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Is it Really that hard to find work?

I see all these posts about people who have been out of work for months and months at a time, some even thinking about taking working for outrageously low salaries. 
  I'm by no means a phenomenal developer, I have some solid experience, i'd like to think i'm mildly talented, but I know I have a long way to go before i'm senior level.  Yet,  if I lost my current job, (which pays me well even for part time) I could think of a number of places where I could do work for around 20 an hour.  Is it really that hard to find programming jobs for even 15-20 an hour?  What is the problem??? 

Vincent Marquez
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

See this article from last week's _New York Times Magazine_:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/13/magazine/13UNEMPLOYED.html

Here's an excerpt:

==============

Jeff [Einstein] is not your typical Gap salesman.

When his shift ends, we relocate to a nearby bar, and Jeff tells me the story of landing the job.  The Gap was gearing up for the Christmas onslaught near the end of last year, and he was summoned for a group interview. "There were about 20 people in the room," Jeff recalls, "and each one of us had to introduce ourselves and talk about our most recent position.  There was a cashier from McDonald's, a woman who had worked at Baby Gap, a ticket collector from Loews, a gift wrapper from Barnes & Noble.  Then it came to me.  I said I used to be an executive vice president and a director of interactive marketing for Rapp Digital, a digital media company with 300 employees and a P. and L. of $40 million."

==============

Myself, for the past four months, I've been working at the local Humane Society, where I feed the dogs and clean their kennels.  I now have health insurance, though, and I consider myself lucky in some respects.

Alex Chernavsky
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I think it totally depends on where you live / work.

What area are you speaking about Vincent Marquez?

I am in Long Island, New York and employed (for now)....

KenB
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

The problem is a job versus a career.  While 15 - $20/hours sounds good, it realizes $25, 000 - 33,000/ year.  Not bad money.

This was entry level salary in 1986.  With 15 years experience a salary of may expect 62k - 95k per year for a larger firm.    These jobs are harder to find.  Add to this the outrageous salaries being made in the 90s and you may begin to see the problem. 

A person living in suburban Ohio, may find 33k a good living.  A person in California would need two roommates.

Now that the market has flipped, what is happening is many businesses are "low balling" developers.  Sadly, they are being short sighted.  A developer who is "low balled" will leave as soon as someone offers more.  Myself, I prefer to higher far fewer, with much better experience.  However, from my client experience I am the exception. 

Add to this is that many baby boomer's are now in their 40s and 50s.  While not "age discrimination", it is close.  I see companies pass on someone who is 45, with 20 years experience because they would rather hire two guys at and counting it as a 25% cost savings.  The 45 year old with a house, car, and family is not able to cost compete with the 22 year old.  They cannot take a job for 30k without giving up something significant. 

These jobs take far longer to find for anyone and are far less likely to be given to the 40+ crowd.

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I think that part of the differences between various people's experiences it has to do with contacts, networking, etc. Or the quality thereof.

I'm extrapolating from the original poster's comment that he had several places where he could get work to mean that he knew serveral people that he could ask for work. Not that he simply knew of 20 companies in his area that had job listings on Monster.

My point is that if there is a job to be had at a company, the person who has a contact in the company has about a zillion times better chance to get that job than someone who is just one of the hundreds of resumes on the HR person's desk.

So maybe these very different experiences in the job market have a lot to do with how well you networked when you had a job.

Bill Tomlinson
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I lost my first job out of college after around 16 months, however I did get an excellent written reference from my manager, and thought it would take maximum 3-6 monhs to find work.I was making around 50K, so I was expecting around the same. I have given 7 interviews since then, 6 face to face, and a couple on the phone.On each one of them I was given a written technical test, either in C or Java, but none of these companies ever got back after trying and trying to contact them I gave up.They usually interviewed 7-8 people, so I guess they found a more qualified candidate.Finally after around 7 months, was hired after a grueling 3 hour technical interview, and accepted the position.In between I had tried to use my network, friends who were employed all to no availe, I had also applied for grad school, and am still thinking of this option.

anon
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

> While not "age discrimination", it is close.  I see companies pass on someone who is 45, with 20 years experience because they would rather hire two guys at and counting it as a 25% cost savings.  The 45 year old with a house, car, and family is not able to cost compete with the 22 year old. 

