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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Getting Tech Career Back On Track 232

Posted by samzenpus
from the starting-over-again dept.
First time accepted submitter msamp writes "After the dotcom bubble burst so long ago,when tech jobs were so scarce, I went back to school and finished my PhD in Physics. They lied — there really is no shortage of scientists. Before the downturn I was a product manager for home networking equipment. Since getting the degree I have been program/project manager for small DoD and NASA instrumentation programs. I desperately want back into network equipment product management, but my networking tech skills aren't up to date. I find networking technology absolutely trivial and have been retraining on my own, but hiring managers see the gap and the PhD and run screaming. I'm more than willing to start over in network admin but can't even get considered for that. Suggestions?"
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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Getting Tech Career Back On Track

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:29PM (#42496973)

    My IT department is full of people with tons of degrees doing various IT tasks.

    • by edremy (36408) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:41PM (#42498021) Journal
      This. Most of us in the IT leadership at the college where I work have Ph.Ds. Nobody blinks an eye, and we have a deal where we teach a class a year as well- helps us remember the actual goal of the college is. The networking guy has a masters in EE and does a lot of work with the astronomy department on the side.

      It can even be a bonus in other ways- one of our newer guys in datasystems teaches CS at a local community college on the side, and ended up recruiting one of his best students directly into an open position- he already knew what he was capable of.

    • Just tell them you have a degree and don't highlight your PHD or education. They will find out about it if they absolutely care but if they don't they wont.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      No, this is horrible advice. Academic IT work is a drag.

      Just kidding. Academic IT work has been the best job I've had in my career so far. I'd go back in a heartbeat. Considering I was working in one of the best possible environments for an IT geek (highly exclusive math/science environment surrounded by brilliant, stimulating, interesting people who were much smarter than I - in a broader socially diverse culture), I doubt I'll ever get such an opportunity again.

      If you can, do it. Just don't expect the wor

  • by saphena (322272) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:31PM (#42496987) Homepage

    That way your qualifications won't matter and won't get in the way

    • by IceNinjaNine (2026774) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:38PM (#42497061)
      Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with this. The stinging irony is that your PhD is going to scare folks off despite that it demonstrates that you've got quite the noggin on your shoulders. Unless you're willing to omit it from your resume (which some MAY consider lying by omission) along with some creative verbage about what you were doing during that time, doing your own thing as the parent suggests may be the path of least resistance.

      A friend of mine has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MS in Computer Science. He always takes the risk and omits the PhD as he was getting no love from employers otherwise.
      • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:48PM (#42497139)

        Omit but then own up to having it when they ask you about the gap at an interview. Make it clear that you got it due to an economic down turn in tech after the dot com bust but your real interest was and is in networking/whatever your real interest is. Honesty is always the best policy but do it selectively.

        Incidentally tell them you left it out as it isn't relevant to your current work desires.

        • by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:56PM (#42497207)

          Incidentally tell them you left it out as it isn't relevant to your current work desires.

          I often "leave out" that I worked at a grocery store in my sophomore year of high school. If you're so young you can't fill up a one page resume, you have to fill it up the blank page with something, anything, but over the age of 30 most probably have far too much resume fodder to fill the page.

          Now, if you were applying to become a physics instructor at a high school and lied about not having a phd then there's some issues, but networking hardware? I think you're OK there, at least morally and ethically.

          • I'm on my third career-relevant jobs (including an internship) since graduating from college in 2010. The only time I go back further than those three jobs in my employment history is when they ask for it - then I'll include being an RA in college, being a dishwasher/delivery driver summers during college and highschool, etc. Even then, I almost never go back to my first "real" job at age 14. Every interview I've been at, they've been far more interested in projects (or even hobbies) I've done relevant to t

            • by jittles (1613415) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:25PM (#42498359)

              I'm on my third career-relevant jobs (including an internship) since graduating from college in 2010. The only time I go back further than those three jobs in my employment history is when they ask for it - then I'll include being an RA in college, being a dishwasher/delivery driver summers during college and highschool, etc. Even then, I almost never go back to my first "real" job at age 14. Every interview I've been at, they've been far more interested in projects (or even hobbies) I've done relevant to the position rather than every little bit of job and education history I have. I often omit the networking course I did during high school too just because it's small cheese compared to my more recent history and just wastes valuable space I could use for listing projects I've done more recently instead.

              Third job in less than 3 years? Wow. Why the high turnover rate? That would scare me more than a resume with a PH.D on it.

