in reply to Perl Job Marketability Question - very important for me!

Get used to being laid-off fairly frequently in this business (and for enduring long periods between contracts).   It’s too-bad of course that your employer could not distinguish between “the application that you worked-on for so many years” and the business-value of “you,” but ... c’est la guerre.   There are lots of people out there who perceive computer programming to be “indirect labor,” not “professional services,” and they throw out a lot of babies with the bathwater.   (The fastest way to lose a lot of money in computer software is to try to save a little of it.)   What happened has nothing to do with you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.   It was somebody else’s very short-sighted decision.   It will happen repeatedly.

I personally know more than a dozen programming languages and switch easily between, say, Perl (yay!), Python, Ruby, PHP (ick ...), VB/Dot-Net (puke ...), and so on.   So can you.   Your original-post, if crafted into the accepted résumé format that is required by all the HR-software systems that are used these days, is a strong sales pitch, as soon as you expunge your own self-doubts from it.   :-)

Never assume that you don’t have business-value that is highly prized.   The key is, as always, “selling it.”   But computer folks are notoriously-poor salesmen.   Here are four specific points I would offer you:

  1. There is no such thing as a “Perl job.”   Perl is a tool of the trade; nothing more or less.   You are not hired to “write Perl” any more than a tradesman is hired to “use a wrench.”   Perl is a powerful tool that you know how to use very well, but what you must sell is what you did using it ... expressing that “what” in terms of business value.   In other words, what the CA eHealth application does for the business, and what unique value-added your combination of business skills added to it.   (Don’t talk to me about framing and plumbing ... even though that is technically what you “did.”   Tell me how you built a better house, made that house more valuable, and avoided business risks associated with that house.)   With 15 years of experience, you could learn any other language-tool overnight.   The unique thing that you have, which others do not have, is years of business experience.
  2. Get rid of the self-doubts and don’t let them show through.   You are a salesman, and the one and only thing that matters is the Fuller Brush ... not the guy/gal who’s holding it.   (As Alfred Hitchcock once said to Ingrid Bergman, “Fake it, Ingrid.”)   Craft your entire marketing message to sell the Brush, not you.   Nobody else cares about your butterflies, and you’re not selling butterflies, either.
  3. All resumes are munched by HR software ... parsed ... and so they must follow an easily parseable format.   If the company’s web-site offers you a chance to “log in” and “create a profile,” always do so.   HR software that accepts unidentified submissions “over the transom” throws them into a great big bucket that no one looks at.
  4. Don’t waste much time with Monster, Indeed, CyberCoders or any of the other sites which only give you a too-easy path to a middleman.   That is, to another salesman with a sale of his own, who really doesn’t care which “unit” gets sold.   He does not, but you do.   Go directly to companies and apply (online) directly to them.   (If this company web-site links to an outside site, presume that the company has a representation-contract with that company, and proceed.)   Go for volume.   This is, to some extent, a numbers game.   You can with practice put out 50 résumés in one day, and do it every day, until you turn-down 15 offers and pick the one you want ... just because you out-sold the less nimble competition.   You can use the same document, but hand-craft each cover letter.   Canvass all the local companies in your local area, even if they are not advertising a job.   Even if they don’t use Perl, they need experience.

    • Note:   I would toss LinkedIn into the same trash-bucket, unless you seriously think that someone who went to high school with you thirty years ago, or that however-briefly worked with you since that time, is today in a credible economic position to offer you a job ... having the “MAP = Money, Authority, and Pain” with which to do so.   The future of the LNKD stock-symbol is, for some weird reason, doing better than MWW (Monster WorldWide), but neither of these has actual bearing on you getting a job.
    • Always remember that, while there is very-considerable money to be made from the fact that “at any particular point in time, lots of people are looking for jobs,” none of that revenue is in any way tied to the success (or, the absence thereof ...) of any one of those “millions of poor schlebs” actually getting one.   All you need to do is to persuade enough hopeful schlebs to register with your system, that you can persuade enough hopeful recruiter-schlebs to pay about ~$10,000 (USD) per year to tap into your “mother-lode of qualified resumes.” . . .   And then, with that source of revenue assured, to Go Public.™   The rest is multi-million dollar history, for the very few.
    • Even if you can’t solve Unemployment, you sure-the-hell can sell it.   :-/

  • Comment on Re: Perl Job Marketability Question - very important for me!

