressed, but has been so for long enough that people are at least starting to look to the future. Now is the ideal time (imho) to start ones own business. Obviously, nobody is gonna be handing out huge piles of cash like they were 5 years ago, but if one can make a frugal start of a company with a solid business concept (not a portal!!) and realistic ambitions, then that company will be extremely well positioned to take off running once the economy starts to lift again.

    The first web company I worked for was started at the end of 1994, when the economy in the UK was pretty depressed. I also work with a company that has recently changed concept completely, and so has all the same problems and opportunities of a start-up. Times are tough, but we're hanging in there and the signals are that as long as we can keep it together for another 6 months or so we should be in an excellent position to do some good business.

    Not everyone is gonna be able to start their own company of course, but don't discount the idea just because the angels aren't handing out ridiculous sums of money any more.
  • by AnalogBoy ( 51094 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:10AM (#2986252) Journal
    is now people want MORE for LESS. Most jobs you see advertised now are for, say, a Systems Administrator versed in Solaris [ok], AIX [ok], IRIX [ok], Linux [Alright...], MCSE Certified [Okay, i can see all of the above for Sr. Level..] almost-DBA Level oracle knowlede [ ditto.. ] J2EE [WTF?!@] 10 years experience [Righto] a Bachelors [!] and some_unheardof_application_that_nobody_uses [Broadvision!]. For $35,000/yr.

    A tad exaggerated maybe.. but thats where its going. I got a job april of last year, and the conditions are less than ideal. I come in making as a UNIX administrator what I made as a helpdesk rep at one of my first jobs. I felt insulted. [but, i didnt have much choice].
  • by Lumpish Scholar ( 17107 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:14AM (#2986271) Homepage Journal
    There are thousands of unemployed techies (product managers, project managers, testers, coders in every language you can name, and managers from line supervisors to vice president) who hit the market in less than a year.

    You cannot, cannot, cannot get a tech job unless:
    • you get it through personal networking (before the job is "posted"), or
    • you have done the exact job before.
    I know a software development project manager (a real techie with assember, C/C++, and VB coding experience behind him) who looked outside telecomm and applied for a job in the pharmaceutical sector. Forget it; there are so many unemployed techies out there, the employer was looking for a certain set of skills and experience in the sector ... and could afford to wait for it.

    I know another company that needed people to support a certain telecomm software system. They could afford to ignore everyone who could come up to speed on it, and hire only former developers of that system.

    I'm still employed. If I'd been laid off last year (and I ducked two bullets by inches), I wasn't even going to look for a job; I was going to live off my wife's salary and write for a while.

    You bet, though, if both my wife and I had been laid off, I'd be flipping burgers with the rest of them ... or doing whatever it would take to support my family.
  • Things have been bad in New Jersey for a while (telecom slump). How are they elsewhere?

    As an adopted citizen of Buffalo, things are pretty rough up here. On the up side, though, there's a recession coming up.

    Hey, when your city's been in a depression for the last thirty years, a recession is actually a step up.

    --saint
  • by jcknox ( 456591 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:22AM (#2986302)
    I'm seeing a really disturbing trend in here. It seems those who have recently lost their jobs are taking a lot of heat for their situation. Some people seem to suggest that unemployment is almost always a result of poor skills, poor performance, poor planning, or a combination of these mistakes.

    This pious "I have a job, they're easy to get and keep if you're as good as me" mentality smacks of a selfish immaturity drawn from too little interest in others' situations. These same people that are saying things like:

    I believe that doers do, and whiners don't.

    A lot of the people I know were "paper techies" who used to brag about how much they made. Well, who has the job now?

    All the people interviewed in that article are wimps.

    I'd bet if (when?) these people lose their jobs, they won't be blaming themselves, but instead the President, Congress, Alan Greenspan, bad managers, stupid customers, El Nino, anti-technology conspiracies, and anything else that might lessen the impact on their over-inflated egos.

    Give these people a break. You may need one yourself one day.

  • I'm in the 10th year of my software development career. I've done large-scale custom middleware for most of that, and web architecture and development for the last two. Last spring I was laid off from my contracting position with a major employer, one of its first round of cuts. I was at least given two weeks of notice. I spent that two weeks calling people I knew, hitting all the local employment sites on the web, and stopping by to see what the big firms around had to offer. This was the start of the big down turn.

