‘You’re thinking, what did the successful candidate have that I didn’t have?’
My company was a wobbly survivor of the first dotcom crash finally done in by the downturn in 2009. Phone company policies made our million dollar a month phone bill difficult to read and difficult to dispute the charges. Maybe 10 per cent of the total charge we were paying was for service that had been cancelled for up to a year. We couldn’t audit bills fast enough to keep us afloat.
Being out of work is corrosive to your self-image. Any thoughtful person will inevitably ask, am I out of work just because of bad luck, or is it something about me? You can’t fix bad luck, but maybe you can fix an issue about yourself, so you must focus on these issues. But thinking about ways you might be inadequate makes you feel inadequate.
You apply to posted jobs, and you don’t get called in, or you get a screening interview and maybe even an in-house but you don’t get hired. You’re thinking, what did the successful candidate have that I didn’t have? And there’s no way to find out. Especially in high-tech, hiring managers hide behind blind ads, third-party web sites, and robot resume readers. There’s no way to do any of the contact-building things that all the “pros” advice you to do. So you armchair quarterback the hiring process, trying to suss out any little thing you did that wasn’t perfect. Too much focus on failure makes you feel like a failure.
I think being old was more of an issue for me. Social media employers want employees who are hip, young, and above all else inexpensive. I had to build a Facebook page, or get rejected for not being “with it.” High tech employers in general focus on this year’s whizzy technology, and don’t value the very real benefits of experience. I think it’s because young first-level managers doing the hiring don’t have so much experience, so they don’t realize what it’s worth.
Jobless benefits allowed me to choose between eating or having a roof. They are too much to completely laugh off, but not enough to be helpful. They max out at an income level maybe 1/10th my former salary. What a sad and pathetic joke. I spent down my life savings, accumulated over 30 years of saving more than I spent. Because of this completely atypical frugality, I managed to stay in my home.
For two years nothing. Then suddenly this spring, hiring picked up dramatically. I started to be in the hiring process at multiple employers concurrently. This spring was the best hiring season ever. It tapered off a bit toward summer, but it’s still going great guns in high tech.
In the end I was very lucky. I found a perfect job. Probably my best job ever. All the different things I did over a 30 year career added up to make me the perfect candidate for this one job. I think that if I hadn’t gotten this job, I would have eventually gotten another, but it would have taken about six more months while I reeducated myself to succeed in the coding tests that are popular this year for software engineers.
It doesn’t matter what skills you have, and it doesn’t matter what skills the employers say they want. What matters is having the skills that get you through the interview process. Focus like a laser on the interview process. If you’re successful there, you’ll get an offer, and after that, it’s up to the employer to retrain you.
Don’t take anything for granted. I had a job for six months, but couldn’t keep it because I was too complacent. I thought I could do what I used to do. But I had to compete with people willing to work 60 hour weeks.
[We should] make it more difficult to offshore work, or to hire foreign workers at a discount.
Make H1b visas completely portable, so employers will have to offer a market clearing wage to foreign workers once they have a visa. This will remove the incentive to hire in foreigners, because they will be as expensive as local workers. Do not offer tax incentives like the R&D tax credit for work done offshore.
Make it easier for entrepeneurs to start small businesses, especially those over 40. It may be too much to ask for employers to hire older workers, but these people are still productive. If they can start businesses, they will become an engine of job creation both for older and younger workers.
Kurt G., via email