              • by dodobh (65811)

                An internship which ended early 2010, two years at one place, and then a job switch. That's not too bad.

                Job periods of about a year? Bad.

              • by CAIMLAS (41445)

                Not everyone has the opportunity to be picky about employment. You find a job that pays the bills (or at least puts you in the ballpark of your preferred field and capabilities), you take it - even if you know it's a horrible fit. You need the work, it's not minimum wage, and they need an employee. Employers expect to be able to walk over their future employee indefinitely, so they want someone 'stable'. In this market, they can be a bit more picky, but they're (IMO) self-selecting for mediocrity in the pro

                • by jittles (1613415)
                  Most of the projects I have hired people for have had a schedule that is more than a year long. Sure there are deliveries more frequently than that, but I might know that I need to make 5 deliveries over the course of 3 years. When I see someone who has jumped jobs that often then I am very wary of that person. It could be as you say, that they are looking for a good fit. It could be that they move on after it is discovered just how incompetent they are. I've seen both. ANd it could be as another pers
          • by lurker1997 (2005954) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:06PM (#42498235)
            I often joke that if I ever have to apply for a (non-academic) job, my chances will be better if I just put 'prison' for the four years I was doing my Ph.D. in order to explain the time gap.
          • by dynamo (6127)

            Really unless you are nationally known for doing some horrible crime at the school you got your PhD, I can't imagine any moral problem with not including a PhD that you actually did get. Moral problems could certainly arise from pretending you have a PhD that you actually don't have, but pretending to have done less with your life.. who gets hurt?

            • by vlm (69642)

              but pretending to have done less

              That's where I'd draw the line, if the asked if he has a PHD he's pretty much obligated to say yes and therefore get disqualified for employment because its a resume stain.

              My current boss has no idea I have expert level skill at stacking onions on a produce cooler at a food store. For some odd reason it's never come up in discussion, and its not "pretending" for me to never mention it. It certainly has nothing even remotely to do with my current job. None the less if he asked me point blank if I knew how

        • by icebike (68054)

          Simply tell the truth, that you went back to school to further your education. You don't have to mention that you got a degree, its not like it was a court imposed sentence.or anything. It is entirely optional like scout merit badges or a black belt, or something.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with this. The stinging irony is that your PhD is going to scare folks off despite that it demonstrates that you've got quite the noggin on your shoulders. Unless you're willing to omit it from your resume (which some MAY consider lying by omission) along with some creative verbage about what you were doing during that time, doing your own thing as the parent suggests may be the path of least resistance.

        A friend of mine has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MS in Computer Science. He always takes the risk and omits the PhD as he was getting no love from employers otherwise.

        It is a sad state of affairs when one of the most valuable (and costly) degrees out there is shunned by employers. I mean what in the FUCK is going on these days when someone is looked down upon for dedicating that kind of time and effort, especially to see it through to completion.

    • by mapuche (41699) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:39PM (#42497067) Homepage

      Not everybody has what it takes to make a successful business. And starting a company because you can't find a job won't help. If you can't find a job, hardly you will find clients.

      • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:15PM (#42497335)

        Not everybody has what it takes to make a successful business. And starting a company because you can't find a job won't help. If you can't find a job, hardly you will find clients.

        More to the point, OP is interested in networking tech rather than business management. If he started his own business and it was actually successful he's either have to pay someone else to be his boss or give up networking tech yet again to manage the business.

        • Not necessarily. I was in a similar boat - got let go and found it hard to find something suitable - and started my own business. However, I kept it small enough that I was able to do what I like and not let the business side overwhelm me. It's a matter of scale.
        • My boss at my last job owned the business, but he hired someone to take care of the business aspects that he didn't care for or didn't have the skills to do. In the end, he was still the boss, he ran the company but he also stayed immersed in the tech enough to his satisfaction. Of course, some people just need a boss to guide them even if they're great at the actually technical skills - in that case, starting a business won't work unless you grow it just enough to sell it with a clause keeping you employed

    • by t0qer (230538) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:00PM (#42497227) Homepage Journal

      After a 12 year Hiatus (I got laid off in 2001) I'm finally getting back to IT, I start a new job monday, it pays a bundle, wife is happy, kids will have benefits..So what did I do in those 12 years?

