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Job Market Fall '02 issues

by monkMAC (Novice)
on Aug 31, 2002 at 23:40 UTC ( #194398=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

As raconteur Jello Biafra put it, it's time to talk about the elephant in the living room.
I've been told by my recent interviewees they've got between 250 and 350 resumes for any given job. As a perl programmer going for my first paying job, this is a little scary. Is anyone else out there nervous? Maybe we can help each other.
Is anyone else starving? Who's really surviving or thriving? And how did you do it? And what's up with those clueless HR people? Let's chat and trade links like

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Job Market Fall '02 issues
by Maclir (Curate) on Sep 01, 2002 at 13:41 UTC
    I start work on tuesday after 15 months of unsuccessfully looking for a job in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. I am moving tomorrow to Jackson, state capital of Mississippi. Within two weeks of job hunting in Jackson I had an interview, and was virtually offered the job the afternoon of the interview.

    "What?", you ask. "Are you smoking crack Maclir? Why could you not get a got in an metropolitan area of over 5 million people, with a big concentration of IT and Telecom companies, yet you go to some pokey little hick state with less than 250,000 people in the capital area."

    Let me give more details.

    First rule: Give yourself the maximum advantage. In the D/FW area, experts say over 60,000 IT and Telecom jobs have disappeared since January 2001. Many of those displaced IT people are still in the area looking for jobs. Your resume is one in a thousand - literally. Even with all of my experience, and for the jobs I was applying for, many years of directly relevant experience, the chance of anyone reading my resume was remote. Mississippi, as well as being a small state (population wise) has suffered from a "brain drain" for many years. There are not very many IT managers with 20+ years of experience wanting to move and work there.

    Second Rule: Go with what you know best. My job is with a state government agency, and much of my work experience is with government agencies. At the interview, the IT director asked - in a friendly manner - "Why should you get the job?" My response was "I have performed this exact role before, in similar organisations, and I know how to do it right." This is not the time to seek a major change in career direction.

    Third Rule: Network. No, not the stuff made of cables carrying TCP/IP packets. This means build and exploit your personal contacts type of networking. In major areas there are likely several networking organisation. Experts say 90% of jobs are found through networking, and this can bypass the HR area to the hiring person. Remember, though - HR serves a valid purpose. If I was looking for a position, I would not have the time nor inclination to go through 1,000+ resumes, looking for the best candidate. I would prefer to read 10 or 15 resumes, all of which met the basic requirements for the position, and select the best from that. Sure, I may not even see the prefect candidate for the job - but I will see several "good enough" candidates.

    Fourth Rule: Job Boards. I am not sure of the benefit of internet sites like - these guarantee an organisation being flooded wiht thousands of resumes. Look at For government jobs, check out the main state government site, and hunt around for job information. Don't rule out your local county / city goverment either.

    Fifth Rule: Be flexible and be open to relocation (at your expense these days). If there are no jobs where you are, be prepared to look elsewhere. Do you have family in another city or State? Visit Uncle Bob and Auntie Ruth and see what is going on in their part of the country. What about some of your college mates from other cities? If your personal situation rules out moving, then you may be SOL.

    This is what I have found - remember, your experience may differ (I have the additional disadvantage of being a "furringer" in the US at a time when many people are saying "we should not be employing these people when Americans are out of work", despite being a permanent resident. Look at how many organisations are requiring US citizenship these days). Of course, experiences in other parts of the country, and people with different skill sets may be more in demand - but in looking for a job, your aim is to give yourself every advantage over all the other job seekers.

      I generally concur with what you said. I had an excellent interview in the New Haven, CT area-far from where I had hoped to settle just outside the NYC area, and in my previous career of corporate audio & video. Now I wouldn't mind taking that job at all-right now, I'm looking forward to getting out of retail-but I had my hopes to falling into a perl guru apprenticeship this summer, and I felt I had worked hard and earned it. I at least expected to do a good job of knocking on doors; I expected doors to be there to knock on! And I would prefer not to leave the area where all my friends are, where my whole life has been for 9 years. (Of course, the decision may be made for me; my family, who have offered me housing while I went back to school, are debating relocating to Boston.) Other interviewers tell me they get about 250 to 350 resumes for any ONE given job. The fact that I got an interview, with the hiring company (can't count headhunters; if you can walk they see you) is very encouraging.

