So you want to be employed, eh?


This little tirade is based on my recent job hunting experiences in both Ottawa and Calgary, considered to be the best places to search for IT related jobs in Canada.

For years, the computer industry has been crying out for computer knowledgeable university graduates. So they got them. Then they felt that what they really needed was to have computer people who could communicate effectively and efficiently.

So, with this knowledge in hand, I've pursued that particular profile.

And what's the result? "We want three to five years experience."; "Do you know IEF/ABF/SNA/ADS/SYBASE"; and so on. And that's if you get as far as an interview or an open house. Most of the time, the closest you get is a "Dear John" reply to your resume, seemingly from the same source as all those office faxes since the wording remains identical no matter what the source -- "We currently have no openings for your skills at this moment. We will keep your resume on file for 6 months..."

What I'm really getting at is questioning how the computer industry expects to recruit the next generation of professionals if it's not willing to either train them or, heck, even give them a chance. No educational institutions I've seen handle anything more sophisticated than programming languages and assorted theory -- definitely nothing like Cognicase or the other million pieces of slightly obscure mainframe related software.

Much as I would like to be able to say I know this, that and the other, I cannot afford to buy every single package out there and learn it -- and even that does not count. One company I went to an open house to recently only wanted to see knowledge gained through work; academic and personal experience wasn't admissible. That resulted in a fairly empty sheet of paper.

Is it really the case that the only jobs out there are for people who happen to know those in the know? Is the computer industry needlessly rejecting thousands of capable people they need because they are not willing to take on the cost of letting them learn on the job? What makes it so ironic is that while at one open house, I talked to a team leader talking about a project that he'd just completed. That job required a substantial amount of work to be done in Visual Basic -- in his words his team "couldn't even spell Visual when they started on the project". So wherein lies the difference other than those people are already employed? Is the IT industry being too fussy and leaving jobs unfilled or is there a huge pool of people who just happen to have that few years of experience in hand that makes them employable?

In the meanwhile I'm sitting on a collection of useful and relevant skills that are slowly becoming less valuable as new software is introduced and as I become more rusty while looking around for a chance to hone them. I'm not trying to set my sights too high by being unreasonable in job expectations or salary; I'm not unemployable through being socially incompetent or indeed any of the other shortcomings of many other technically skilled computer people. So why the problem? I wish I knew. Do I need to create my own company to find work? Is that the secret to finding a reasonable job in the nineties?

Thoughts, people?


Addendum (13/9/96):

Thanks to the people who've responded. I ought to clarify my position. I'm not talking about sales here. Nor am I talking flipping burgers or stocking shelves. Worthy and essential those jobs may be to the modern economy, but that really is not what I intend to do with my life.

Addendum (12/12/96):

I'm employed again. It's not what you know, it's who you know. And then it's what you know. Pfaw.
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