Author Topic: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?  (Read 1178 times)

jeromedawg

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Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« on: February 24, 2021, 06:07:21 PM »
Hey all,

Just trying to gather some ideas on what the next thing is I should be doing in anticipation of job loss potentially as soon as sometime this year (I frankly have no idea and feel burnt out).
We have enough to straight out FIRE (but it would likely need to be lean or barista FIRE) if I wanted to but I think I want or need to do *something* otherwise I'll be bored out of my mind in retirement.
The problem is figuring out what that could be...

The other factor with all this is the bigger decision about where we intend to live - currently we're in South OC in SoCal. Housing is insane down here with no signs of reprieve. We moved to this area originally to get our kids into a Mandarin immersion program. We would love to buy a house here but the market is insane. I'm afraid that if I lose my job before this happens we won't be able to buy and will be renting in a HCOL. Other option is to pick-up and move to another area that's MCOL or LCOL that still offers a Mandarin immersion program (I've been keeping an eye on Vancouver, WA for these reasons).

Regardless, with the goal of buying a home, I'm thinking we'll definitely want to be considering barista or lean FIRE (or a combination of both) at a minimum, if I'm not working a full time job. And I'm thinking this would mean having a number of side-hustles or some form of supplemental income.

Anyway, enough of the background of our situation.
My professional/working background is in QA Engineering (around 12 years and mostly manual/functional testing with some automation experience) and Information Security Engineering (around 5 years at a more junior/intermediate level). The current and last positions I've been in, I have been doing QA manual testing but with an emphasis or context of infosec (security related products or components of an app), so it's kind of a blend of both worlds. The past 5 years more QA and less infosec though. I don't know if I want to keep doing any of this stuff though and interviewing for new positions is grueling and just not enjoyable for me, nor am I really motivated. With my current job I'm full time WFH (since end of 2015) and have been loving every moment of it and being able to watch the kids grow up. Salary has been above average but my company has been in hot water soon after starting and I think the culmination of all that is now trickling down in the form of targeted layoffs as well as them promoting attrition.

Some things I've considered alternatively but just haven't jumped into:
- real estate investing
- starting a blog, Youtube, website etc with a focus on fishing (probably my main hobby right now)
- drop-shipping
- becoming an Ebay/Amazon reseller (I've sold/resold a number of things on both platforms but very low scale and haven't done it lately)

A couple very minor side-hustles I just picked up or am pursuing or trying to get into:
- UserTesting.com - I do find myself mostly 'enjoying' providing this kind of feedback
- Selling Tradelines (everything's closed off right now so I can't quite do this yet but will jump on it when the time comes)

What I enjoy:
- I like working with my hands (have done several very minor DIY at home repairs and improvement at our old place and also minor DIY repairs on our cars)
- Being outside - fishing but I love hiking and camping even though I don't regularly do either.

I think I'm just trying to come up with a 'contingency plan' for that day I get laid off, but if it turns into something I actually really enjoy doing I could always quit before that. I would just want to avoid getting into a position where I get laid off and have no plan and am panicked about what the next thing is I need to do.

We have two kids (5 and 3) and my wife is SAHM but has been contemplating similarly going back to part-time work until both kids are full time in school. I started a thread for her here: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/entrepreneurship/part-timeflex-virtual-work-virtual-assistant-tutor-accounting-etc/

Any suggestions on figuring out what I ought to consider next? 
« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 06:28:57 PM by jeromedawg »

Laserjet3051

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2021, 06:17:26 PM »
I lived in south OC and due to housing prices was an eternal renter struggling to figure out how i could ever buy there. I was spinning my gears so to speak for years. Found a good job in a very LCOL area, immediately bought a SFH, and am on a major life upswing. The house I bought last year here would cost MINIMUM $2M back in 92677. Just saying that life can change radically when one's cost of living/expenses falls through the floor. Give it some serious thought. Sure, I'm not surfing Salt Creek or biking up Santiago Peak every week, but I still love it here!

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2021, 06:25:23 PM »
I lived in south OC and due to housing prices was an eternal renter struggling to figure out how i could ever buy there. I was spinning my gears so to speak for years. Found a good job in a very LCOL area, immediately bought a SFH, and am on a major life upswing. The house I bought last year here would cost MINIMUM $2M back in 92677. Just saying that life can change radically when one's cost of living/expenses falls through the floor. Give it some serious thought. Sure, I'm not surfing Salt Creek or biking up Santiago Peak every week, but I still love it here!

