Will Code For Food

A couple of years ago I was looking for work in the Ithaca, NY area. Several people helped me find local companies and gave me moral support along the way. I ended up working for a small company that subcontracted me to a very large local defense contractor. It was a great experience on many levels. Since I left that job about a year ago, I’ve been working on some smaller personal projects, including my book.

Since I’m the most recent person amongst many former colleagues to go through the job search process, I’ve become the local go-to person for help with resumes and local companies. It’s a “job” that I happily do to help out my friends and neighbors. Recently a friend of a friend came here from India after a several year hiatus from coding to take care of a sick parent. His name is Joe Pierce, like most other folks from India that you speak to over the phone. I never met Joe or even spoke to him. I told my friend to have Joe send his resume to me so I could think of what local places he might look at and see if I could give him any good contacts.

When I received his resume and cover letter, it was a disaster. It covered three (!) pages and consisted of nine mostly short-term (e.g. 4 – 6 month) contract jobs over a twelve year period. Two things were painfully obvious looking at it. One, it was too long for such a short time period (a resume should be only one or two pages). Two, Joe was over 60 years old.

I’m not suggesting that being over 60 is inherently bad, but this is what he was presenting to a potential employer: I’m 63 years old, haven’t worked in 6 years, and most of my jobs have lasted around 4 months. Age discrimination may be illegal, but that’s no reason to stick it somebody’s face either. I suggested several changes:

  • Remove the years that he went to school – turns out this is becoming a common practice.
  • Highlight the skills he has in a good summary.
  • Shorten the whole thing to a page or two.

He was hesitant to take away the dates or change to a functional resume (people thought he was hiding something – he was, of course). On the other hand, your chances of anyone giving this guy a second thought are fairly slim. Your first job in job hunting is to get your foot in the door. You do this by having an intriguing resume and getting to the hiring manager, rather than the HR department. Once you get an interview, it will become very obvious that you’re old or young, short or tall, skinny or fat, American or not. None of these things should matter at all, but first you have to get to the interview. After that, you have the opportunity to present yourself in the best light possible and hopefully that comes out in person. You show up on time for the interview, you’re knowledgeable on the subject matter, and you seem like you’ll fit into the personality of the company.

Looking for a job is a full time job. Like any other job, you have to do some preparation, studying, and practicing to do it well. Get some good books out of the library (e.g. What Color Is Your Parachute), hit some good web sites (I recommend wandercoding.com 😉 ), and use your network of friends and former colleagues to help. Don’t dawdle – it’s your new job.

Epilogue: Unfortunately, unable to find work after 3 months, Joe returned to India.