    I was lucky at that time to move into another contract, and even fortunate enough to keep my $100k pay rate. This contract though was not in my core skill set, and I was not doing a good job at it. I used my networking skills to learn of another project at the firm that was having trouble and that needed my skills. I consulted on their floundering project a bit while I floundered on mine, and eventually got myself transferred. Now nearly a year later we're fielding a groundbreaking project that's going to have a big impact on a national pharmaceutical distribution firm.

    Alas, that contract is done, and I'm being pushed into the market again, at still a worse time. I've seen this coming though, and I've spent the time to know the market. I know what people are making. I know that there are over 100 other contractors in my field applying for every job that I see. I know they're getting $15-20/hr less today than last year on bill rates. I know some of them have been out there for months.

    That's why I've done the same calling, the same web searching, the same drive-by interviewing. I've done the planning for when I'm done here in three weeks and am a month from selling off the car and the house to downsize my own liabilities. I've spent the last couple of months making giant payments on other things to lower monthly outlay. I've started my wife looking for a job and daycare for the two-year-old boy.

    And today, I've heard from old colleagues, I should hear that I'm being offered a position that is at once a career step up and a salary step down. From being a highly paid contractor I'm going back to corporate life as a senior business analyst, the guy who whips sales people back to reality and IT folks into a frenzy to keep sales people selling. It's what I want to do, but it's not going to pay me as well. And I'm goign to be working in a couple weeks, which is a good thing.

    I've gotten that position by managing my career in the local IT environment. I keep in touch with old colleagues and managers. I read in the papers and keep up on the firms. I know their challenges and their objectives before I go in for the interview. I find out who the managers are and I learn who they've worked with, who they've promoted, and who they've canned. I know whose coat tails they're riding. I find out what technology the firm is using, and what technology battles are going on. If you can't find out which side of those your prospective manager is on, you've gotta find a comfortable spot on the fence and find out which way to lean when you can.

    The bottom line is that Skills Are Not Enough! At least 75 of the 100 people applying for the job have the skills. Fifty are probably experts. To land the job you've got to offer more. You've got to show insight and planning. Today you've got to be an industry expert, not just a technology expert. You've got to show them that you're going to keep them from making the same mistakes that you made at your last job. Most of all, I think, you MUST make them believe that you're taking the job not because you're about to lose your car and your home, but because you want to be a part of that firm. You need to be part of the firm because that's what's going to make your career grow. And if that's the case, then you're fortunate. If you're up on the local scene you're more likely to find that.

  • by dgroskind ( 198819 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:32AM (#2986340)

    Periodic bouts of unemployment are a feature of the modern lean and mean, just in time economy. It's inefficient, wasteful and demoralizing but it's not likely to change anytime soon either.

    The trick is to prepare for it while you're working.

    • Save as much as you can while you'r working, obviously.
    • Have a small project on the side. It should be something that might have revenue potential or expands your skills. Ideally, it should be something that gives you additional contacts. Working with a professional association is an especially good idea.
    • Don't put in any free overtime (or not much, anyway). It won't help you keep your job and the time can be better spent on your auxillary project.
    • Develop a Web site on some topic that interests you. Nothing better demonstrates your skills and interests to a potential employer. It also neatly encapsulates the other tactics.

    Turn the inevitable periods of unemployment into growth opportunities. Learn new skills or expand old ones. See if you can find a worthwhile volunteer job in your skill set. Read widely. Remember that having and keeping a job confers no moral superiority so your feeling of self-worth must come from somwhere else.

  • I live in upper Bergen county. I have been working for a fortune 500 company for almost two years. I started as a co-op. When it came time for me to graduate, before I actually graduated in May, the company put a hiring freeze on. I figured "oh, what the heck, it can't last that long". Boy was I _wrong_. I worked over the summer, and then took up a few graduate courses, just so they could keep me on. Now it is the beginning of the school year, the hiring freeze is still on, and I have no idea when they will cut the co-op budget. There was only three positions opened up by upper management this quarter. The uppers are really so disconnected from what is going on here, it is not even funny. They (the uppers) are all down in Atlanta, Georgia, and have not seen, or heard about what is going on here in NJ. We are so short staffed, that one of the projects I was working on actually had a production error that had to be re-staged because it was not caught in the QA faze. Now we are running into the problem that there are not enough developers to keep the projects that have not been cut on schedule. Because these guys don't have enough resources, the QA dept is just about doing nothing. The business requirements group is writing requirements for clients that could not possibly implement that functionality with the current amount of people. This is all for "cost-cutting" even though we still grew 5.6% percent this year, including Sept. 11th. Ridiculous.
  • Weird timing... saw this in my in-box (thanks to the ACM for pointing it out).