      I worked at a karaoke bar in San Jose. My friends and I made a karaoke jukebox, tried to market it to karaoke companies (failed miserably, they're like the music companies battling technology in the 90's) It was great, it was fun for a while but no benefits, low pay, and an abusive owner finally made me start taking the steps to get out of it.

      2010 I tried running for city council. Lost but it got my foot in the door with local politicians. Last campaign season, I helped one candidate win by using a combination of twilio/openvbx for robocalls (at cost.. $0.02) 40,000 robocalls. Most candidates pay between $0.79 to $0.83 a call, so I consider it to be a pretty huge contribution.

      During my interview I was totally open and honest about my last 12 years. Why didn't I W2 for the last 12 years? Why are these gaps here in my employment? Lucky for me my hiring manager had been in a similar situation... The entire company was really impressed with all my political work in the last year. (In my new role, I'll be doing IT stuff in a board room, so knowing how to mind your political p's and q's to make a good initial impression was super important)
      When I was first laid off in 2001, I never dreamed of doing any kind of volunteer work or activism. I was in my late 20's, and too self centered to give a shit. I thought my salary was my worth, and working for free/volunteer was beneath me. Took a few years of eating humble pie in a karaoke bar to adjust that attitude.

      So my advice, find some local volunteer things to work on that appeal to you. See how you can wrangle your tech knowledge in there. Me? I just happened to love all the skullduggery and drama involved with politics. YMMV.

  • Hid your PhD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Janek Kozicki (722688) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:34PM (#42497023) Journal
    As much as I hate to say that, hiding a part of your education from resume (like not mentioning your PhD) is a pretty common method of getting employment. Of course with lower salary. They run screaming just because they think that they would need to pay more, because you had PhD. OTOH, I'd say it's more interesting to puruse academic career, where money is low, but at least people apprecieate how educated you really are. And you don't need to hide your PhD. That's just my opinion. And that's why I puruse this career :)
    • by macbeth66 (204889)

      I'm not so sure that is a good idea, either. I was told, albeit a while back, that not including any past jobs and/or education is lying. It might be a lie of omission, but the job apps I've seen, asked for all past positions and education. I'd suggest speaking to a an expert in the field before excluding things.

      • by uncqual (836337)
        Put the PhD on the app to keep it "legal" but leave it off the resume.

        Hiring managers rarely see the app and few that have it actually look at it and those few that actually look at it usually have made up their mind about you by then (they look at it for stuff like salary history and perhaps reference checks).

        Do mention the PhD verbally in your interview with the hiring manager (however, you probably should not mention it, unless the topic comes up, with any other interviewers). This way, the manager
      • Re:Hide your PhD (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NFN_NLN (633283) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:01PM (#42497689)

        I'm not so sure that is a good idea, either. I was told, albeit a while back, that not including any past jobs and/or education is lying. It might be a lie of omission, but the job apps I've seen, asked for all past positions and education. I'd suggest speaking to a an expert in the field before excluding things.

        Hmmm.. I really think it depends on the situation. Let's take a look:

        Omitting that you working as a part time drug dealer in college... hiding something
        Omitting that you have a respectable Ph.D... your choice
        Omitting that you helped manage the importation of underage prostitutes from southeast asia... very specific and also hiding something
        Omitting your religion, marital status, sexual preference... your choice
        Omitting that your Ph.D. actually came from a sketchy online university... hiding something

        It appears omitting something out that could be potentially damaging is wrong. But omitting an achievement or otherwise acceptable detail that isn't the employers business is just fine.

        • Re:Hide your PhD (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:48PM (#42498071) Homepage

          "Omitting your religion, marital status, sexual preference... your choice"

          Technically, yes, but it's really not a good idea to volunteer this kind of information, unless it's incidentally implied by something else on your work history or work-related hobbies. So, if you were the IT manager for your local coven or organized monthly flying spaghetti dinners for the homeless, go ahead and say that, but don't simply put "member of the Church of the Sub-Genius" on your resumé. In the US it is illegal for them to ask that, and it is legally touchy for them to know that, because it opens them up to accusations of bias. It can come across as blackmail, saying "If you don't hire me, I'll sue you for illegal discrimination" or trying to curry favor with someone who has the same faith. At the least it shows that you don't understand what's appropriate information in a job application.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by afaik_ianal (918433)

            Most places I've worked would instantly toss resumes that explicitly mentioned anything like that - DOB, marital status, religion, even a photo.

            Having a policy of rejecting anyone who volunteers information that could be used as grounds for a discrimination claim is apparently the safest approach.

