Thursday July 3, 2003

The Color of My Parachute

Everything about unemployment is wonderful... except for the lack of income.
So, being one of many unemployed in the Tech industry, I've been trying to find a job. I've been trying since January 2002 (when I still had a contract but the miserable economy forced me down to 15 hours/week).I've joined a few mailing lists - if you want a good one, try The Wednesday Group Job (don't ask me why it's called that; I don't know). I've participated in the discussions on other technical lists (not job lists but job-related discussion; we're all searching for work). I'm "using my contacts" (what contacts I have). And I thought, "Why not try one of those infamous books again?". So I got a copy of the 2003 edition of What Color Is Your Parachute.

Unfortunately, Parachute lived up to my expectations. It's got some good advice; it's got a lot of cute cartoons. But I'm not the target audience. You see, I have no interest in participating in a "life-changing job-hunt". I already know what I like to do. I know what my skills are; I know what my values are; I've gone through the "should try something else" periods. I've even tried a few variations on a theme: QA, Technical Writing, Project Management. I have a graduate degree in Microbiology (so I know how I feel about research and bench science). I did my (one week) stint in retail many years ago.

I had my first "What shall I do when I grow up?" crisis in my 3rd year of college when I realized that I did not want to be a Biochemist (and changed my major to Microbiology); I did not want to stay for 5 years (and dropped the CS double major); I did not want to be a microbiologist (I just wanted to get the BS degree and get out). I had my second crisis when I realized in the second week of grad school that Forensic Science is both Very Interesting and also Very Messy and that I couldn't handle the messy parts; so there went that idea and I left that program. I felt bad telling my advisor/dept head I wanted to leave, but he gave me advice I have held to this day:

If you don't love what you're doing, you should be doing what you love.
I had my third crisis and my epiphany in my second Grad School program - a Microbiology program I joined knowing full well I did not want to be a Microbiologist - that was the program I could easily get into. I know that seems weird, but it made sense at the time). Soon after, I met my to-be-spouse, I was introduced to Unix, and I realized just how much I love working with computers (when I don't have to punch cards to do it :-). I found a sympathetic (and powerful) advisor; I got a Masters Degree ... in Science with a computing-oriented thesis and I left bench-lab-science behind forever.

So, I know what I want to do with my life. I don't want to explore my "alternatives" and "options" (most of the "possible job choices" that fall out of those "quizzes" in the job books make my eyes cross.) I don't need to figure out my values. I'm quite clear (and content) about what I like, what I'm good at, what I dislike, what makes me stressed and unhappy.

My only "problem" is how do I find someone to pay me to do what I know I want to do. How do I get my resume past the HR dragon moat and onto the hiring manager's desk? How do I convince the hiring manager that I'm the best choice he can make... even when there are 5 or 20 or 50 other highly-qualified candidates trying to convince him that they are the best choice. I get great advice: "Focus on the fit; if you're the best person for the job you'll get the job" but that advice doesn't work as well today when my competition is as qualified and experienced (and hungry) as I am.

So here I am, floating around under my maroon parachute with the teal accents (maybe, these days, it would be better to have a hang glider?), still trying to get a job I can like for at least 6 months (the apparent mean time between re-orgs). If you know anyone who needs a Perl scripter / CGI scripter / technical documentation writer/reviewer, check out my web site. If not, wish me better luck.

The Color of My Parachute ( in category Special Interests ) - posted at Thu, 03 Jul, 22:52 Pacific | «e»