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Friday, December 19, 2008
So, You Think You're Entitled...
...I know it's the holiday season, but I'm not addressing presents at the moment, although quite a few people think that they're entitled to receiving a present.

I'm talking about the job market. Something that I have been intimately involved with in the last year as I sailed out of a long-term employment situation into something short term (that should have been longer, but hey, I was looking to escape that too) and then searching and searching for quite some time until I took a contract position.

It sort of landed in my lap when I expanded the boundaries of what I was looking for, but apparently I applied directly to the company around the same time that the agency I'm working with found me and thought I'd do perfectly and the company agreed without interviewing me first because my resume was strong and they had a desperate need.

And it's turning out to be a good thing.

But here in Valley where we're becoming known as the Land Of the Laid-Off, and elsewhere, I've noticed a sense of entitlement in some of the "desperately seeking employment" folks. Some have jobs, others don't. But a great lot of them have expressed a sense that they are entitled to a job.

Why do I think that? Because I've had it too. It mostly comes up in the form of "I have X years of experience, who *wouldn't* want to hire me?" and "I can do so much for an organization and they laid me off? Stupid move." Yes, there's bitterness there, but there's also this sense in the way people say it that they think they're entitled to have a job somewhere because they have all the experience, or they're flexible, or they've done a million things in their jobs.

So have I. I had that sense when I was let go from that DVD company back in August '07. Someone will hire me, I said, who wouldn't want me with all that experience? Especially with that resume of mine.

I was unemployed for 2 months before I landed a verbal on a position that I would start 3 weeks later. So technically, unemployed for 3 months. I stayed there for 5 months thinking everything was fine for the most part until I realized that the CEO was unstable and I should leave. And so I planned on leaving and started interviewing when I was laid off from there.

And I did it again - I'll find a job. I'm *entitled* to a job with my experience and longevity. I can show with my resume (for the most part) that I stick around and provide value to an organization.

I was fooling myself. I was only as valuable as they believed me to be. I watch it with displaced employees all over the Valley. And some are bitter (you just have to read Valleywag and the Yahoo layoff stories to see how *not* to handle a layoff). Some are looking for a way out while they still have jobs, but are sure that someone will want to hire them while they're still employed because that's a lot better than being a recent layoff.

Yeah, what you smokin'? Because you're entangled in projects and infrastructure of the company that will take a couple of weeks to tie up and someone who is laid off can start right away. And maybe take the pay cut because they're more desperate than you are. Even better, maybe that laid off worker is a better candidate too.

I hate that entitlement feeling - because you're just fooling yourself. No one's entitled to a job. No. One. It's stupid to think like that. You work for what you have, and you put your best foot forward when you're hunting something new down. If you're organized, you get it all together so you can whip those resumes and cover letters out within 15 minutes of finding yourself something you want to apply for (because you read that listing, then you check out that company's website, their senior management, and a quick Google search to find out if anyone really hates working there because they're dumb and mention the name of the company in a blog or MySpace page).

I spent 7 months as one of the unpaid unemployed (meaning I wasn't on the state take for unemployment because I'd already used up my credit) before I landed where I did. Around month 4 I became humble - I will only find a job when the time is right for me to find it. The entitlement went away because the jobs that I normally would apply to were being merged with programming experience I didn't have - two jobs in one. Companies started laying off left and right and I got scared.

But I stayed positive. I knew what I wanted to do for a living (analytics) and I broadened the search. Folks at the gym were encouraging and said I had the right attitude about finding a job (I *will* find something eventually, it's just going to take a little time). One guy, who goes to my church, was positive I'd land a job with that smile and attitude that I have.

While I wasn't as positive as he, I felt better about his faith and encouragement. Turns out, he was praying for me too. That never hurts. Neither does sending out so many resumes and follow up emails and calls that you've forgotten most of the places that you've sent resumes to (and pray that you're near your computer when someone calls you about a letter you sent so you can find it, pull up the email/notes you made about it, and converse intelligently with the caller).

And so, almost out of the blue I landed this position. There were layoffs the 7th working day I was there and I watched people who had been there for up to 9 years (it's a 10 year old private company) get laid off, while I stayed (yes, I have some survivor's guilt over it even though others said I stay because I provide a valuable and unique skillset to the company - that doesn't make it easier). It was part time for the last 3 weeks because I'd streamlined everything beautifully and work was winding down for the year. I don't get paid for the two weeks we're shut down because I'm a contractor and that's just the way it is. I may become permanent in 2009, but my boss says to be patient because we don't know when that will be.

I don't take it for granted, and I don't think I'm entitled to a permanent position there just because I'm a unique skillset in the mix. I'll learn what I can, and if I have to move on then I will and I'll take my new tweaks to my skillset with me (web analytics and authoring web tracking calls).

I'm not entitled to a job anywhere - especially in this economy. My blessing is that I know what I can and cannot do in terms of skills and programs, and that what I want to do when I grow up is what I actually love to do (be a data geek and provide insightful analysis to the data so someone else doesn't have to look at it and say "I guess it's good").

This economy sucks and I've had the good fortune in all the Valley downswings to actually find a new job - in '94 (layoffs, bad timing, fresh out of college with no experience), '96 (almost no one was hiring), '99 (when the dot-com bubble was bursting, companies were closing, and neighbors were moving because they'd staked their house mortgage on stock options they had), '07 (economic downswing) and now in '08 (continued, worsening, economic downfall). I think it's been a combination of good fortune smiling on me, a strong resume, and excellent self-presentation that I know what I'm doing, love doing it, and am willing to take something new on with enthusiasm and intelligence.

Or maybe just pure luck. *shrug* Not likely - I've had to work hard in those interviews to prove myself at the levels I've been interviewing at. But in no way was it entitlement...

...because that's a feeling that just gets you nowhere. Fast.