Thanks for the feedback! If you don't mind me asking, where did you relocate to?

I love the fact that we're 5 minutes driving distance from the lake and 20-30 minutes from the harbor and most beaches (of course the surf fishing in this area hasn't been great for me lately LOL). Oh and the schools for our kids are great too....LOL hahahaa. But yea it's just nuts with the housing prices around here. Vancouver is appealing because they seem to have a pretty intensive immersion program (from K-12) which is pretty rare in most other areas across the nation.

On another note: I have low confidence in my job skills and abilities. Everything these days involves automation or some advanced knowledge and hands-on experience as far as security is concerned. I suck at automation (I can do it but it's often tedious and takes a long time) and I haven't had real hands-on security experience for a long time... even when I have I also suck at pen-testing, etc. I think I'm better on formulating SQL queries and analyzing/reviewing data and things along those lines.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 10:14:22 PM by jeromedawg »

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2021, 06:37:04 PM »
If you've considered moving outside of the US, then a mandarin immersion program in a very LCOL area would be extremely easy to find ;-)

Seriously, though, I know what you are saying. Culture is really important when raising children.

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2021, 06:49:22 PM »
If you've considered moving outside of the US, then a mandarin immersion program in a very LCOL area would be extremely easy to find ;-)

Seriously, though, I know what you are saying. Culture is really important when raising children.

LOL, like Taiwan? That has crossed my mind but I think that's too big of a thought to digest at the moment...

bwall

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2021, 08:25:21 AM »
Anyway, enough of the background of our situation.
My professional/working background is in QA Engineering (around 12 years and mostly manual/functional testing with some automation experience) and Information Security Engineering (around 5 years at a more junior/intermediate level). The current and last positions I've been in, I have been doing QA manual testing but with an emphasis or context of infosec (security related products or components of an app), so it's kind of a blend of both worlds. The past 5 years more QA and less infosec though. I don't know if I want to keep doing any of this stuff though and interviewing for new positions is grueling and just not enjoyable for me, nor am I really motivated. With my current job I'm full time WFH (since end of 2015) and have been loving every moment of it and being able to watch the kids grow up.

Any suggestions on figuring out what I ought to consider next?

It seems that with your skills set you might be able to open your own business offering these services to smaller companies in your area. I think that there might be plenty of small companies, say, 20 employees or less, who could benefit but they don't know how.

Would this be something you'd be interested in pursuing?

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2021, 10:48:32 AM »
Anyway, enough of the background of our situation.
My professional/working background is in QA Engineering (around 12 years and mostly manual/functional testing with some automation experience) and Information Security Engineering (around 5 years at a more junior/intermediate level). The current and last positions I've been in, I have been doing QA manual testing but with an emphasis or context of infosec (security related products or components of an app), so it's kind of a blend of both worlds. The past 5 years more QA and less infosec though. I don't know if I want to keep doing any of this stuff though and interviewing for new positions is grueling and just not enjoyable for me, nor am I really motivated. With my current job I'm full time WFH (since end of 2015) and have been loving every moment of it and being able to watch the kids grow up.

Any suggestions on figuring out what I ought to consider next?

It seems that with your skills set you might be able to open your own business offering these services to smaller companies in your area. I think that there might be plenty of small companies, say, 20 employees or less, who could benefit but they don't know how.

Would this be something you'd be interested in pursuing?

Basically a consulting business/practice right? I suppose it could be interesting but I'd really have no idea where to start with all this.

Another thing that has been pitched (mostly my my dad years ago) was for all my older brothers and sisters-in-law and I to get into a family business doing something similar. One of my brothers has said in passing that we should open our own company but I don't know how serious he was. He is in product management and my other brother is in IT/software/software tool development. One of my sisters in law is kind of a big-wig director of data analytics at a big credit analytics firm (but I don't think she's super happy here) and the other does freelance/part-time graphic design/web dev for small non-profit. I think we would have a good breadth of knowledge if we were to partner together but the business and logistics side would be lacking. Plus, I just don't know how onboard everyone would be.

bwall

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2021, 11:49:13 AM »
Yes, something along the lines of consulting and services. I'm not sure of your area of expertise, but a guy I know here where I live does that. He offers security to small companies, about between 5-20 employees (or so). These are companies that are big enough to need to have security, but not big enough to hire a guy full time to do it, or really have the expertise themselves to do themselves. 