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Re^2: Perl Job Marketability Question - very important for me!
by Your Mother (Archbishop) on Jun 20, 2014 at 02:12 UTC
    Get used to being laid-off fairly frequently in this business … It will happen repeatedly.
    In 15 years of this business I have not been laid off or fired and I’ve held something like 12 job titles and contracts. I was invited to re-up at the end of most contracts. Skilled Perl devs are in high demand. If they are willing to travel or take low-market prices for telecommute, they can walk into a job within a week.
    I personally know more than a dozen programming languages and switch easily between…
    Your signal to noise, code to op-ed, ratio on this site is worse than any monk I can think of. If it were in fact easy, one would expect to see code solutions constantly.
    The key is, as always, “selling it.”
    This is true especially when you have no value to bring. I don’t sell myself at all excepting the proper networking tools like LinkedIn and github. I’ve had 10 cold contacts from recruiters and hiring managers this year.
    There is no such thing as a “Perl job.”
    My job is 90% Perl code. That makes it a Perl job whether or not I have to edit .php or .sql or rebuild a .war or .swf now and then. It would take someone with a Python or Ruby specialty months to get up to my speed and I’m no Schwartz. A Java hacker would be lost for a year.
    Get rid of the self-doubts…
    Self-doubt is your friend.
    Because you can't tell a great hacker except by working with him, hackers themselves can't tell how good they are. This is true to a degree in most fields. I've found that people who are great at something are not so much convinced of their own greatness as mystified at why everyone else seems so incompetent.
    Great Hackers
    As Alfred Hitchcock once said, I don’t know if this is a matter for wardrobe or hairdressing.
    All resumes are munched by HR software…
    Whether they are or not is a function of the company and whose hand the résumé crosses. Some of your other advice in this thread would gut a CV of the kind of keywords HR software does use to filter keepers.
    Don’t waste much time with Monster … Go for volume … can with practice put out 50 résumés in one day…
    This all but guarantees cover letters with typos, oversights, and obvious inanities or just plain lack of focus and care. Might get past HR but it’s getting roundfiled by the dev manager unless she’s also a careless jackass whose approach is better suited to assembling phones piece-rate than writing good code.
    I would toss LinkedIn into the same trash-bucket…
    I have received ten cold contacts from recruiters in the last 6 months. TEN. At least five came from LinkedIn.
    Though LinkedIn is probably not a terribly valuable resource for those who don’t have a decent list of valuable connections and good recommendations from co-workers past and present.
    …none of that revenue is in any way tied to the success…
    Job posters pay to post jobs and pro recruiters pay to play. No success means the capital dries up.

      “Mom,” I am most-delighted that your experiences to-date have been so dramatically different from mine.   As tempting as it may be for me to say, “Just yew wait, ’enry ’iggins,” despite such obvious and explicit provocations, I shall but graciously decline, and move on.

      One of the great illusions in this business, which I have witnessed in its birthing over ... uhh ... the last 15 35 years or so ... is that “the ability to Write Source-Code™ (in Perl or whatever-have-you ...)” singularly Makes “You (Yes, You!! ... Yes, the Whole World is About You!!) A Rock Star.™”  

      Well, pardon me for having a point-of-view that dates back to a full 10(!) years before the Perl programming-language was invented, but “I am not exactly impressed by this fond notion.”   I am, to be sure, very grateful that you have found gainful employment either by your willingness to relocate anywhere on-a-dime (as for me, I own 17 acres of land in one particular place in America .. with no mortgage ....), or to take remote-work for chump change whatever fees such work may command.  Truly, I am glad for you.   But I do not share your point-of-view, nor do I think that you should decry others who do not share it.   Perhaps indeed the next fifteen years of your life will demonstrate that “knowledge of Perl” is truly all that you will ever need to Live Long And Prosper™.   However, please excuse me for requesting a fifteen-year delay on the final decision of that particular point.   I’ve been there.   You haven’t.   Yet.

      Meanwhile, my advice to the OP will stand:   that a software-professional’s business value to his employer/client is not tied to proficiency in any particular programming-language tool.   That one’s business-value to any particular employer is not linked to “the particular programming-languages and/or methodologies of the present day,” but rather to “the business, itself.”   That you therefore should not seek to plot your future career-course based upon any present-day proficiency in any particular programming language, but rather that you should be fully prepared to “discard” such proficiencies at a trice ... knowing, of course, that it is the big business-picture that actually matters, and that none of this actually has anything to do with languages.   That you should be at-a-trice willing to don an entirely new set of pantaloons, knowing that your true value to your employer is not linked to your attire of the moment ... but that it might well have very-much to do with your willingness to change pants.

      The OP, after all, has just painfully witnessed this first-hand.   His employer decided to supplant an existing “legacy” Perl system, over which the OP had labored for many years, with something “–er.”   The OP did not see this coming, because his entire perception of the business problem was 100% tied to the Perl implementation of its solution, of which he was the (thought to be) priceless keeper.   Unfortunately, the decision-makers did not share this opinion.   As part of the decision to supersede the system, they irrevocably chose to jettison the OP as a now-extraneous artifact of that “legacy” business past, because they did not perceive the OP’s business value apart from that of the now-obsolete system of which he was the technical custodian.   Fifteen years of (perceived to be ...) “Perl-specific” employment history was perceived to be valueless in comparison to, say, “three years of experience with <<dot-Net | Python | Ruby | Haskell | Java>>.”   Yes, even though you have been supporting our business using this “obsolete” tool called Perl for the past fifteen years, we will cheerfully replace you with someone who “has been working with (tah, DAAHH!!) dot-NET” ... for less than three.   (Plus, he costs $15 an hour less than you do.)

      It does not matter what you think of such business decisions, as you have no control over them.   It does not matter whether you consider such decisions to be stupid.   It does not matter if they are.

      To get very-specific on this point ... in my earliest days, the “OMG you’ve got to have this” language was ... PL/1.   The conventional wisdom of that day was that “knowledge of PL/1 was Your Golden Ticket.™”   Obviously, this did not turn out to be the case.   “But, why?”   Because the world of business did not pause to suit IBM’s purposes ... any more than the same business world paused to suit Larry Wall’s.   Your best-bet, therefore, is to broaden your technical perspective across as many “silos” as possible, instead of comforting yourself within any particular one of them.   Just sayin’ ...

      No, “Mom,” and with very(!) earnest respect to you personally, I am not going to “rise to your occasion” on this one, and I don’t mind saying that you’ll have to wait another fifteen years to find out why not.

        Dude, I've been around longer than you (40 years) and you have no reason to be disrespecting Your Mother. Your Mother has demonstrated knowledge that, at times, makes me feel like a mere mortal and I'm quite sure I charge a lot more than either of you.

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