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My 6 month adventure with (shudder) unemployment

This is an update on the original article, written in 2010.

Remember those days when people kept saying “Cobol is dead?” We just laughed, and kept on coding. Well, laugh no more. Cobol is not dead–there are still thousands of programmers out there. It’s just finding a new mainframe position after losing a job that’s dead. I’ve been a contractor for over 30 years, and I’ve never lost any sleep over getting the next contract. Until I finished my contract with Geico, 6 months ago.

Reality sinks in

At first, I saw lots of job postings in Dice, etc., even though I would apply and never hear anything back.  Then, about three months ago, even those meager tidbits dried up completely. I could bore you with more details, but let me get to the point of this article–here’s what I found worked, and what didn’t work.

Here’s the meat

  1. Answering job postings on Dice.com. Not one ever panned out, all 70+ responses. 99% of the time, I never heard anything back.
  2. Networking through friends. I have gotten jobs this way in the past, but no luck this time. I do recommend this route though. It works, and I’ve gotten my last three out of four positions through friends.
  3. Professional organizations, like AITP. This will definitely help you keep the pulse of local activity, but I’ve never gotten a job this way. It will keep you out of trouble, and you’ll find others to commiserate with, though.
  4. Networking through recruiters. Bingo. This is how I got this latest gig.
  5. Tweak your resume. This is much more important than it used to be. In times past, all you did was load up your resume with your skills, and sit back and wait for the phone to ring. No more. Recruiters are flooded with resumes, and they’re just not going to sit down and read every word. Here’s what I think makes sense:
  • Make sure you have a section for Experience Highlights, near the top of your resume. Have about 8 bullets that demonstrate things you’re really proud of. With metrics, if possible.
  • For every position you apply for, omit the other bullets, and include just the ones that fit that position. For instance, if you’re going for a SAS position, include the bullet that shows how you created a SAS report that showed a slowdown in system response time, and that led the DBA’s to eliminate the problem, saving the company $4,000 in processing time per day. Delete the bullet that shows Easytrieve experience.
  • Write a cover letter for every position you apply for, showing two columns, one column for the requirements, and the other column showing how your skill set  and experience matches up with each listed requirement.

You want to pay me what?

I also toyed with going into another career, starting my own business, retiring early, etc. But, unfortunately, programming is what I’m really good at, and everything else would have been a force fit. If you’ve had a secret desire to be a cook, this is the time to go for it.

There’s no place like home, there’s no place…

I was also fortunate that I was able to work out of town (even out of state). I don’t have young kids, or a sick spouse to worry about. My wife is very supportive, and while this isn’t fun, the name of the game right now is buy time until the economy gets better.

Let me know what works for you and we’ll compare notes, maybe help each other get through the next few years. It can be done–have faith.

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