    • by vlm (69642)

      OTOH, I'd say it's more interesting to puruse academic career,

      Isn't the situation something like for every 10 phd granted, there are only 3 academic phd level openings, depending on area of study of course? The vast majority are going to have to activate the backup plan. Its very much like professional sports.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        That's the main problem, yes. In CS it's slightly better, because there's a constant outflux of PhDs to industry: every time you see one of those announcements about Google hiring a professor away from CMU, that's one more academic job freed up. But in physics the imbalance is much worse, and slogging away in a series of postdocs hoping for something to open up is the usual course.

      • Re:Hid your PhD (Score:5, Interesting)

        by billstewart (78916) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:54PM (#42498123) Journal

        3 academic jobs for every 10 PhDs granted? So the academic job market has gotten better, then? (:-)

        Back in the early 90s, a friend of mine tried to get a job as a physics professor, after doing electronics-related physics in industry for a while. First try got him into the top 3 of 600 applicants for small state college, and the next year (when candidate#1 had flaked out or gotten a better offer), he finally got the position. Paid dirt, and was totally out in the sticks (which did at least mean he could afford to live there.) On the other hand, back in the mid-80s, physics PhDs were getting jobs as quants on Wall Street, and the military-industrial complex was still hiring rocket scientists, so there weren't quite as many applicants for the academic jobs.

    • Re:Hide your PhD (Score:3, Informative)

      by kye4u (2686257)

      As much as I hate to say that, hiding a part of your education from resume (like not mentioning your PhD) is a pretty common method of getting employment. Of course with lower salary. They run screaming just because they think that they would need to pay more, because you had PhD.

      My perspective as potential employee
      I'm a PhD candidate (Computer Engineering) at a top 5 engineering school, and I would say that through the process of looking for full-time employment, the opposite has been happening to me.

      Employers see the PhD and their expectations rise exponentially; they expect you to walk on water and work miracles during the interview process even though the position you have applied for only requires a MS. Ironically, an MS graduate would have an easier time getting the

  • If you've been out of the field for awhile, your main priority should be demonstrating relevant experience.

    Which means more school (to prove you are current) or volunteering in a relevant role (to prove you're capable).

    Otherwise, you start back at the bottom. With your education level, there aren't many good horizontal transfer options.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:37PM (#42497051) Homepage Journal
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    Some suggestions for 2: Invent cold fusion. Transmute lead into gold. Create "death ray" and get some nation to pay a ransom. What? All those are practical physics and you're a theoretical physicist? Um... Ok... Get an entry level job as a junior web programmer and be sure to let everyone on your team know how much better than them you are because you have a PhD in physics. And insist that they call you "Doctor".

    • by gr8_phk (621180)
      Apparently - if you believe the LERN (cold) fusion folks, the easy path to gold would be so type of platinum-hydrogen fusion. No exactly cheap precursors ;-)
  • Join a startup (Score:4, Insightful)

    by loufoque (1400831) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:38PM (#42497065)

    Start-ups love over-qualified people willing to do meager tasks for nothing.

    • This. The security isn't good and benefits may be sketchy but it'll be fun while it lasts and you'll learn more about business than you would at a big corp. Then you will have experience to start your own.

  • Research? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by csumpi (2258986) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:45PM (#42497103)
    There is an article posted about this on slashdot EVERY TWO WEEKS!

    So maybe first you should do some research on the subject. But I give you the non-tldr version:

    If you want me to hire you, you have to show me that you are worth it. How can you do that? Work on a project (open source/your own/whatever) in your spare time and bring it to the interview. Without anything to show, I'm sorry, no tech job for you.
    • I've seen this work

      Another path is to keep trying to do something with the PhD. I successfully made the transition from corrupt NASA/DOD contracting to an industry job that uses my education a little bit, so its not impossible.

    • There are open source network HARDWARE projects?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Probably I'm just clueless about what you mean by 'networking technology'. Would it help your resumé at all, though, to show a couple of years managing the network for, say, a physics department? That's a job for which your current resumé would seem to be perfect, and it would give you ample opportunity to brush up old skills while on the job.

