Job Quest

Caution: This post might be a bit of a downer. But, since Google Analytics says almost no one reads my web site anyway, that's probably okay.

So, a few months ago it became apparent that the company I work for was planning on outsourcing the only enjoyable aspects of my job: technical problem solving. They want to pay an outside company to do all this for me, and I can focus more time on thinking up ways I can get people to give us money with rather untenable justification.

Even though the revenue from advertising has payed for a significant chunk of my education, pays my mortgage, and feeds my family, I never fully believed in it. I mean, I understand the practicality of it all; I just don't consider it a dignified and worthwhile profession. In the age of the Internet, the issue of reach is moot. We solved that problem with a global computer network. Marketing is an entirely different issue, and certainly has merit when sold to those who lack those skills.

Not to take too far of a tangent, the media companies for which I have worked, sadly, bank more on their reach and either ignore marketing or just leave it in the hands of the not-always-talented clients.

Back to my main point: I don't want a job where all I do is come up with "products" (yes, those are ironic quotes) to sell to businesses. I don't want to come home to my family each day feeling like I spent the day lying to people.

If someone ever forced me to summarize my personality, ambitions, passions, and soul into two words, they would be: problem solver. I was put on this planet to solve problems. Honestly, the types of problems I need to be solving are far less important than the fact that I'm just creating solutions to things that are presently annoying, tedious, difficult, expensive, and/or impossible.

Software development provided a very tight feedback loop. I was able to test a solution to a problem nearly as quickly as I could think of it. It was an enjoyable hobby, and enough in demand that a few businesses employed me to write software while I was trying to put myself through college. I've always found developing a software solution to be so much fun, that I could never imagine a career in such a field. It's like being paid to go hiking! Unpossible!

After I graduated, I was seduced into a job writing software on my own terms. I could pick the servers, the operating systems, the development practices, and the documentation standards. I could translate my own requirements. I could run my own QA procedures. I could set the security policies. More than all of that, I could keep my young family in the same city as my immediate family and my in-laws. Surely, such an arrangement was too good to be true. It was.

After three years of building a fledgling business in a competitive environment (successfully, some would say), the parent company pulled the plug. The higher-ups of the parent company believe that decisions about technology shouldn't be the domain of engineers, or any of the people that actually have to do the work. People with business backgrounds are, apparently, far better suited to make such decisions. To be fair, I still don't believe anyone there knows the difference between an electrical engineer and a guy who is trained to drive trains (not that there's anything wrong with that profession).

So, they're going to pay an outside company to do all the problem solving for them. In the end, they'll have to pay this company (and other vendors) quite a bit more money to solve the same problems I was able to accomplish on my salary + $60/month in server co-location.

So hey, it's time to get a new job in web development! Right? Wrong. This isn't the first time my job was outsourced. The first time it happened, the whole department was downsized. The second time it happened, they offered me the opportunity to stick around doing data entry 40 hours/week. My current employer has offered me the chance to keep my job as some kind of digital-products-manager-con-artist-training-consultant-guy. I'm not going to make my family's future dependent on such a fickle industry. No matter how much I enjoy it.

Well, that's fine with me. I spent 10 years in engineering school learning electrical engineering, digital electronics, computer science, software engineering, and I was always the best student in my technical communications courses. I figure I'll just get my life back on track where it should have been three years ago.

At this point, I've spent the last three months searching for a new job. I wasn't as focused my first 5 or 6 weeks. Now, I spend at least two hours every day searching job postings and applying to jobs. Occasionally, I spend the whole day trolling job boards.

My background seems to be relatively diverse (jack of all trades, master of none), so I apply to a very wide range of engineering jobs. I've also decided I'm willing move to any corner of the country, and just about anywhere on the planet (that isn't outright unhealthy or unsafe for my family). I'd prefer to live somewhere that speaks English, German, or Spanish, but this old dog has plenty of memory available for new languages.

I want to find an entry-level job that assumes I only have academic experience. The shocking reality is that no one wants to hire entry-level engineers that haven't been in school for three years. That means all the HR-candidate-filter-bots see my 0 years of professional experience combined with a graduation date in 2007, and immediately delete my resume. The one-and-only contact I've been able to finagle from a company (after graciously receiving a referral from someone inside the company) all but laughed at my experience, or lack thereof.

So, here's where I stand now:

I have about $20k left in student loans, a job that will soon be dissolving into an oppressive and undignified occupation, a mortgage, a second child due in December, and nothing to show for 10 years of hard work at a school I couldn't afford on my own.

I'm not saying I'm unwilling to swallow my pride and mop floors if that means I can keep my family healthy and safe. But, I, unwittingly, placed my family's future in the hands of a small media company that, at one point, valued integrity above the bottom line.

Based on what I knew three years ago, my decision was the best choice for my family. If I had known it would effectively delete my academic experience from my resume, things would have been vastly different.

I write this now in the hopes that someone else will read it and learn from my mistake before it is too late.

No matter what challenges are presented, a new graduate in a technical discipline has a time limit on finding a job within their field of expertise. Even being improperly employed for 12 months disqualifies you for entry-level jobs from a number of companies (e.g. Hewlett Packard). Being improperly employed for two years disqualifies you for most other entry-level jobs with established companies (e.g. Texas Instruments). Without the ability to secure an entry-level position, you're disqualified from any job that requires more than 0 years of professional experience.