How the hell is this age discrimination?  If an 45 year old offered to sell you a $10 hamburger, and a 22 year old offered to sell you a $5 hamburger, and you chose to buy from the 22 year old, would you be guilty of age discrimination?  It makes me SICK to see people scapegoat everything but their own damn selves for their lot in life.  Get real.

Bella
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I'm guessing you're closer to 22 than 45?  :)

Spaghetti Rustler
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Its a different hamburger.

The 22 year olds burger is just that, a burger.  If asked to produce a fillet mignon or recommend a wine with it you'd get a slack jawed look and a 'do you want fries with that'.

The 45 years old, should you need it, would be able to tell you the fat content, the fibre, the cholesterol, the name of the man who supplied the beef as well as whether raw mince with an egg yolk on it could be considered food and what wine would work with it.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Bella, you fscking moron.

He said:  "While not 'age discrimination', it is close"

'Close' does not mean 'is'.

        
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

>>> I see companies pass on someone who is 45, with 20 years experience because they would rather hire two guys at and counting it as a 25% cost savings.  The 45 year old with a house, car, and family is not able to cost compete with the 22 year old.

You are right, you cannot cost compete, so you have to provide better value... So your $10 burger will be 4 times better and tastier that the $5 burger.  In addition it will assure you of not puking or getting mad cow decease...

You need to show that you can do a better job than the 2 other guys put together.... 

Sometimes companies get what they pay for too...

findworkishard....
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I live in Southern California, where it seems tech work is plentiful, if you do a little digging.  My original post was not directed at the experienced developer who really is worth 80k, but only getting offers for 40k, but more towards the people who are saying that they've been unemployed for 4 years and are contemplating working at mcDonalds. (i'm exagerating, but not by much).  One of the great things about tech work, is you can get a very low paying job doing development, and as your billing rate increases (which the company will want, so they can make more money) you can negotiate huge raises.  I've heard and seen people get enormous raises because they worked exceptionally hard and learned a lot of new skills as they worked. 

Vincent Marquez
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

You're making the mistake of assuming the more experienced guy who is asking for twice as much is twice as valuable.

I think in the general case this is simply not true.

Value is almost completely age independent. Talent counts for more than experience from what I've seen in this industry.

The only reason why older guys get higher paychecks is that by that time they're expected to have proven their talented.

But if your company is paying for experience, it's wasting its time.

And the horse you rode in on
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Vincent wrote, "One of the great things about tech work, is you can get a very low paying job doing development, and as your billing rate increases (which the company will want, so they can make more money) you can negotiate huge raises."

You are talking about how a typical consulting and perhaps contracting career STARTS out rather than someone who has been working in this industry for several years. Irregardless of their size, consulting firms are notorious for spitting up and chewing out employees. Clients are slowing starting to wise up to the fact that many of these firms bring little value to the table.
 
"Value is almost completely age independent. Talent counts for more than experience from what I've seen in this industry."

Depends on the work being done and what you mean by talent. It is easier than you think to put someone who has "talent" into the wrong work environment and make them look useless.

One Programmer's Opinion
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Of the 50 or so programmers I keep in touch with, I don't think even ONE is unemployed.  Of course, that is not a random cross section.  I don't just keep in personal contact with just any co-worker, so there is some natural selection going on here, I am sure.  But, I have a feeling if you are unemployed, it may be difficult to find a job without personal contacts.  I'm sure most people know some IT friend who needs a job.  Yes, I would say 90%+ of positions are now being filled via personal references.  Just a guess.

Bella
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Well surely part of being good at software development is the extent to which one can overcome a crappy work environment and improve it.

Although admittedly yes, productivity for the same person can vary wildly between jobs.

