How far we’ve fallen

It’s job interview time again. I haven’t lost my job, at least not yet, but I’m not waiting around to see if I’m going to. I’m hitting pavement, talking to potential employers, whether they’re connected to what I’m doing now or not.

So, it was off to the mall to buy some clothes this weekend for the interview because all my dress clothes are from 1991. They fit (I wore them to my last interviews in 2005), but when your clothes are old enough to vote, it’s probably time for something new.What I found at the mall was depressing. There were lots of vacancies, including places I remember having something the last time I was at the mall. That might have been October, but October isn’t that long ago. And I’m not talking as someone who owns clothes that are old enough to vote. In business, October is yesterday. I’m still dealing with projects at work that started around then.

I also found people with college degrees working retail. Not 2-year degrees. I’m talking 4-year degrees from good schools.

At a job fair today, someone scoffed at my journalism degree. Frankly I’m getting tired of apologizing for my journalism degree, especially from people who wouldn’t know how to spell "journalism" correctly, or at least don’t know that paragraphs generally have more than one sentence in them. Engineering isn’t the end-all of life. And a journalism degree from the University of Missouri isn’t a cakewalk. It’s one of the top three schools in the country, and there’s a reason for that: It’s hard.

And I won’t apologize for it because that degree allowed me to write an O’Reilly book at the age of 24.

I also won’t apologize for it because if I’m not deemed worthy to keep the job I’ve been doing for three years, I should be able to make enough as a freelance writer to keep the utilities on and keep food in my son’s stomach without being a burden on the taxpaying public.

And finally, I won’t apologize for it because I’ve survived in this industry since early 1997, in spite of having a degree in a seemingly unrelated field. In the mid 1990s, no four-year university was teaching what I do. Want to guess what the best sysadmin I’ve ever met majored in? Interdisciplinary studies. That’s a polite way of saying "nothing." But the people who come from all over the country to hear him speak couldn’t care less what he majored in.

But I’ve gotten off track. I guess I’m in a bad mood because this week I also had to sit in a meeting where I listened to someone tell 20 people that they won’t be retained, and 20 temporary employees who’ve been with the company for a month will be retained, "because they’re doing a helluva job."

No, those temps will be retained because they’re cheaper. The people in that room have busted their butts for that company for years. But in some cases, the management doesn’t even know those people’s names or job titles, in spite of the number of years and long hours they put in.

Of course you don’t want to let a temp go. You shouldn’t want to let anyone go. But that’s always a risk when you’re a temp. I was a temp twice. Once I was let go myself. The second time they kept me, but let go another temp from the same company who started the same time I did. And I knew from the start that it was a possibility.

But I think the thing that depressed me the most was seeing the long lines at that job fair, where I applied for my current job and tried not to show offense when someone ridiculed my journalism degree. The majority of people who showed up at that fair won’t get jobs. And you could tell from the looks on their faces that a lot of them knew that. But what else were they going to do? They had to try.

I don’t know how much longer this is going to last. A local economist on the news Sunday morning said he expected 6-18 months. That means he thinks things will be bad at least until July 2009, and perhaps as long as July 2010.

And from what I can tell right now, my best bet for recession-proofing my career is Sun Solaris 10. Should I find myself with ample free time in the near future, I’ll probably try to spend a lot of it learning that.

5 thoughts on “How far we’ve fallen

  • January 7, 2009 at 10:19 am
    Permalink

    Well, yikes Dave. I’m sorry to hear about the
    potential job loss. It’s a rough time for everybody.

    I am the semi-proud owner of a "ten year-two year"
    degree (an associate’s degree that took me ten
    years to complete) in Journalism. Actually, I started
    off pursuing a degree in Journalism and by the time
    I finished I think it was changed to English. So
    depending on who I’m telling (and why I’m telling
    them), I either list my degree as in
    English/Journalism or Journalism/English. Technically
    I think my bachelor’s is listed as an English degree,
    but I have three solid years of
    newspaper/yearbook/writing/editing classes to back
    up the Journalism angle.

    Here’s hoping for the best, man!

    • January 7, 2009 at 9:45 pm
      Permalink

      I have an interview tomorrow for a junior Linux sysadmin job. It’s a slight pay cut from what I’m making now, but being in the same state I live in would probably make up for that, and if it doesn’t, less wear and tear on my car and spending an hour less on the road every working day is worth a lot too.

      • January 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm
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        Shorter commute time is worth a lot. If you assume an 8-hour day, an hour lunch, and an hour default commute, that eleventh hour of commute time is effectively an hour of unpaid work, daily.

        Good luck.

  • January 8, 2009 at 5:32 pm
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    Dave,
    I’ve been reading you for years. You are a highly intelligent young man. You should start your own business.
    I’ve read you as you passed through various jobs. I could tell that even when you were single you didn’t like being unemployed.
    Since no one, including IBM, guarantees life time jobs, you should use your intelligence to secure your own future.

    Al Joad: Ain’t you gonna look back, Ma? Give the ol’ place a last look?
    Ma Joad: We’re going’ to California, ain’t we? All right then let’s go to California.
    Al Joad: That don’t sound like you, Ma. You never was like that before.
    Ma Joad: I never had my house pushed over before. Never had my family stuck out on the road. Never had to lose everything I had in life.

    • January 9, 2009 at 9:13 pm
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      That’s exactly what I’d do if I had my druthers. Unfortunately getting health insurance for my wife is nearly impossible unless I work for someone else, for the moment. If and when that situation changes, you bet–then I can finally unchain my destiny from that of the Bill Lumberghs of the world.

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