    Read this article [computerworld.com] about the sort of folks more likely to be laid off. Here's its headline:

    Study: IT job jumpers more likely to be laid off than veterans.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @10:21AM (#2986561)
    Todays NY Times [nytimes.com] (free registration required) reports that teacher applications are up 45% this year. Many districts have a fast-track program of teaching after a couple intro courses, although you have to takes about a years worth of courses for certification eventually. In the L.A. area where I have some teacher friends, pay starts about $3000 a month and hits $6000 after a dozen years. (This is for a nine-month year where you moonlight or vacation in the summer.) Same thing happened during the 91-94 recession.
  • by Mr. McD ( 166893 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @10:59AM (#2986779) Homepage

    First off, I agree with most posters that this article doesn't really describe techies, but those who probably are unemployable in thier fields. How many of us worked someplace where more than half the people there were not qualified to do thier job let alone get the saleries they were getting? From what I have been able to see so far, this "recession" is a massive house cleaning. Unfortunately, some very talented, hard-working folks also got the shaft.


    The article also states that some of us are "settling for contract work without benefits." Uh, I've actually been doing FAR better contracting this year than I had been last year making over $80k. And suprisingly, getting work is far less complicated than you might think.


    Here are some tips that have helped me out:

    • Get your resume together (duh!) and don't take it to your nearest Starbucks
    • If you have a web site, don't spend your time trying to be "artistic". If you code, your design skills probably aren't that great
    • Talk to your friends, even those who AREN'T in a tech field. You'd be suprised at what kind of work pops up
    • Don't be greedy. Everyone is trying to save money, so if you're charging $75/hr to HTML and JavaScript you're on dope. The guy who's doing that stuff for $45/hr is gonna have your lunch
    • Look for the smaller gigs. The Sub $10k jobs are a plenty in the New England area, as I'm sure everywhere else. Don't go looking for the $100k+ jobs, you will remain poor.
    • Buddy up. Working with a designer or copy writer has it's advantages. They usually call you when there is work to be done
    • Be flexible with the creative folks. They usually don't know much about tech, but if you can explain things to them, in english, while not being condescending, you will get more work from them. For soem reason, these creative folks know how to find work.
    • If you use a head hunter, use someone small. I think the big places have lost thier credibility over the past 2 years. How many sucky hires from big placement agencies did your company hire last year? The smaller ones tend to have a closer relationship with both the client and talent and can generally speak to your abilities better.

    Thats just my two cents. After my former employer stole my 401k money and failed to pay us our last 2 pay check, things have improved greatly for me. This advice has gotten me off unemployment and I'm now on the road to recovery :)



  • by penguin_dance ( 536599 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @11:05AM (#2986815)
    This sounds like media FUD and that we're not getting the whole story on this guy. Unfortunately, the media is great at finding the oddball and making him the "norm". I would grant you that if this was geologists getting laid off in an oil crunch (i.e., those who are stuck working for one industry) that would be different.

    I'm not saying some fields are having a hard time, but I find it VERY odd that someone with an engineering degree from Texas A&M AND an MBA is having a hard time landing a job other than sorting mail. I would love to know the answers to the following:

    Have you look for work in other states? I have a stepson going to Texas A&M this school is about #5 or 7 in the nation for engineering. They also have a strong networking foundation as well as a lot of alumni in business locally. I can't believe he couldn't come back to Texas and find an engineering job. You can't just look in your town or even state. Sometimes you have to move to where the jobs are.

    How old are you? If you're under 30 you may want to drop the MBA mention unless you're looking for a job in that field. Advanced titles can be a catch 22, i.e., employers think you're overqualified for lower positions, but aren't willing to hire you for the upper level positions because you don't have enough years of experience.

    I would add: If you were some dot-commer management previously making a salary way above your experience/job duties from the regional average, I would list my salary as more reasonable if asked. Employers who look and see some 29 year old making well over the norm are going to shitcan the application because they are going to assume that's the range you're looking for.

    Yes, these may seem like fudging or leaving out something on the application. However done creatively, this is NOT the same as declaring a degree you don't have.
  • Safety Vs. Risk 2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crovira ( 10242 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @11:21AM (#2986904) Homepage
    I used to work on the 83rd floor of a target.

    On the plus side, I'm still suckin' air.

    On the minus side, I haven't earned a dollar in salary since September, '01.

    It not for lack of mailing out resumes, getting interviews (even second interviews,) or chopping my income requirements, moving to get my expenses down, cashing in the 401k to get rid of all my debts [actually, they were leaking close to a grand a month before that anyway so it waa cheaper to cash 'em in than hold on to 'em,]

    Its just tough out there. I'm in a depression. The economy's in a recession.