    Extending your association with academia might just deepen the stench as far as industry is concerned. But maybe, while managing a department network, you co

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:50PM (#42497151)

    Something similar happened to me. In my case, I was promoted to tech management after having been a lead engineer for years. I didn't realize what I was getting into, hated it, and bailed out after 5 months. Unfortunately, the company I was working for has a one-way track up the hierarchy, and stepping back into doing actual work is just not done, so I had to change jobs. I didn't have a ton of contacts in industry or with former customers yet, so I did the whole cold call/Monster/Dice crap shoot. With my resume showing the management experience, I got very few calls, and those that did interview me had very strong reservations about hiring me for a tech job since they wondered why I wouldn't be looking for a management role.

    (Short Answer: If I actually wanted to work solving kindergarteners' problems all day, I'd be a tenured kindergarten teacher and never have to look for work again. :-) )

    So anyway, I pulled the management experience off, and left the (reasonably impressive) technical accomplishments intact, and the calls started coming in a little faster. It took a while, but I got a job because of this.

    This experience did hammer home how important it is to keep in touch with your former colleagues and customers. Especially if you're an IT services person like me, there's no shortage of companies you can jump to if you have someone there who remembers you and can get you an interview without going through the mess.

    Side question: I was thinking of doing the same thing you were -- I have a BS in chemistry and was thinking of a Ph. D. -- is the employment situation for scientists that bad?? Given how crazy the world is now, a permanent job seems like a good idea even if I have to give up some of the salary gains.

    I think there's definitely room for well trained, scientific-minded people in IT. It's not all just button pushing, and most of my colleagues over the years have had absolute crap for troubleshooting skills. Now, if only we could start a professional services company around that idea. "Anonymous Coward Consulting Group -- We're not Accenture!" :-)

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:52PM (#42497163)

    Not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. In the USA, they're frequently female and quietly but intensely crazy. Forget anything rational when dealing with them. Go around them. Get your resume' to a thinking person with actual skills, common sense and the ability to do arithmetic. That person may be able to slide you around blockage of HR. Get in as a consultant or a temp and make them dependent on you. Threaten to walk if you don't get hired.

    As in most of the rest of America now, working through the system doesn't work. Adjust your thinking accordingly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      they're frequently female and quietly but intensely crazy.

      You do what that makes you sound like, right?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:53PM (#42497613)

        That's the tell him to way, coward!

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        Overly optimistic?

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      This. Forget that it's moderated "Funny"; it's true.

      My experience is that unless you've got a perfect resume, your best option to get in the door somewhere is through word of mouth - in the back door, so to speak. This has been true of every desirable job (and interview) I've had. The places which make it impossible to get a job this way (through overly staunch bureaucratic), requiring you to go through HR, are vertically integrated hellholes which encourage mediocrity and sameness. Even if you get the job,

  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:53PM (#42497175) Homepage

    If you've out of the game for a while, make sure to stress knowledge of network virtualization in addition to traditional/legacy networking. It's a good time as any to get in because there are relatively few people that are experienced in that aspect. It's not that it's particularly new, but new enough that most enterprises haven't completely adopted it (outside of cloud providers).

  • Listen to your tone (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:54PM (#42497197)

    I suspect it is attitude that is as much the problem as anything. While some employers do worry about over qualification, the tone of your question says "I think I'm the smartest person in the room and I'm going to be a nightmare to manage." Even in tech soft skills are hugely important.

    Thinking there was a shortage of physics PhDs shows a lack of listening and research (I say this as a physics faculty), the oversubsciption rate has been huge for ages. So I suspect this attitude (if I'm not misreading the post) has been there for a while.

    So you might really consider some classes in people skills—how to interview, how to listen and work in a team. These classes can be found in many community colleges and can be quite helpful (don't dismiss the CC classes, they can be excellent). Then I'd look for an opportunity to show teamwork and make sure you check the attitude at the door when you interview.

  • Roll your own (Score:5, Interesting)

    by holophrastic (221104) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:55PM (#42497199)

    Stop thinking that someone else has a job for you. Start creating jobs for someone else. If you're over the age of 30, your community needs you to create jobs, not take them.

    You've got an interesting world of experience. Cross-industry experience no less. Start your own company -- don't let the big word fool you, it's meaningless. You'll pay far fewer taxes, you'll be able to get free and very inexpensive employees from schools, co-ops, interns, neighbours, and anyone willing to "start at the bottom".

    It needn't be a big company. Just you and a physical assitant is all you need. And you want the physical assistant a) so you can shift your business into a different path to be flexible in five years and b) so you can worry about business admin stuff like client relations and invoicing and c) because someone should cover for you when you're on a beach somewhere enjoying life.