And the horse you rode in on
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Bella,

Of course you don't keep in touch with any unemployed software developers - because we all know that any unemployed software developers must absolutely suck, which conflicts with your need to be l33t.

n@rCI551$T
Thursday, April 17, 2003

l33t ?

Bella
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Dude or "hacker" speak for "elite".  133t h4x0r 3p10itz = Elite Hacker Exploits

Some Dude
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Regarding the NY Times article and the depressed state these once big-shot executives are in, it shocks me that most didn't have the common sense of living within their means and saving for such possible circumstances.  Additionaly it's their pride that's keeping them unemployed for so long.  And I believe that anyone who makes 100K++ a year and still has a challenge living modestly; is in need of serious financial education.  No matter where you live. And if  you still can't afford living there, then its not your place to be in. Smart people can have difficulty finding certain jobs just like anyone else.  Upperclass white-collar jobs (CTO, CFO, etc.) are exploited to a small circle of connections and once you're out of that group, its harder to get back in. Its not easy, but anything worth while never is.  And so sometimes you *must* fight to survive, swallow your pride, and start over with lower salary jobs.  Its better then being a bum.  And you will still be respected.  Those that don't respect you on their high horse, well then, their a waste of your time to begin with.

I'd be interested to know what life is like from the perspective on those higher in the food chain, like the CEO's or presidents/company owners. When they let go high caliber people like those in the NY Times article, what happens next?  Do they say, "oh well. It was fun while it lasted. I'll just cash out now and too bad for the rest of the suckers." ??  Or are they even worse off?
hmmm...

sedwo
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Sedwo - "And if  you still can't afford living there, then its not your place to be in."

I agree with what you said except for the statement quoted above. Sometimes people feel that $$$ & career are secondary to where they live.

I for one have many many friends & family where I live. Moving to another area just to be better off is really not that important to me. I'd rather change career than move somewhere else and stay in the same field. (And believe me, I love programming)

KenB
Thursday, April 17, 2003

The CEOs get multimillion dollar severance packages.  Or if they stayed with a dying company until the end, they would have cashed in on stock options, bonuses or huge forgiven loans before the company died (like Enron).

Either way, they have nothing to cry about when they are out of a job.

T. Norman
Thursday, April 17, 2003

KenB,
That's fair.  I just assumed that someone making $300K a year should be able to afford to live anywhere they want.  But I could be wrong.  Afterall, it is "my" own assumption.

T.Norman,
Its great to be the CEO then.  I still sometimes wonder what goes through their minds after such a collapse.  I wonder if they even remember any of the people that helped them get there.  Now there's an episode for 20/20.

sedwo
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Sedwo -

1) I just assumed that someone making $300K a year should be able to afford to live anywhere they want.

2) I wonder if they even remember any of the people that helped them get there.

1) In a case like that I totally agree with you. Anyone who makes 300,000 should be able to live below there means and be fine in the future.

2) That's a great point! I doubt they care enough or they probably see themselves as incredible that they could use or out-fox people to get their $$$$$$$. Only satisfying point is that eventually there will be divine justice.

KenB
Thursday, April 17, 2003

The problem with those people who make $200K+ is that they spend as if they will always earn at that level for the rest of their life, whereas people like me and you would save as if it is the last year we'll earn so much.  It's probably because the same hubris that got them to that level prevents them from realizing that they are just as vulnerable to harsh economic realities as the rest of us.

T. Norman
Thursday, April 17, 2003

I don't see people blowing 200k a year, but I know PLENTY of young single guys making over 65 a year (who are in their early 20's) who havent' saved a dime.  Rewind back 3 years, and theres a chance all of us would have been grossly overpaid, making 100k plus, and lets faceit, guys in their early 20's just arn't responsible enough to hanlde that much money.  Now, if theres an Exec making a heft six figures and has a family, and he still blows all his money, he deserves what he gets.

Vincent Marquez
Thursday, April 17, 2003

There are surprisingly many people making over $200K who are just an inch away from bankruptcy.  They look fine from the outside, with their fancy cars and big houses and European vacations ... but one layoff and it all crumbles down.

