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Light at the end of the tunnel?

If, as expected, I get a job offer on Monday, the advice in What Color is Your Parachute? will ring very true for me.

My best job prospect is a place that wasn’t even hiring.I’m going to continue my practice of not mentioning my employers, past or present, by name–savvy people have probably guessed my last one, but I don’t know that I’ve ever even mentioned the restaurant I worked in high school by name–but this one is a very long and winding road.

I spent last July 4 with a good friend of mine from church. He was casually making conversation when he said, "I don’t suppose you’re looking to change jobs, are you?" Well, I don’t remember anymore if that week had been a bad week or not, but it was the start of a new fiscal year and some people had been let go, so it wasn’t like I was feeling terribly secure at the time. So I guess I surprised him when I said, "Talk to me."

He said his engineering firm had been kicking around the idea of hiring a full-time IT guy, because one of his engineers wasn’t getting his projects done because people kept dragging him away to fix computers. I asked him some more about company, and frankly, the only thing I didn’t like was its location. Location was the only thing my current job had going for it; so that seemed like a good trade.

I went home and worked on my resume. And then I heard nothing.

Every once in a while the fire would get flamed again and Jon would mention they hadn’t forgotten me, but each time it turned out to be false hope.

Well, when the now-annual layoffs happened again this year, I was one of the people hit. Jon was the third person I called. I told him if they were still interested, I could start as soon as Monday and we could really get creative. One idea I floated was to work on a contract basis, paid hourly, so they could see if I was worth my asking price.

And a few days later, I got a call from the owner of the company. He wanted me to come in for an interview. I liked him instantly. For one thing, he’s 72 going on 30. While he’s got all the wisdom one would expect from someone who’s run his own business for 42 years, he has the energy and enthusiasm of a 30-year-old. He’s generous with praise when it’s appropriate. When he asked what I knew about the company, I said, "Basically what I know is what Jon told me, and what’s on your web site. I know Jon designs presses."

"No," the owner said, "Jon designs very good presses."

He took me out to lunch. At the restaurant where we went, everyone knew him by name. We were seated at a table and had soup and water in front of us within 30 seconds. I’ve read stories about this kind of thing, but never actually seen it.

My former boss called me a day or two later to ask me how it went. I didn’t elaborate a lot. I think about all I said was that I met the owner, and I like the guy, I respect the guy, but not only that, I really want to be like him. He answered with a question: "Do you know how big that is?"

As a matter of fact, I don’t know that I do. What I do know is I’ve worked for a handful of people who were two of the three. I’ve worked for people who were none of the three. While I’ve worked with people who were all three, I’ve never worked for anyone who was all three. And I figure this may be the only chance I get.

We talked again on Thursday, briefly. There were 47 other things going on that day and I probably only talked to him for about 10 minutes total. He said he still wasn’t convinced that the company needs an IT guy, but that he thinks I’m a tremendous talent, that I’m a good fit for the company, and frankly, if he didn’t move fast, he’d lose me. He said we’d talk again on Monday, and he’d have an offer for me then.

Meanwhile, I’d been filling out applications everywhere I could find on the usual job sites. I’d sent my resume to recruiters and basically done everything I did back in 2000 when I was looking for a job and I was getting so many phone calls that I was turning down an interview a day. What worked in 2000 wasn’t working at all in 2005: I didn’t so much as get an acknowledgement of existance from most of these people.

But the firm that wasn’t even hiring? It looks like it turned out to be my best option. Maybe even my only option, despite me having an inside track at one or possibly even two other places.

We’ll see what Monday brings.

But if it doesn’t work out, I don’t think I’m going to waste any more time with the job sites. I’ll do what the book recommends and rely solely on word of mouth and in-person visits. I’m a whole lot happier with what that’s turned up for me.

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8 thoughts on “Light at the end of the tunnel?”

  1. I followed the advice in that book, and I wound up not even working in IT anymore! I love what I do now (real estate marketing), and I’m working with some really great people.

    Best of all, I now have the energy and desire to work on my little personal computing projects at home. It’s not my job anymore, so my hobby has become fun again.

    I’m glad things are working out for you. When’s the big day, by the way?

    Dustin D. Cook, A+

    1. The wedding, you mean? Two weeks from today.

      I’ve considered changing fields but that’s probably not in my best interests right now. I think I’ll like IT when I’m not pigeonholed. The biggest problem with the last 7 years of my life is I’ve always been just one thing: If wasn’t the Mac guy, I was the Backup Exec guy. I do better when I’m doing a lot of different things.