      It is important to stay hungry, which involves doing things that are not fun-working for poor wages and far from the city lights, for example. And I almost get a kick out of being hungry like that, because it will give me an advantage. I never took anything for granted in my life, and I never assumed even during the digital gold rush, that it would be easy. So it helps when the fight gets harder than I think I can handle. And if my tone is negative, it's only me venting.
      BTW, I love hearing back from my contractor agents from the big headhunter agencies, whose only job seems to be to break our spirit. A typical conversation:
      Them: So have you had any interviews?
      Me: Well, I had a good interview for a company that does audio/visual. But I'm developing applications at home.
      Them: Well, take the job if they offer it to you. We aren't going to have anything for you in the near future.
      Not to get our hopes up or anything....
Re: Job Market Fall '02 issues
by rinceWind (Monsignor) on Sep 01, 2002 at 10:41 UTC
    monkMAC, There's a nice ambiguity in your subject title. Being a Brit, I use the word Autumn to describe the months September to November, and I read Job Market Fall like Stock Market Fall. It is interesting to note that historically, most stock market crashes have happened in the fall. Anyway I digress...

    As other posters have said, PM does not advertise jobs or candidates; you are best using a place like

    In terms of discussion ABOUT jobs, there has been plenty on this forum. I would recommend browsing through the annals of the Perl meditations using Super Search.

    I can sympathise with your plight, as I am coaching my elder brother in the art of CV writing. He was made redundant from an IT position at Reuters after working for the company for 15 years.

    Practical advice:

    If you need a job, now is not the time to be too choosy. Why not take a non-Perl job? You may find that you get opportunities to use Perl on the job later.

    I have a confession to make. Despite my reputation on Perlmonks, I am not hired as a Perl programmer. In both sites I have worked since I joined PM in February, I did get to use perl to help with some aspect of the job, but this was not the primary reason for my being there.

    I wish you all the best with your future career.

    Good luck with the interviews!


Re: Job Market Fall '02 issues
by Elgon (Curate) on Sep 01, 2002 at 10:27 UTC

    Hi monkMAC,

    I do indeed know the feeling: I just graduated (Master's in Chemistry) and am looking for a six-month contract job (I have a permanent job which starts in March 2003.) This is proving to be an immensely hard and trying process. Indeed I have resorted to the hideously unethical practice of applying for permanent jobs and not telling that I will be leaving in six months (something which does not sit well with my sense of ethics, but I am having little choice. OTOH, if I wasn't cutting the mustard or times were hared ,they'd get rid of me in a second so you pays your money and you takes your choice.)

    It has reached the point that I have essentially decided that I am not going to find a job in IT for the next half year and have started applying for lab jobs as well. OK, I am not the world's best or most experienced programmer but I have over six months experience in internships and am comfortable with HTML, MySQL, Perl, PHP, VB, VBScript and JavaScript plus I am teaching myself C/C++ at the moment (slowly as I can't afford to buy the manuals at £30 a time so online tutorials are having to do.) All this on windows and *NIX platforms (although they all seem to want ASP monkeys over here at the moment.)

    The market sucks badly at the moment and we allegedl have a 'skills shortage' in the UK, which increasingly means to me that they just want to pay programmers less.

    "Rule #17 of Travel: Never try and score dope off Hassidic Jews while under the impression that they are Rastafarians."
           - Pete McCarthy, McCarthy's Bar

Re: Job Market Fall '02 issues
by tbone1 (Monsignor) on Sep 03, 2002 at 13:03 UTC
    Yes, things are tougher now than they were back in '99, but I don't think they are worse than when I got out of grad school in '92. Back then, I had a master's degree in astrophysics and had to work cutting lumber for $6 an hour. I did that for six months, then I got a job doing data entry, which led to ...

    Some good advice has already been given, but I would like to add my own observations. You see, I bought my first house back in January and got laid off two weeks later. That's why I will echo the idea of keeping yourself flexible and willing to move. That house anchored me down and it really crimped my ability to find work. I finally found a job, my current one, in June.

