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September 29th, 2008

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05:01 pm
(Editor's note: This is a generic post. I often come across people who think that their situation is pretty awful. I occasionally aim to inspire them a little with my own tale of pure, dumb luck. As the administrator of the Mojave airport once said to me: "I'm just proof that a blind squirrel manages to collect a few nuts.")

To start with -- I know how it is when you don't have a degree. I didn't actually finish off college -- I was about four classes shy when my mom pulled my only financial support out from under me.

At the time, I was living at a place and one of my housemates was nice enough to allow me to run up one hell of a debt with him. It hit $6k at one point.

Food, at the time, was courtesy of my girlfriend's mother. She would occasionally send us gift cards from Safeway (a local grocery store) and that would keep us alive.

I was living in a little beach town which, frankly, had no jobs in my field. I chased down every teeny lead. Most of them disappeared for no apparent reason. One company seemed like they really wanted to hire me, and then pulled back short of an offer letter.

Most of the other alternatives didn't look very good.

The beginning of my break came a bit later when I worked at tech support at a web analytics business. It was well below my level, but I was elated to have gotten it. It gave me enough for rent and, continuing the trend of living cheaply, I managed to pay off my housemate completely.

What sealed it was a friend of mine who was working for a defense contractor. As it happens, they badly needed staff. They were being called out on a couple of contracts and sued for making commitments they couldn't make. It's hard to say whether that claim was bogus or not. In any event, they were bending over backwards to hire lots of people.

I went in and interviewed. I said what college I went to, but managed to sidestep any questions about graduating. They hired me on, apparently impressed with me.

I grew tired of that place. It was a 1.5 hour commute one way. I had days where I woke up, went to work, came home, fell asleep, ate dinner, and went back to sleep. It was soul crushing. My officemate left seeking other employment pretty quickly thereafter.

I snagged an interview for another job which was much closer to my ballpark. I managed to land it in part because of my experience and in large part because I demonstrated expertise with the Linux kernel.

Since that point, I have been consistently employed at a very good salary. I'll just say that it's six digits.

The point of this story isn't to toot my own horn or even say how lucky I was for things to have turned out. It's to say that all you need is your chance. Once you get that chance, everything else will fall into place.

Don't lose sight of what you want to do. Don't ever let a lack of paper get in your way. Be good at what you do and eventually, someone will reward that by employing you to do just that. Let employers know that and someone will beat a path to your door in the hopes of having you make them a better mousetrap.

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
this is not for me, but encouraging to hear when I'm in jobhunt hell!
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2008 12:42 am (UTC)
I think, at one point, I had cause to mention an abridged version of the above to you.

I always feel kinda crappy when I tell it because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was unbelievably lucky to get where I am. Everything snapped into place and I've never had to look back.

Every so often, I talk to other people with similar experiences, so I know there's gotta be at least a couple other golden tickets out there for the people who are crazy enough to keep trying for them.

A friend of mine -- a long while before -- asked what my aspirations were during the worst of this period. I said, "I could get by on $40k a year." He replied back that I was setting the bar very, very low for myself. It was honest for how I felt at the time and it makes me a smile a bit looking back at it.

There just is no substitute for beating down the doors of employers. If my experience has taught me anything that wasn't sheer, dumb luck, then it was that it only takes one good break for you to be set the rest of you life.

Don't stop looking for it. From what I've seen of your work, I'm 100% sure it's out there. 8)
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Oh yes. I'm a strong believer in that you never know what you might get if you don't at least try. Tell all my friends who interview that even if they don't get the job, it's experience and possibly a future opportunity.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
I've been saying that a lot to our mutual friend, meerkat. 8)

Knowing that she's a hockey fan, I put it a little differently by quoting Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

I think Tom Robbins had something similarly awesome in Still Life with Woodpecker. I should skim for it again.
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
Damn, now I'm gonna be wracking my brain for similar quotes because I know they're out there!

I always encourage people to send in resumes for a job. Hell, w/ a lot of stuff being online posting now, it doesn't really cost you anything but a bit of time. If I had a negative attitude this time last year, I would have missed out on such a great job.
[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2008 06:15 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. While I don't think it's cool that you had to go through so much shit to get to where you are today, I find your story very inspiring. I look at things, and I know that, despite my struggles, my life is good - I'm well-provided for, and I have a lot of opportunities ahead of me. I know that I'm never going to give up on the dream. If anything, I need to work on my insecurities, and forget about what other people might think.

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