T. Norman
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman and his colleagues have done some fairly rigorous research on what actually makes people happy.  Turns out that income has very little effect, beyond a certain minimum base level.

For more information, see Seligman's recent book, _Authentic Happiness_:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0743222970/

The book is quite good and is not anything like those saccharine "Chicken Soup"-type books.

Alex Chernavsky
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Since we are recommending books here, there is one that is very pertinent to the issue T. Normam raised, about people with high incomes but no net wealth.

The book is "The Millionaire Next Store"

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0671015206

To tell you the truth, there are some chapters that are a bit difficult to plough through, but the one fact stated in the book that has stayed in my mind is that self-made millionaires are 'good on defense as well as on offence' (i.e. they not only earn a lot of money, they live frugal lifestyles). This is not about lottery winners or rock/sports/Hollywood stars, but rather regular folks who build up a net worth of a few million over their working life.

Harlequin
Friday, April 18, 2003

Also note that, as one becomes more wealthy, one's expectations become much higher.

Let's look at Alice, a singe woman making $40K a year who lives in my area.  She worries mostly about the $600-per-month rent on her apartment, and her $200-per-month car payment.  Every month, other than groceries, she buys a couple of DVDs or PS2 games, and she goes out to eat at a nice restaurant about once a week.

Now let's look at Allen, who makes $200K a year.  He has a $5,000-per-month mortgage, and pays $1,000 a month on payments for his two luxury cars.  He buys every DVD that he wants when it comes out, so he spends at least $100 at the movie store every time he goes there.  He also eats out at a nice restaurant pretty much every day; that's about $50 a day, or $1,000 a month.  Of course, he has to keep up his membership at the golf club, which costs about $100 a month.  And he needs really nice clothes, which are expensive themselves.  I think you see where I'm going.

In other words, when you're in a higher income bracket, certain things are expected of you -- a luxury car, a tailored business suit, etc. -- which can drive you just as deep into debt as somebody who makes less money but doesn't have all that stuff.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, April 18, 2003

The best advice (I am not sure where I read this/ or someone told me) - was to live a notch below what you earn.

What is meant is that If you are working on your first job, live like you were living in college, if you get a better job, live like how you would have lived on your first job...

Brent,
You are absolutely correct - people have a certain image of having a golf clu membership, et al ... - they think they have *arrived* - where they have actually gone is pretty much into debt..

Prakash S
Friday, April 18, 2003

Brent, you bring up some excellent points, but what I find so hard to understand is, that if you take your net income of 200k, do the math, you can STILL afford a VERY nice house, a luxury car, and plenty of spending money.  Even if someone only saves most of their money the first year of their 200k job, they should still have more then enough stashed away in case of emergencies.

Vincent Marquez
Friday, April 18, 2003

Vincent, I think what Brent was implying was that many high-fliers are compulsive about creating financial obligations right up to their ability to pay. So is everyone else in our economy, but presumably very smart people fall prey to their own ego and lack of self control, too. $200K may seem like a lot of money (it sure is) but it's still probably 'only' around $10-$11K/mo net after taxes. A $5000 mortgage payment, commensurate payments on several cars, and discretionary spending habits of several thousand a month, could easily burn up almost every bit of that and perhaps 'only' leave a thousand or two a month  for savings.

And suppose this hypothetical big spender did manage to save a couple of thousand a month. And they were used to spending every bit of a $11K income stream. So they would burn through that nest egg (more like a nest pea, in relative terms) VERY quickly, so quickly that it wouldn't matter at all if they had saved anything.

Perhaps that's the hidden logic behind conspicuous consumption: if you're that deeply in the hole, it's going to take a miracle to pull back out of it, so why not spend your ass off...

Bored Bystander
Friday, April 18, 2003

Oh, yeah, another thing about conspicuous consumption.

I know for a fact that there is a 'substance abuser' type personality - the arrogant, completely full of shit type always full of themselves - who are readily prone to devouring whatever they earn and for whom no excess is enough to show everyone they've "made it".