    Along the way, I applied at several places, particularly those where I knew someone and had a potential inside track. Keep those contacts fresh. This did not land me my particular job, but it gave me many leads (and leads to leads) that I would otherwise not have had. It also was the big reason I got my NASA job way back when.

    Also, be willing to work. I know, everyone regards themselves as hard-working, but don't be too haughty or 'too good' to do a job. One of the things that impressed my current boss during our first interview was that I said I was willing to learn and willing to work. I cited the above lumberjack job while having a Master's degree. It wasn't the only thing that got me the job, but it gave me an advantage.

    With this being your first job, I will suggest you practice an interview or two with a friend of the family or acquaintance who may be involved in computing or engineering or HR. Even if they cannot offer you a position, they can offer advice that is priceless.

    Also, appearance is important. Yes, we can bemoan this, but it cannot be escaped. Make sure you practice hygiene well. Wear business dress to the interview, even if you know the place does not have that dress code. If nothing else, it conveys a "better safe than sorry" message that people like. Make sure your hair is cut and any facial hair is trimmed. A bad first impression can be impossible to overcome.

    Most importantly, have a positive attitude. This is not easy for me, but I have been told by our HR person that, even though I was not the most qualified technically, my ability and willingness to learn, my work ethic, and my "bright, positive personality" sold them on me. (If my ex-fiance' could hear that ...) Even if you don't get the job, be sure to contact them and thank them for their time. This will leave a good impression, and if they suddenly need another person, your name will be more likely to pop into their collective head.

    Really, a lot of things are common sense. However, as Abe Martin once said "Ther hain't nuthin' as uncommon as common sense." Get advice from people who are already working and ask them to be open and critical. You may not like it, but unemployment is worse. Believe me.

    As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

Re: Job Market Fall '02 issues
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Sep 04, 2002 at 12:45 UTC
    Good luck, you need it. You're going for a niche job in a field that's in a steep decline, without experience. You should consider to present yourself as broader based than just "Perl programmer".


      That's another thing, is I'm not just a perl programmer! I develop in c, java and (visual) basic; I program actionScript in Flash and am an animator/Flash developer; and there's the multimedia talents I've talked about here. There's plenty I can do, but in interviews I've actually had headhunters get angry with me if I demonstrate too much diversity in my skills. They can't pigeonhole me when I do that, of course; besides, since they just screen resumes for keywords and don't even know what we do in IT, me talking about my range and bringing up related subsets of info gets them confused and frustrated. Which is bad.
      Don't mind my vent....
Re: Job Market Fall '02 issues
by Anonymous Monk on Sep 01, 2002 at 02:18 UTC
    Let's not.

    There have been plenty of past discussions about whether job postings are desired here, and the consensus has consistently been "No."

      If you don't want to trade jobs links you could trade advice on how to get in the door as an entry-level programmer. I am personally looking for a job as a Perl programmer. I have had many jobs with other languages that I don't find as fun. I just finished some ABAP work and there is usually not more than one way to do things with ABAP. I want to get into doing Perl work because I enjoy the community. I am here on Saturday night trying to expand that knowledge base with the camel to my left...

      I don't necessarily need links, but rather advice. Such as how to start, where to start and really what to expect (salary wise, work wise, responsibility wise, etc…).


      Perhaps you didn't read the part that said: Let's chat and trade links like ? I don't see a problem with the node. Gack. Perhaps I didn't...never mind. I read "at" :)

      /me slinks out the back door.

Re: Job Market Fall '02 issues
by /dev/trash (Curate) on Sep 02, 2002 at 02:57 UTC
    You're getting interviews? I've sent out close to 250 resumes my self and I have had 2 interviews. The first I was told that "we were wquite unprepared for the amount of appliations we received." They had 2 weeks of interviews lined up. You just can't compete in that setup. The second, was a part time phone support for Win98. Again, a lot of people applied. I just got a letter from a place that I applied for, part time bank teller. In 5 business days they had 76 people apply. So it's not even really IT. It's everything.

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