  2. There’s a lot to be said for working for a place that’s small enough that you can actually make a difference. It’s also nice to be able to do a variety of things.

    Hopefully if you go to work there it is big enough to be somewhat financially stable and to need enough technical sophistication to satisfy you.

    It’d certainly be nice to start married life with the job situation settled.

    Good luck!


  3. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors Dave. It’s nice to see someone who gets knocked down get back on their feet so quickly, without even a frown shown to the world at large. That’s massively cool.

    It could be worse. I’m integral where I work – I thought. I designed the entire system in 2000: the network, the database, the application, everything that runs the company. In 2003 after we had doubled in size I started seeing cracks in the system. In 2004 the foundation was going to pieces. Now it’s 2005 and all hell has broken loose in our network. I told them in 2003 we needed to begin looking at a reorganization/rewrite/restructure of the application and network. I told them again in 2004, and many times in 2005.

    With the foundation going to pieces I finally got permission to "hide out and begin the reworking" of the application. I wish they’d have kept their word – I was just pulled off the reworking to architect a brand new expansion to our system for our customers that won’t ever be used simply because one of our competitors has it. I have to write this system before Memorial Day and it includes integration with a document management system that I haven’t seen the documentation/SDK for, is based on Java (I work in C#, so not a huge deal, but… a barrier nonetheless), and is completely foreign to me in terminology and definitions.

    Oh, and one of my two guys under me (or not; I was told by legal that I no longer had any employees I was managing but never by my boss, so I don’t know whether I’m a manager or not) quit. We found a replacement but since July is a 3 payroll month we’re not going to let him start work until August 5th.

    I’m down a guy, I have a new project, I have a system self destructing under me, and they don’t want to pay for an extra guy.

    The kicker for me was when they asked me if I’d be upset if they purchased a prepackaged solution. "Uh, no, go for it." They’d rather spend $500,000.00 (minimum) on software then pay a guy for three payrolls to help me get ahead. Not only that but the prepackaged solutions don’t let you tie an extranet in – you have to hire the solution provider to do that. You can’t create your own reports – hire the solution provider. I’d love to see my employer try and work with a software product they can’t twist and modify to do things their way – honestly.

    (For those who are wondering why my application’s lifetime was only 3 years before cracks started: I wrote the application in 3 months. It replaced an application that had been developed over 12 years. The system was written when my employer had 20 or so offices. Currently we have 80 offices. In 1999 we had 150 full time users. We now have 400 full time users. The application was designed around a lot of things that were later removed; this hurt the base design. Etc.)

    So it could be worse. You could be working for a company you used to love who has slowly fallen apart, trying to ensure your legacy doesn’t become "oh man he wrote that crappy system that fell apart." A clean break and new employment — that’d be great in a lot of ways.

    1. Great to hear from you, Brian.

      Actually this possibility didn’t pan out. I can’t remember how many interviews I’ve had since. It hasn’t been a lot. I had an interview last week that I didn’t think went well at all, but I got a call about an hour and a half ago that suggests they’re very interested in me.

      I’d be lying if I said I’m not bitter. I am. Some days are worse than others. Due to getting married, I missed the recent sermon at church on vengeance vs. forgiveness. I needed that one. But I do know that all the people whose opinions matter believe my ex-employer made a mistake. And there’s no point in me spewing bile in their direction. The recruiters already know about my former employer. They have a reputation, and if I spew, it reflects a lot more badly on me than it does on them.

      I believe I will land on my feet fairly soon. In the meantime I’ve been selling off anything of value that I don’t need anymore and I know I won’t miss, picking up gigs here and there, and doing anything else I can think of to slow the bleeding. It’s hard on my own to make enough to pay the mortgage, but I can at least pay my other bills with it.

      My best advice to anyone is to never think of yourself as indispensible. Keep an eye on and Monster even if you’re not looking. Make sure you’re qualified for the jobs that are out there now and tomorrow. For example, right now it seems like Windows sysadmins are expected to know SQL Server too. Three years ago they weren’t. I should have had a SQL Server running in my basement, and I didn’t. If I had, I’d have a job now, and I’d probably be making 10 grand more than I’m likely to make now.

      As recently as January I was told (by someone who ought to know) I was indispensible. Four months later I was out the door. Things can change in a heartbeat, so it makes sense to be prepared for the worst.

  4. Sorry to hear that the hopeful opportunity hasn’t panned out. I was hoping for a fairy tale ending. "Dave gets the beautiful girl, the dream job, and a kindly mentor, and lives happily ever after." I guess that’s why they’re called fairy tales . . .

    Keep the faith, and trust God. He has a plan for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)

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