Tuesday, 18 September 2001
John R. Morris
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Dr. Linux Job, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dotbomb
Dr Strangelove had it all figured out back in the sixties. Today more and more people are facing that unemployed nihilism. John Morris looked the beast in the face and did not blink. He sends us his top ten list for surviving the current economy.
Like many others, I was laid off from my job at a dot-com, after being subjected to long hours, foolish management, and empty promises. Now, I was never a true believer that my former employer would get rich giving (yes, giving) money away on the Internet, but it was a job, it paid pretty darn well, and allowed me to use Linux, Perl and other favorites of mine, which more traditional businesses hadn't discovered yet, for the most part.
After three or so months of pathetic (did you know there is a cap on unemployment?) income, bill collectors and sleepless nights, I landed a great job working with Unix & Linux at the Center for Advanced Computer Research at Caltech. Along the way, I discovered some facts from my successes and failures, and those of my friends, which may be of use to you.
Whether it is dating or job hunting, there is a learning curve till you get to the acceptable level of expertise. Below are ten tips I've found that helped me, and may help you:
- Get letters of recommendation and current contact info from all of your references, and former employers. Get those locked down as soon as possible, because people tend to move around a lot in this economy, and your ex-boss will forget you pretty quickly.
- Spend some time re-writing your resume, and create different versions for different skill-sets/job titles. I recommend putting it into html or pdf. Most serious Unix or Linux people hate getting MS-Word documents or other formats that they may not have the software for.
- Keep busy. Now is the time to learn SQL, or play with LDAP. IF you are into Linux, chances are good you have at least one Linux PC at home. Use it.
Don't put off learning or long-term projects with the excuse "I'll be back to work soon, so why start something I can't finish? ", I have friends who did just that and are still un-employed, and wished they had used their time more productively.
- Once you've got a interview, remember that you are selling them on not just your technical skills, but your people skills as well. Leave the BOFH stuff at home.
- It's a different market, don't over price yourself. If they give a range, try to come in on the low side. It's harder to get a job than it is to get a raise after you have shown them you are a great employee.
- Avoid head-hunters. Not only are they a blight on the IT employment scene, but they will waste your time and money. What you want is real companies with a real need to hire someone like you.
- Be flexible. Now is not the time to over specialize. One week they may want database experience, the next week Sendmail. Be ready to retask, re-write your resume and do so quickly.
- Look for a job, it won't look for you. Research prospective employers prior to an interview. Try and see how you can be of unique benefit to them and fit in well with their goals and infrastructure.
- Nothing turns off people like trying to sell them something. A job interview is not the best forum for Linux Advocacy. After you get the job, you will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate how useful Linux can be.
- Now is not the time to place blame. You have to keep a positive attitude and move on. Otherwise, you'll make your worst unemployment fears come true. This goes double for those tempting sessions with friends about how bad things are. Avoid that as much as possible. There are jobs out there, just harder to get than you might be used.
The failure of the dot-coms was inevitable, and is actually a good thing. A boom based on nothing is valueless, and will always eventually come crashing down. Just think how bad it would be if had continued unabated for five more years, and then crashed. IT jobs are becoming more necessary, not less.
Well, I hope that is helpful, and I wish you good luck.