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What would you do?

Before I ask my question, I’ll give some background information. I’ve spent the last 6 years developing a database application for a small company in a very small vertical. I’m not just the only developer; I’m the only technical person in the company (excluding one UNIX support tech).

The upside is that I’ve gained experience in just about every aspect of software production from design to deployment. The downside is I’m lonely as hell and at this point would love a team full of sadists, managed by someone who constantly confuses Peopleware with PeopleSoft!

As I sit here today, I’m burnt-out and looking to do something new. What I can’t seem to find is employment! At this point a rejection letter would be an improvement; at least it would be recognition that someone received my resume. :-)

This leaves me thinking about contract work. The concept of it scares the crap out of me however. I have no idea how I would get started or how if I would ever find enough work to keep afloat.

So what would you guys recommend? Should I continue pray that Monster.com will someday have someone post a job for me, or should I jump off the cliff and hope I make enough to keep the house?

Marc
Thursday, October 24, 2002

stay there and be grateful that you have a job and not on the welfare waiting list.

a practical dude
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Talk to someone who has been out of work for awhile, burned through any and all savings, and about to lose their house (shouldn't be too hard to find these days).  If that doesn't provide at least a little motiviation to head to work, then go find that cliff.  :)

Brian
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Trust me, I hear you. I know how it sounds like the rich crying poor. But after 93 hours last week, I was informed that I should really consider not taking lunch in order to get more done…. I kid you not.

Marc
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Marc:

What is your background and what area of the country are you in?

I'm looking for a superstar with C++ and database experience to work on my team to complete our .NET/Windows Forms/C#/SQL Server project in Southern NH.

Dave
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Boy, your company has itself painted into a corner if they don't have a contingency plan for their solo tech guy.  They may be in trouble even if they do have a plan.

tk
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Before you just "quit" at least make an attempt to turn the job into something more bearable.

Be more forceful with your hours etc.

If they don't like it the end result is the same anyhow.

Alberto
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Yes, suggest some new small-scale apps in something you want to work on, but make a strong business case for doing it, b/c as the only resource, you willl not be paid to play.  The best place to train is at your existing place.  but, if you're the only guy, you may be too busy supporting old stuff to ever do new stuff.  You may need to do it on your own time, and try to merge it into your day hours, once its more developed and you have better justification for working on it.  Good luck

Bella
Thursday, October 24, 2002

"What I can’t seem to find is employment! At this point a rejection letter would be an improvement; at least it would be recognition that someone received my resume. :-)"

What else are you doing besides posting your resume to online job boards?  How many years have you been working in this industry?  Do you have any friends who work in the IT industry that you stay in touch with?

"This leaves me thinking about contract work. The concept of it scares the crap out of me however. I have no idea how I would get started or how if I would ever find enough work to keep afloat.  So what would you guys recommend?"

Work to keep afloat?  This statement suggest to me that you are interesting in entrepreneural consulting (own business).

Here are two things you can do if you are interesting in learning more about computer consulting. 

* Buy some books.
* Visit some computer contracting boards.

Janet Ruhl has written several excellent books on this subject and she also hosts a BBS at  http://pub2.ezboard.com/bcomputerconsultants

Note: you can even purchase some of her books in PDF format from her website at http://www.realrates.com

Open IT Forum (another contracting board)
http://pub21.ezboard.com/bopenitforum

"Should I continue pray that Monster.com will someday have someone post a job for me, or should I jump off the cliff ..."

Maybe you should try visiting these three depressing web sites.  They might change your perspective on how terrible your current employment situation is.

Net Slaves
http://www.netslaves.com

Google Search alt.computer.consultants
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&group=alt.computer.consultants

http://www.fuckedcompany.com

Charles Kiley
Thursday, October 24, 2002

A small step to achieve what you want might include going to your employers and negotiating a contract with them.  The advantages to them are that it will be cheaper in the long run and they won't fall off a cliff because you left.

Its possible that as a self employed person that it will give you a slightly higher disposable income, though don't count on it.

You'll have startup costs, hardware, software and so on.  You'll have more say over the amount of hours you do and what you're prepared to do. (Though that quickly turns into not being able to say no in case you don't get to say yes in the future).

It gives you some space to find other clients.

