A Different Take

Many people, many stories.

This month, we offer our annual report on salaries for technical professionals who possess Microsoft certifications (http://mcpmag.com/salary2003/). The news is positive—salaries are mostly up—reversing a several-year trend. But if you’re one of the 10 percent of respondents who said they had been laid off in the last 12 months, you probably wouldn’t care about that, viewing it as nitpicky when you don’t have a salary at all.

During the course of working on the survey, we heard from literally dozens and dozens of experienced people who can’t find work. Once you get past those few who blame politicians (one reader holds liable the “the U.S. Republican Guard” for their woes, while another takes a dig at the “RADICAL DemonCats...er...DemoRats...”), the stories are worth hearing, because they help keep the salary numbers in perspective for the rest of us.

A reader in Duluth, Minnesota said she’s open to relocation at her expense, but that employers in her area find her “overqualified for many positions or else cannot pay enough” for her to make it worthwhile to work. She recently applied for a job at a local college in software support. “The responsibilities are considerable.” The job pays $30,000 to $35,000. She’s not sure what to do next because “scoring a job in IT these days is...like aiming at a moving target.” The challenge she sees: “Assuming I pony up the big bucks to master [new] skill sets, who’s to say that demand will not change by the time I’m ready to take on a job [that] makes use of those skills?”

A reader in Austin, Texas says the IT market in his area is “pretty bad.” Most unemployed tech people “are taking extremely low-paying positions at Dell (under $12,000 for MCSE-certified individuals) when they become available.” If it weren’t for his wife’s job and an occasional consulting project, his “economic condition would have rolled over.”

A reader in Akron, Ohio with 23 years of experience and a slew of credentials says employers in his area blamed the economy for not hiring, then they blamed the war, and “now it’s back to the economy.”

A reader who says he’s been working with computers “since hard drives weighed 75 pounds” believes he’s almost ready “to cash in my chips and go to work for McDonald’s.” This after realizing he needed to be certified for employment, took out a student loan, finished the program, and then saw the entire industry collapse beneath him.

A reader in California’s Bay area has turned her imposed time off to good use, planting a vegetable garden and learning how to barter her services. Plus, she’s come to the realization that “rather than becoming more desperate and more malleable” as her search wears on, she’s giving up “the 70-hour week and the 70-mile commute... Life is just too short.”

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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