My friend tells me about situations that his clients were very, very happy to have him onboard before the problem happened. For example:

A) Disgruntled employee deleting sensitive files before/after getting fired. "Don't worry, it's all backed up!"
B) Ransom ware attack' "Tell them to go f* themselves, it's all backed up!"
C) Client served his main laptop a cup of coffee, ruining it "Don't worry! it's all backed up!"

He generally integrates a cloud-base solution (Microsoft office 365? or is it One Drive?) and builds out from there.

I'm thinking potential customers could be lawyers' offices, engineer's offices, architects, perhaps even accountants, or just about any service-based business? Give one of them a sweet-heart deal as a side gig on your part, to see: 1) Do you like the work? 2) What exactly do the clients need? Can you offer them more products/services? 3) Potential referrals.

My friends' sales pitch goes something like this; "What is your information worth? Don't tell me, but think of a number. Now, what if you lost it all, how would you re-create it? Well, for just a small amount of money, I can solve all these problems."

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2021, 12:15:41 PM »
I recommend looking for employment with a State agency.  Preferably an agency of Environmental Protection.  They are full of scientists collecting data and the IT professionals that run sql queries are heroes.  Low paying comparatively, but rock solid benefits and should be going to work from home situations more full time. State EPA/Natural Resources, Health Department IT, just State run IT/Agency of Digital Services departments in general.

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2021, 03:45:32 PM »
I recommend looking for employment with a State agency.  Preferably an agency of Environmental Protection.  They are full of scientists collecting data and the IT professionals that run sql queries are heroes.  Low paying comparatively, but rock solid benefits and should be going to work from home situations more full time. State EPA/Natural Resources, Health Department IT, just State run IT/Agency of Digital Services departments in general.

What's funny is that I was sort of perusing my Dept of Fish and Game listings. I feel like it's tough finding the openings. I don't know what kind of position that would be in terms of "IT Professionals tha run SQL queries" - besides DBAs maybe just "IT Analyst" the aspect of the pension is good but I'm not sure how all that works and if the expectation is that I'd be working until 65 or whatever to get it hahaha.


Yes, something along the lines of consulting and services. I'm not sure of your area of expertise, but a guy I know here where I live does that. He offers security to small companies, about between 5-20 employees (or so). These are companies that are big enough to need to have security, but not big enough to hire a guy full time to do it, or really have the expertise themselves to do themselves. 

My friend tells me about situations that his clients were very, very happy to have him onboard before the problem happened. For example:

A) Disgruntled employee deleting sensitive files before/after getting fired. "Don't worry, it's all backed up!"
B) Ransom ware attack' "Tell them to go f* themselves, it's all backed up!"
C) Client served his main laptop a cup of coffee, ruining it "Don't worry! it's all backed up!"

He generally integrates a cloud-base solution (Microsoft office 365? or is it One Drive?) and builds out from there.

I'm thinking potential customers could be lawyers' offices, engineer's offices, architects, perhaps even accountants, or just about any service-based business? Give one of them a sweet-heart deal as a side gig on your part, to see: 1) Do you like the work? 2) What exactly do the clients need? Can you offer them more products/services? 3) Potential referrals.

My friends' sales pitch goes something like this; "What is your information worth? Don't tell me, but think of a number. Now, what if you lost it all, how would you re-create it? Well, for just a small amount of money, I can solve all these problems."

Interesting. I have a background in QA but have 'dabbled' (read: worked for 5-6 years but not recently) in infosec - I don't think I'm super comfortable with getting into the infrastructure type stuff (e.g. let me setup your entire network, firewalls, etc and configure everything in addition to a full end-to-end disaster recovery solution)  though I'm somewhat familiar. Doing the end-to-end stuff feels outside of my scope just because I've never really done that but have been involved maybe in a few pieces at a time at most. I think I'm more on the "analyst" side of things than the "engineering" or "solutions engineering" side.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2021, 04:07:13 PM by jeromedawg »

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2021, 07:49:39 AM »
I am currently learning a great deal about the pension. And in short, donít let any future promise of payment influence your employment choice. If you are solidly barista fire, then the State job should have good enough pay, health insurance, working conditions, defined hours and time off to make it worthwhile.