Simon P. Lucy
Friday, October 25, 2002

When times are bad the contractors and consultants are the first to get dropped.  My employer just lost 4 contract positions this week. Times are still bad, the recession still hasn't bottomed out.  Maybe things will start looking up in a few months.  The end of the year is a bad time for looking for contract work.  At least wait till the new year.

In the meantime, take a look at this web site: http://www.icca.org

mackinac
Friday, October 25, 2002

It sounds like a bad situation. But you do have lots of power, here. You have skills and experience at that company that no one else *on the planet* has. Make sure they know that. They may kid themselves that they can hire someone else, but they do so at their own peril.

Companies will suck the life out of you if you let them. If you give them more than 40 hours, they'll take it. If you give them your lunch hours, they'll take it. You are the one who has to claim your non-work time. Sure, when you're there, you give 100% and do your best job etc. But they do not own you.  If you want to give more, make sure YOU WANT to GIVE more. Don't count on their appreciation - it's great if it happens, but usually, it doesn't.

Also, don't let fear of the unknown (unemployment) beat you down to submission. Unemployment happens anyway. Plan for it if you can (do you have a nest egg? 2-3 months of expenses saved up???), start planning now if you haven't.

In the last year, I got laid off, took a new job, and then quit because the new job sucked. Independent contracting now. Having a financial cushion makes me (somewhat) less nervous about the whole thing.

Oh, and if you want to refinance your house, do it BEFORE you leave the job. No one wants to talk to you after you're self-employed or in a new job for 1 month. Trust me on this.

Lauren B.
Friday, October 25, 2002

What would I do? Stop working stupid hours. Refuse to work my lunch hour to which I am legally entitled. Refuse to cancel ANYTHING I do out of work for anything work related. Only work weekends for overtime pay or days off in leiu.

Mr Jack
Friday, October 25, 2002

It sounds like there are two issues here:  (1) Marc is unhappy at his job, and (2) Marc wants another job.  Let's address these two separately.

1.  I agree with others that Marc should scale back his hours.  I'll note that this doesn't mean being nasty; it means sitting down with one's boss and explaining, "I can't work these long hours any more, for my health's sake and my sanity's sake.  I have to cut back to forty hours."  Observe their reaction.  Be sympathetic to their business requirements, but be firm.  Business concerns should not take precedence over human lives.  (I have related advice in point 2.)

Marc might also want to look at other ways to make his work life more enjoyable.

2.  From what I understand, contract work is based mostly on having contacts with folks who want contract work.  I'd keep an eye out for folks who might need contract work before stepping forward.

Alternatively, eBay's new professional services board allows independent contractors to bid on various projects.

Some more vigorous legwork might be a good idea, too.  Look at the local paper for other positions, and interview for them.  Even if you don't get the job, I find it's a huge psychological boost to be officially pounding the pavement.  It gives me confidence when I approach my boss, because I know that I've got backup plans.  You can even keep that in reserves, in case your boss has trouble with your insistence on saner hours.  You can say, "Well, you know, this is really difficult for me.  It's forcing me to look around at other positions now."

(And if that causes them to replace you, then you're working for jerks, and nothing will improve your job.)

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, October 25, 2002

Learn how to hire H1Bs working for you and market them.

Well, just kidding... this is what I will be doing to get some more cash.

If you can't beat them, get them work for you :-)

Check this out www.tcs.com and cry.

Snake oil
Friday, October 25, 2002


I don't have the URLs hand, but there are LOTS of job boards for small contracting gigs - writing CGI scripts, web development, data manipulation, etc.

Here's one for Perl:

http://jobs.perl.org/search?offsite=1

If I were you, i'd build up my skillset by doing odd jobs, until either you were confident that you didn't need a "big" job, or you landed a "big" telecommuting job, or your skills set was big enough to land you a "9-to-5 drive-to" job.

regards,

Matt H.
Friday, October 25, 2002

Marc, from your description, you sound as if you're the key person at that company. In that situation, you should be a partner.

Forget all this talk about contracting and second job; you should see an accountant to work out details about becoming a partner, and then have a formal meeting at your work where you tell them how vital you are, and that you think the most productive way for the company to move forward is to give you a share of management and profits.

If they do this, you will be able to start doing new things.

Must be a manager
Friday, October 25, 2002

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