% fortune -ae paul murphy

My job hunt

This is a special guest blog by Roger Ramjet - to kick off a week of job related discussions.

Murph has asked me to write about my experiences in my job search. Before I do that, I would like to explain why a 40-something would leave a “cake” job at the second-largest (non-oil) corporation in the world. In a word – stagnation. There were times in my career that I was given nothing to do – for years at a time. This does bad things for your feeling of self-worth and puts fear into making a change – I'm so rusty, who would want ME? The final straw(s) were 1) eliminating my position – one that saved them no extra money, as I just had less to do and the work had to be done anyway 2) my manager telling me to stop working on my file-system virtualization and autonomic ideas (the cumulation of my UNIX existence! - and something I'm looking to pursue as an open source community project) and of course 3) being hauled down to HR to be told not to blog on ZDnet anymore. I could have stayed – no one was laid off – but I was sick and tired of being marginalized. Someone must want me!

I had an interview the day after I left. I flew into Chicago and thought I did a whale of a job. Nope – it was just my first rejection. That was March 1st, and I had no more interviews until this month (May). In the meantime, I learned quite a lot about how the job biz works.

I posted my resume on the job boards – in my case I chose Dice, Monster and Careerbuilder. There are many, many more but most recruiters use these three. I also used their sites to search for jobs and to apply online. One of the first things I found out was that most companies want you to use THEIR job application website software. This means that you need to create an account and fill in all of the information that they require. I noticed that there are only a few software packages out there (BrassRing), but they are independent sites – so you have to fill out the blanks for both Company A and Company B – when they both use the same software. Say what you want about XML (jorwell), but it would REALLY be nice to do this crap JUST once.

Now comes the hordes of headhunters, descending on your email account like a cloud of locusts. They use pattern-matching software and “mine” your resume for keywords. Mention “java” just once, and they send you hundreds of java programming positions. In fact, 80% of the jobs I see posted and that come across my email, are for java/j2ee positions. I would say that Project Manager jobs come in at a distant second.

Partially in response to what the market wants, I am seriously considering taking the PMI training/cert class and/or the ITIL framework training/test. I have also loaded Solaris 10 on my Netra t 1405 so I can work with Sun's java admin tools - particularly the The Sun Identity management stuff.

I have also taken advantage of my former employer's purchase of career management training. I go to classes on how to write effective resumes and interviewing techniques for instance. They stress how important “networking” is – most people get new jobs through their personal contacts. I stay in touch with my work buddies – doing lunches mostly, and I also attend gatherings at the CM company. There are many former peers there, and one of them DID get me an interview this week. I guess this stuff works!

A typical day of mine starts off with the sleeping in until 9:00 AM. I then get up and check my email for messages. After I eat breakfast, I start searching for jobs (usually on Dice) and answering a few recruiter phone calls. Sometimes I take in a class or seminar at the CM company. Things are slow in the morning, but pick up in the afternoon when the headhunters start their war dancing and the sound of their drums (phone ringing) fill the air. Many of them speak in obscure dialects to which I say “Email me!” - which must be a universal language as most of them respond to that.

If it wasn't for the evening entertainment, I would be very bored! I speak of course of the many playoff games on TV that my Detroit teams have provided. The Red Wings went to the conference finals (and beat Murph's Calgary Flames along the way), and my Pistons did too, and of course the Tigers have a great team this year. I just can't imagine living in a part of the country that didn't have such good sports teams – what do THEY do, play golf?

It would be hard for me to leave Detroit and move to another part of the country. My family and my friends all live here. But the economic engine that is powering the country has missed Detroit. Our unemployment is worst in the nation – double the national average. Somehow people got it in their heads that buying Toyotas and Hondas doesn't hurt anybody. In the meantime, Michigan is turning into Mississippi. In the end it will be different, because people need water – and Michigan has more than anywhere else in the world (or is it Ontario?).

So here I sit waiting, training and waiting some more. I get a few interviews, my health and feelings are good, and I still have money in the bank. My whole life is about to be changed forever – for the better I hope – and the best part of it is I can still do my blogging!

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.