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2021, 12:19:24 PM »
I am currently learning a great deal about the pension. And in short, don’t let any future promise of payment influence your employment choice. If you are solidly barista fire, then the State job should have good enough pay, health insurance, working conditions, defined hours and time off to make it worthwhile.

Good to know. I have a couple friends who work for the state so when I asked one of them they just referred me to the CalCareers site hahahaha. For the 15-20 minutes I spent browsing, it was hard to find anything that falls under the umbrella of what I'm currently doing. As far as the remote thing, not many positions mention anything about it - most if not all the positions appear to be locale-specific.

Correction: one friend works for the state and the other works for LA County. He said county work is most protected and secure since they are unionized workers. State employees are still at risk of layoffs. Nobody in LA County has been laid off during the pandemic.... unless, in general, CA just isn't the right state to be working for LOL. I wonder how the state jobs in WA are.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2021, 01:01:22 PM by jeromedawg »

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2021, 06:14:26 PM »
I've applied to a few state or county positions since posting. We'll see how it goes. There was one position that looked like it could be a good match: application support analyst for the county's dept of education. Definite paycut, which I would expect, and on their site it currently says they are encouraging WFH in light of COVID. However, I'm not sure how many of these depts and institutions will actually commit to allowing employees to WFH. Maybe certain employees like those in tech? I think YMMV on this. I may find myself commuting once again in the future. After being WFH for so long, it's hard to envision the idea of that.

Anyway, I'm not getting my expectations up too high. My old coworker who works for the county said it took him 2-3 years before he was able to land something. Of course, he was passively looking since he was still employed during that time, but it was a slow process...


In terms of stability, I'd also think edus (public universities/colleges) and healthcare (hospitals in particular) would also be pretty stable to work at as well. And I think with hospitals you'd probably have better pay than at the state and edu levels. But maybe someone else can chime in to confirm/deny this.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 06:24:19 PM by jeromedawg »

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2021, 04:23:26 PM »
I am currently learning a great deal about the pension. And in short, don’t let any future promise of payment influence your employment choice. If you are solidly barista fire, then the State job should have good enough pay, health insurance, working conditions, defined hours and time off to make it worthwhile.

Quick update: been applying for a few state positions and actually got a call back from one - Child Welfare Digital Services in CA. It's for an technical specialist I info security analyst position and it would likely be a considerable pay-cut at best (20-30%) along with a 24x7 on-call rotation. My current position, comparatively speaking, is pretty 'cushy' considering I'm pretty much never on-call (I have deployments that I have to be on once every quarter or so) and obviously the higher pay.

At this point, it really feels like a trade-off of pay for stability. 

The other thing I'm sort of wondering about is that I qualified myself for the specialist I AND specialist II positions recently. The specialist II positions are higher paying - I'm lacking on the info security side since I've been out of it for a while, so specialist I makes more sense for that field I think. But with my QA background I think I'd probably be better suited for specialist II positions. The question is if I should keep being picky and waiting out for a specialist II position (or higher) or if I should just go for whatever I can now.

The current position it *feels* like is a sinking ship with politics on the side - however, I could be wrong and for all I know I could be "safe" (it's hard to predict the future haha). I don't necessarily hate what I do but it can be a bit boring at times. But with the current management and lack of direction we have in place, I don't feel super secure about the way things are going. In that sense I could also just stay put and hope for a layoff too... I don't know if it's better to do that or take an immediate pay-cut for a *likelier* stable job.

Anyway, I have the interview scheduled for this Thursday at 1pm. Will see what comes of it. I'm super rusty on the security stuff, and I'm sure I'll get grilled on it so I guess I should start studying a little hahaha.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2021, 05:02:39 PM by jeromedawg »

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2021, 07:47:05 AM »
If you want to switch jobs and the Specialist 1 with the on call rotation seems like it is something good, you should take it and wait for the specialist 2 position to open from there.  Where I work, there is a significant amount of internal moving around (usually spread out over a year or 2), but people who want to stay with the State for a while are willing to "get in" wherever they can and move up as appropriate.  Internal candidates are generally stronger primarily because of the training opportunities available to State employees, also a Specialist 2 position probably has a job requirement where a less experienced candidate can qualify with a few years as a Specialist 1 and an external candidate may need more years of experience or higher education to qualify.
My mother does on call social work and is very reluctant to call for IT help in the middle of the night, I am not sure if it is even available to her.  I would ask at the interview what the on call work load consists of and if there are special pay conditions for it.

