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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: GillyMack on May 30, 2017, 04:39:16 PM

Title: Can this career be saved?
Post by: GillyMack on May 30, 2017, 04:39:16 PM
This is about my 26-year old son, not me.  But it isn’t completely off-topic because his situation is one of the big unknowns that make us scared to FIRE. Hoping for advice from the hive-mind.  Particularly the I.T. industry hivemind.

His story:
Hobby programmer as teenager. Degree from an art college in Digital Media, with some practical courses in websites.

Job1: First job was related to his art skills (3-D modeling) in our provincial hometown.  But the company needed more people for their web QA department.  Figured out DS could write scripts and moved him to the QA department, told him to watch a few online courses and put him to work.  About a year later, the company lost a big contract and they laid off a bunch of people including DS.
Job2: After many month gap, hired provisionally as a web programmer for a traditional-atmosphere company in Hometown.  Was late too many times and was fired (after being warned! Parental facepalm!)

Job3:  After longer gap, took 6 month contract QA job (via 3rd-party agency) in far-away Arizona.  Near the end of 6 months was told that they wanted to extend his contract for 12 more months. A month later they say, we’ve decided not to do phase 2 of project after all.  All you contractors go away.

Job 4: After being flown in for interview with Company4 in Denver, gets web QA contract job (via 3rd-party agency).  Moves to Denver to start job.  2 months later, he and another young contract guy who was hired the same day are laid off with no notice.  He has no clue about reason.  Swears he wasn’t late a single day. His supervisor contacted him afterwards and said that it was rotten and that it wasn’t supervisor’s idea.

It has now been 9 months.  Still in Denver area. Lots of recruiting calls, a few interviews but no job offers.  He has put together a combination of part-time gig-economy work to pay the rent.  Sorts boxes at a distribution warehouse, delivers groceries, stocks shelves. No benefits, no sick time, no financial safety margin at all.  Has a catastrophic medical insurance policy, but we know if something bad does happen we’re the only ones who can pay for it. 

One talkative recruiter told him that when the recruiter had put him up for a job, the client said no because of the shortness of the prior jobs.

DS is introverted and socially awkward.  Would not tell a slick story even if there was one to tell. Is there any hope of him ever getting back to a programming job?  We are willing to pay for education if we thought it might work. We just can't FIRE until this kid is really launched.
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: CNM on May 30, 2017, 04:45:43 PM
He might be better off going to a temp agency and getting more office-environment skills.

9 months without a career type job is a lot, but it's not unheard of or an excessively long time.  IDK, as a parent you can only do so much.  He's 26 years old, which is old enough for him to make his own decisions about his career and life.  I'd talk to him and ask him what his plan is. 

(And I wouldn't parent face palm about the tardiness thing.  He's old enough to have known better.)
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: milliemchi on May 30, 2017, 04:54:14 PM
If you're willing to foot more education, you could also spend less money slightly more creatively. If he really has skill, and is not lazy, he could figure out a project, work on it for a while out of your basement while you pay the bills, and hopefully, after a year or so, he might have a product that he can show (web page, whatever).  Maybe it sells, maybe it doesn't, but either way, he can put that time in the resume as 'self-employed' and describe the project he was working on.  There are plenty of people who spent lots of time launching businesses that eventually failed, and that's still legitimate employment. If your son actually launches something that is viable, that's a bonus.
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: mozar on May 30, 2017, 08:22:36 PM
Is he able to pay his bills, and he's living on his own? He sounds launched to me.
I think working for an employer is just becoming more and more difficult. That's not his fault.
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: Paul der Krake on May 30, 2017, 08:43:38 PM
Programming interviews are pretty much a skill in and of itself. If he isn't getting offers, he should hone that skill.

For tech jobs, companies don't care if you have rotten teeth so long as you can pass the technical interview. Introversion shouldn't be a problem.
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: GillyMack on May 31, 2017, 09:42:14 PM
Thank you, everyone for your thoughts.  I feel like I have a little more clarity.

Yes, he really is supporting himself, even if it isn't the way I would choose or the safety margin I'd like.  Actually I am quite proud of him for hustling 3 part time jobs, particularly ones that are physical. 

My own work is down to side-gig levels.  I've been out of the typical corporate workforce for long enough that I'm amazed at how much has changed, which is one reason I put the query out here to get some opinions.  I can't tell if the contract job weirdness is a normal brutal environment or whether he is underperforming.  And I must say, coming from a salaried corporate background myself, I've been educated in how hard it is for the people out there doing manual labor these days.  For one of his jobs, he's is actually an employee, but they usually set the hours to 20 per week and never let it get over 28.  I guess specifically to avoid paying benefits.   

Glad that 9 months away doesn't kill all hope.   That's a little encouraging.  And yes, I can't do much.  Every now and then, he'll ask advice.  But I had run out of ideas.   

OK.  So some ideas you've come up with: office temp work, creative effort on his part, honing technical interview skills.  If the occasion arises, I have some ideas to put forward. 

The tech interview skills one is tough.  I wonder how you find a resource for that.

And another takeaway.  Calm down. He's an adult.
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: Paul der Krake on May 31, 2017, 09:54:37 PM
The tech interview skills one is tough.  I wonder how you find a resource for that.
Ask and you shall receive:

Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: damyst on June 01, 2017, 02:26:12 AM
Just going by the facts you provided, there is no reason at all to give up on the IT career at this point. Your son probably has some valuable skills, and is still quite young. His introverted manner doesn't help with interviews, but it's far from uncommon in the field.

Is there a motivation problem, perhaps? Does you son dislike the work? Is he happier now with his part time gigs? If so, perhaps there is no problem to fix.

Motivation issues can sort themselves out in due time. I remember getting some talkings-to at around the same age for procrastinating at work. Finding the right team and project will really help.
Getting him to speak to a therapist might also be a good way forward if there is an acknowledged motivation problem.
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: Mr. Green on June 01, 2017, 11:01:28 AM
The fact that he hustles 3 jobs tells me everything I need to hear. He clearly has parents willing to help him out and he's not using that as a crutch. If he keeps hustling, something will break for him, because there aren't that many hustlers and the attitude a hustler has is valuable.
Title: Re: Can this career be saved?
Post by: Lady SA on June 01, 2017, 11:34:08 AM
Perhaps a change of scenery is what is needed--Denver is an up-and-coming tech hub with lots of skilled workers flocking there, so companies can be very selective.
He might have better luck moving to a tech-worker-starved city instead. I know Minneapolis in particular there is a severe shortage of tech workers and its relatively easy to find a job.

That, and make sure he is maintaining his skills outside the realm of a job--because technology changes to often employers are looking for someone who keeps up with technology. Opening a github account and being active and dabbling with personal projects that use these skills can help keep him relevant. For example, my DH is a software engineer who is fully employed, but he still does little personal projects around the house that he publishes online--he builds servers, he is coding an open source platform for an IoT network of lights that turn off and on, etc. So even if he were to lose his job, he can still point to these personal projects and display his skills that way, even if he isn't being paid for it.
Especially if he isn't working in the tech field right now, showing relevancy is going to be the biggest help to him.

Make sure he isn't limiting his job prospects by only looking for certain types of jobs. QA skills can be translated to a more permanent position, and I've noticed that many companies consider QA to be useless overhead (business-y types have a hard time seeing the value of QA). So if he can expand his horizons into other areas he might have more luck.