Example: I knew a guy back in the early 90's who consulted on the side and who probably grossed > $100K/yr. He was always out of money. Compulsive spending on cars, hobbies, etc.  I was grossing perhaps $45K/yr and at the time had about $70K savings. He had zip.

When he bought a new house, he came to *me* to loan him $3000 on a short term basis in order to cover his house closing (which he did pay back.) I, at a "poverty level" relative to this guy, acting the part of a bank.

And he had been through a bankruptcy before this; and later went bankrupt in the late 90's.

Bored Bystander
Friday, April 18, 2003

I haven't read "The Millionaire Next Door", but I'm intrigued by the theories of options-trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  He argues that wealth is often the result of sheer, dumb luck.

See:

http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_04_29_a_blowingup.htm

Alex Chernavsky
Friday, April 18, 2003

There is usually a lot of work involved in acquiring major wealth, but the wealthy still tend to underestimate the effect of factors which are beyond their control, while the poor tends to overestimate them.

T. Norman
Friday, April 18, 2003

Alex,

that is a fantastic article, going to add Taleb to my wishlist. Thanks.

Prakash S
Saturday, April 19, 2003

BTW:

Saw an interesting ad in the Journal this week, this is what it said:

"It's not what you earn, It's what you keep"

- Sounds Apt.

Prakash S
Saturday, April 19, 2003

There is a tendency when you are laid off to actually spend MORE than when you were working.

The reason is simply that you have more time to spend. The result is that people earning big salaries and those earning small salaries often end up broke at the same time after layoff.

Luck enters into it. If you get fired just before you buy the big house then you're in luck; if you get fired just after then it'a a bum rap.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, April 19, 2003

The thing that amazes me about all of this is that you set up appointments with Gen. Mgr's to hopefully get started the next morning on a job and you go in to meet with him and find out the guy left for the day...
What the hell is going on... It seems that this country is going to hell when it comes to finding any sort of job. 
What is a person suppose to do?  I'm down to my last buck and I'm being threatened by child support and my land lady... who constantly badgers me for my rent that I can't seem to pull out of my ass. 
America doesn't give a damn...
Maybe we should all move to Europe...
I want to go to back to school this fall for my LPN courses and attempt to get into the medical field.  Once I accomplish this... I want to go for my RN degree.  Its just being able to survive the rap until I can get that going...
Where's the money at?  I  don't care about the beef... I can't even afford that right now... Just give me a damn job that pays...
I have lots of good health, energy, and am extrememly dependable and responsible...

Ron Decker
Thursday, February 19, 2004

IMHO there are some points that will come to fruition in the near future. The job market is going to get VERY hard to enter. Good jobs will be difficult to get, and even low-level jobs will be hard to come by, even if you are educated, have expierence, or have certs. It will be based on luck, and who you know, thus basically eliminating the phrase "land of oppurtunity". Lots of oppurtunities will be temp and contract as well. People will start to live for the "now". Home ownership, savings, retirements, large pruchases, loans, will all fall. As a result rents and home prices will come into line. This will also create an issue when all these peoeple with no savings need to retire. Health insurance will be available only to the rich and/or lucky. This will create a problem as people run to the hospital for care, and not pay. Hospitals will bankrupt, and costs will have to come down, or goverment will have to step in a nationalize healthcare. If not there will be alot of sick or dying people in the streets. Homelessness will rise, causing a host of other problems. As you can see its pretty grim, but with the economy slowing, the CPI getting higher, the job creation slowing, and the exporting of america growing there isnt much to hope for. The underlying structure of this country and its economy, as well as the world, has changed. Every other nation in this world has seen economic collapse, it looks like its our turn. My bet advice, live WELL below your means, dont make any large purchases in the near future, try to prepare to enter another career if you need to, SERIOUSLY think about having childrem, and learn to live with a little. The economy is too unstable to be stable right now.

R. Dofhjia
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

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