Sunday, December 03, 2006

2am Thanks the Drunken-Sober Family for Career Advice

This post is to thank both the Drunken Housewife and her Sober Husband for the career advice they offered in comments on a prior posting.

Sober (can I call you by your first name?) brings up a very good point about presenting one's self as someone who is flexible and capable of learning new things. In my cover letters, I try to emphasize that aspect of myself.

In my current job search and that of mid-to-late 2005, I have run into a problem, and it is probably something endemic to the region. When employers and recruiting services post openings, they tend to enumerate very specific skills. For example, they want someone with 3 years of expert knowldege of J2EE, or someone who knows the integration APIs of some proprietary product. If you don't match their checklist, they aren't going to give you the time of day.

Even the so-called startups in this town can get very fixated on skill specialization. In September, I got approached by a recruiter for a local startup that has gotten a lot of press lately. He bragged about how they wanted only the best of the best, and you had to pass a programming language test in order to get to the interview.

I turned down that lead because it would have meant that my family would see very little of me had I gotten the job, but a couple weeks later, I wound up taking the test anyway. My employer established a relationship with the startup for help with various issues that were plaguging them. My employer offered me up as someone who might be able to help them with C++ code review. In short, I couldn't review the code unless I passed their pre-qualifying exam.

The test was a set of multiple choice questions on paper. They were mostly snippets of toy code samples that were intended to test your knowledge of less obvious aspects of the language. Personally, if you wrote code like that in a commercial environment, you were setting yourself up for failure because it would be hard to maintain.

I think my problem is that I live in a metropolitan area not known for entrepreneuerial software companies. Around here, most of the coding is in-house stuff built on highly Microsoft centric technologies. My current workplace is one of the few exceptions, which made them very attractive at the time.

I used to be very rooted in the Midwest. As recently as a couple years ago, there is no way you could have enticed me to move away. But I have gone through some changes over the past couple of years and have started to question a lot of my preferences.

Being employed for so long by an unusually creative high tech company over in east central Illinois helped shield me from the reality that this area is an otherwise uninspired place.

I signed on with my current employer because I had this idea that I might be able to help create a culture of innovation within my home state. I just don't see that happening given the way things are headed. Worst case scenario, the company runs out of money sometime into 2007. At best, we get bought out by a bigger fish.

Although, if the bigger fish is the one I think might buy us out, I might be singing Dionne Warwick, if I'm packaged as part of the deal. That would definitely put me in a more promising job market, but I don't think the Mrs. would want to move. Maybe that's not such a bad thing after all?
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