February 17, 2011

PLUMMETING DOWN THE ECONOMIC LADDER: A reader sends this depressing tale:

You occasionally post links to articles about the state of the job market, especially for new college graduates, but perhaps what I’m seeing as I look for work, may be interesting.

I’m in my 50s, with no degree, but have been working in the software industry ( support, software development, program management) since the mid 1980s. I’m working only about 20 hours/week for a mom-and-pop company on the west coast at essentially fry-cook wages.

My employer just cut my hours from 40/week to 20 in January. No benefits, no insurance, no vacation accrual, no sick leave.

I’ve been applying for work in my field and for warehouse work, customer service work, janitorial work, clerical work and mechanical assembly work since September 2010. I’ve had one interview with a contracting firm that went nowhere. I even got a food-handler’s permit this month so I could work in a hamburger joint — more on that, below.

Here’s what I see as I look for employment:

– In my industry, HR departments are the gatekeepers. They feed resumes into HR software that categorizes applicants based on keywords for software applications and experience. If your resume doesn’t contain the magic set of keywords and years of experience, it clearly goes into the bit-bucket. In the past, if I could talk to the manager, I could often show him what I’ve done, offer to work at a reduced rate until I proved myself. But with the HR firewall, there’s no way to do that. And I won’t salt my resume with fictional skills.

– I tried applying for some kind of work at the grocery store where I shop, but all applications are taken online and once again, my resume, rich with IT-type work, clearly doesn’t match some profile.

– I applied in-person at a couple of nationally-known fast-food restaurants close-by. The counter help at one barely spoke English and called the manager to the front to speak with me when I asked about a job. With a heavy Spanish accent, she told me to appy online.

– I applied online to 4 or 5 famous fast-food restaurant chains. I’ve heard nothing, other than the automated response from one that simply indicated “No Openings”

The distortions in our job market come from a few different directions, I think. For one thing, landscaping work, restaurant cooks and wait-staff, construction labor all were frequently done by college students on summer vacation or working their way through school. Now, these are often done by illegal immigrants, putting severe pressure on the low-end of the market.

At the high end, for IT at least, the huge influx of H1B visa workers squeezes folks like me out of the IT/computer market pretty handily. I see IT jobs like QA Tech ( “software tester” ) and telephone support jobs that now require computer science degrees. Unless you’re testing NASA man-rated space software or something for the Large Hadron Collider, this is serious overkill.

As for me, I’m staying afloat by selling the stuff I own that has some kind of value.

When that’s gone, I’ll be looking for the highway overpass that has the best view, I guess.

Regards, [Redacted].

P.S. Don’t use my name if you choose to post/excerpt this. That’d wreck what microscopic chances I might have. Thanks.

So I don’t know what advice to give this guy. Any thoughts from InstaPundit readers? Maybe I should set up an InstaPundit Help-Wanted page or something. . . .

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