There will be politics and some amount of job uncertainty with the State, though the longer you are employer the more secure you are, another reason that people like to "get in" at the first opportunity.

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2021, 09:47:24 AM »
If you want to switch jobs and the Specialist 1 with the on call rotation seems like it is something good, you should take it and wait for the specialist 2 position to open from there.  Where I work, there is a significant amount of internal moving around (usually spread out over a year or 2), but people who want to stay with the State for a while are willing to "get in" wherever they can and move up as appropriate.  Internal candidates are generally stronger primarily because of the training opportunities available to State employees, also a Specialist 2 position probably has a job requirement where a less experienced candidate can qualify with a few years as a Specialist 1 and an external candidate may need more years of experience or higher education to qualify.
My mother does on call social work and is very reluctant to call for IT help in the middle of the night, I am not sure if it is even available to her.  I would ask at the interview what the on call work load consists of and if there are special pay conditions for it.

There will be politics and some amount of job uncertainty with the State, though the longer you are employer the more secure you are, another reason that people like to "get in" at the first opportunity.

Thanks for the insight! I've been asking around and soliciting for opinions on Bogleheads and Reddit and it's really a mixed bag of opinions. A lot of people like to point out the disparity in pay between lower ranks and more senior ranks (e.g. do you want to work for someone who knows 1/2 of what you know but makes 2x+ what you make? LOL!).

I think, historically, I've always been a sucker for "feeling fulfilled" at my job but these days I don't care much. I just want a consistent paycheck that covers our needs and where I don't have to sit there worrying if I'll have a job tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, etc. Aside from that, just give me a laid back boss who doesn't micromanage and who isn't a jerk or who isn't passive-aggressive and projects on others and I'll probably be fine.

Someone else mentioned that if I were to get the "best case" 25% paycut, it likely wouldn't be all that far off from where I'm at now factoring in all the benefits. I'm at $140k gross now. The ITS I position maxes out at $108k (actually, just got an email stating the updated current range is $5,296 to $8,570 so it would be $102k at the high end) it looks like
« Last Edit: April 07, 2021, 09:49:28 AM by jeromedawg »

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2021, 01:01:47 PM »
For me, getting reprimanded for working more than 40 hours a week without permission rather than being expected to is a benefit that is worth at least 10% of salary.

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2021, 01:21:34 PM »
For me, getting reprimanded for working more than 40 hours a week without permission rather than being expected to is a benefit that is worth at least 10% of salary.

Haha makes sense. I don't know if that would be something on the schedule for the job I'm applying to per the 24x7 on-call rotation. But will have to find out what that entails.

My biggest concern with this is living in a HCOL and 'settling' for the paycut. At the same time, I almost feel like I'm 'overpriced' in my current role, so it would be hard, in my mind, finding something that paid equivalent to or more without any additional significant training and education (or somehow getting myself into management which I question).
We're considering buying a home (well, when things settle down in the market hopefully) so it's going to start adding up. I guess this is where my wife would have to step in to try to figure out more work and or we figure out alternate income streams to supplement.

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2021, 01:26:13 PM »
Your thought about not being worth what you are paid reminds me of where I was before coming back to my public sector job.  I was failing at my work and had actually received a pay cut.  So it wasn't just me that thought I wasn't worth what I was getting paid.  It sucked.  I was struggling with imposter syndrome and then get told that actually my employer doesn't think I am worth it either.

Employers that don't realize the value of their employees are what is not worth it.

jeromedawg

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Re: Looming cloud of job loss over my head... what's next?
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2021, 01:32:04 PM »
Your thought about not being worth what you are paid reminds me of where I was before coming back to my public sector job.  I was failing at my work and had actually received a pay cut.  So it wasn't just me that thought I wasn't worth what I was getting paid.  It sucked.  I was struggling with imposter syndrome and then get told that actually my employer doesn't think I am worth it either.

Employers that don't realize the value of their employees are what is not worth it.

They changed our job titles from "Info Sec" to "QA" which reduced the mid point range and lowered my salary cap. So while it wasn't a pay-cut, it definitely has decreased upward mobility but in a not very obvious way. Sneaky. And now there are rumors swirling that anyone with "QA" in their title is being targeted for upcoming rounds of lay-offs. It seems like they're basically trying to make us irrelevant and find reasons to lay us off.

Wait so were you originally working for the state/federal/public, then went to private and then went back to state/federal/public?