    Before the crash(es, two planes and an economy) I worked for somebody who believed that systems are maintained by oral tradition, never wrote down things like specs or documentation and was ignorant of the glaring flaws in the system and in her managerial abilities.

    This person was a DE-motivator. The biggest kick in the 'nads you can ever get is a whiny voice intoning "But I 'TOLD' you." Yeah, like I have time to listen to every word of your endless stream of conciousness and engrave it in my memory.

    I'm poor, going on broke but I'm still better off than if I'd stayed there.

    Now I sleep nights (mostly,) and I've stopped worrying about planes and falling buiuldings but I still get nightmares about "But I TOLD you..."
  • Too Hot for Slashdot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:40PM (#2987346) Homepage Journal
    This is an article submitted to Slashdot that got rejected. One would think that if anything is, this is news for nerds -- stuff that matters:

    The Associated Press reports [imdiversity.com] that "U.S. companies and other groups applied for 342,035 H-1B work visas in 2001, up 14 percent from 2000, before the economy tumbled.", "The number accepted also rose by 40 percent..." and "About half ... are for computer related jobs." The article cites research by UC Davis Professor Norman Matloff [ucdavis.edu] saying that "wages of computer programmers and engineers working in the U.S. on the visas are 15 percent to 33 percent lower than those of U.S. citizens".

    Mark Shevitz of VisaNow [visanow.com] is quoted as saying, "I think it surprised everyone. All that you hear about in the media is these huge layoffs and the tech industry is just shedding workers."

    Finally, the article reports "Bay Area companies Oracle, Cisco Systems, Intel and Sun Microsystems were among the top users of the program in 2000, as were universities such as Harvard and Yale. The INS did not have numbers available on how many applications the companies filed last year amid layoffs.

    ----

    BTW: It is illegal to use the H-1B program to lower wages from the rates prevailing in the absence of the program.

    Here's information posted by an anti-H-!B activist at another site [kuro5hin.org]:

    Additional information provided by an h1b activist (although I encourage people to avoid political action, there are far more effective things they can do with technology to deconstruct the edifice that did this to us because it is, after all, in existence because of technologists -- the real ones, not the Wired magazine ones):

    80% of the US public opposed H1-B expansion [ucdavis.edu]. Part of what makes the bill increasing H1-B Visas so unusual is that it was so unpopular and was passed with very, very little debate.

    Zazona [zazona.com] is the most comprehensive site on the H1-B issue. Corrective legislation is now in a US congressional Committee [loc.gov]. The philosophy of HR 3222 has been supported by a diverse group [zazona.com] that includes Buchanan Supporters, Nader Supporters, and the National Urban League [nationalur...esh1-bhttp]. HR 3222 is a compromise-it roles the level of new H1-B Visas back to 1998 levels and puts in place an unemployment adjustment mechanism.

    H1-B Visa expansion was advocated by the ITAA [itaa.org]. Organized opposition to H1-B includes:the AEA [aea.org] and the Programmers Guild [programmersguild.com].

    You can Look at H1-B applications by company,state,city [zazona.com]. You can write your Congressional representatives [numbersusa.com] if you have a problem with the current H1-B situation. You can also write your state representatives. The only aspect of the H1-B issue that is in state jurisdiction is use of H1-B labor at state institutions. However, state representatives are influential in their parties-if your state representative writes a letter to congress it could mean a lot.

  • by burris ( 122191 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:36PM (#2987659)
    The job keeps him on a regular schedule, which he deadpans is "better than waking up and picking the lint out of my belly button."
    What employers really want: someone who will work like a dog without constant supervision.

    I have ten years of OO design and development experience, but I don't have a degree. As you can expect, I've been out of work for a while and couldn't seem to get anyone to even call me back. One company did call me back. After the preliminary interview I had a second one with the CTO and DirEng. When they asked me what I had been doing I didn't have to say "Sitting around on my ass, mostly." Instead I pulled out my latest project, a little portable device built out of off-the-shelf embedded computer components and held together with some C++ and Python I wrote (not unlike the popular car MP3 player projects.)

    Guess what? I got a job doing embedded development work at my old salary despite not having any real embedded experience at all! In part because I was able to demonstrate that I am resourceful, creative, and hard-working, even when nobody is holding a carrot/whip over me. That is what employers want.

    So write some software, build some hardware, do something, anything, to differentiate yourself from the hordes of people who have been catching up on playstation between jobs.

    burris

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