    Clients don't tend to ask for credentials -- I own and run a programming company, and no client has ever asked. They ask about skills. You've got 'em.

    And since it's your business, you can get just about any client by offering to do the work and not collect any money until the end. It's only a risk if you don't know what you're doing. If you do, you manage to buy a new client with nothing more than delaying payment by a month or two. That's effectively free client acquisition.

    Dude, just dive in. Expect to pay $2'000 per year on accountants and lawyers, just to get it off your plate and so your government talks to them instead of you. You don't need insurance unless you're punching holes into walls -- and those premiums aren't a big deal either.

    Get decent business cards, and give them to your neighbours. Each of them works in an office building somewhere. And each of their employers needs networking done at some point.

    Take small jobs, they turn into big jobs. Take small clients, they turn into big clients. Take clients with bounded projects that have a start and an end. They'll become your best repeat business. Don't spend more than 25% of your typical month on a single client (with many exceptions of course).

    Small business helps small business. Talk to other small business owners. Even your competitors. It doesn't hurt my business to help my small-business competitors. It just improves both of our small businesses vs the many many others. If you've got no one to talk to, talk to me.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      On this:

      * You don't need insurance, but get it anyway. It's a cheap way to sleep soundly. There are a lot of money hungry bastards out there who will sue you for their own shortcomings surrounding project "incompleteness".
      * Don't be picky. It doesn't matter if you can't do everything really well, as long as you can do it. Bill accordingly. You can eat steak every night after you've got enough money to be discerning.
      * RELATIONSHIPS. Find and use people you know to help you, either as subcontractors or as act

  • by BabaChazz (917957) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:55PM (#42497203)

    I'm afraid I have to agree with the consensus here. The big issue is the doctorate. In my experience, very nearly the only people who will accept someone with a Ph.D. behind his / her name is a university. And universities will be wary as well, they will think you expect to go tenure track, and you've already found how limited those slots are. You would probably have better luck with the employment if you dropped the Ph.D. off your resume; that's a bigger problem IMHO than the gap.

    The only alternative to the uni IT departments suggested earlier would be consulting; look for firms of consulting engineers, they like to be able to list Ph.D.s on their corporate CVs. I don't recommend going into business for yourself; that takes a vary particular mindset, and it's often a very thin existence.

    • by godrik (1287354)

      Actually, that's not true. Some large companies are looking for PhDs. But these are companies that are looking for extremely qualified tech jobs. Google, Intel, IBM are all looking for PhD. Since the question mentionned networking, I'd be surprised if Cisco does not look for some PhDs as well. The best networking technician I ever knew had a PhD in physics. Companies producing Infiniband technology (mellanox) certainly are interested in PhDs.

      One of the problem is that the "asker" has the "wrong" PhD. I thin

  • by enjar (249223) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:57PM (#42497209) Homepage

    The narrative you post is extremely hard to follow and makes little sense. Let's try to decipher.

    You lost your job when then dot com bubble burst and went back to school. You finished a PhD in Physics. You then found out your were sold a bill of goods about jobs of people with PhDs in Physics and there is some sort of glut.

    Then you have been doing some sort of project management for DoD and NASA. Now is where things get really weird.

    " I desperately want back into network equipment product management, but my networking tech skills aren't up to date."

    Pulling that apart, you are talking about a job more on the business side than the technology side of the business. Technical skills are important in product management, but so is a head for business. That could be one reason that people don't "get' you -- they see that you went back to school and spent time and money on getting a PhD in Physics. You didn't go back to school to get an advanced degree in CS, EE, or a MBA. You went back for Physics and now you are trying to get into product marketing. But things get a little weirder.

    "I find networking technology absolutely trivial"

    I really, sincerely hope this is a typo. Finding something "trival" has considerable negative connotations to it, and if you say that to a hiring manager, they are going to think you are going to be just biding your time with their "trivial" nonsense product and looking to move onto something more interesting the moment it shows up. It would be better to say that you enjoy certain challenges or explain what you find interesting rather than saying something is "trivial".

    And then finally,

    "I'm more than willing to start over in network admin"

    I don't see that you need to move to this, you need to concentrate and present the skills you have and exercise in program/project management and previous skills to get into some sort of networking gig. But you do need to address some rather good questions a hiring manager would have, specifically:

    - Why did you get a doctorate in Physics when you were interested in product management?
    - What excites you about networking and product management?

    I also highly recommend that all job seekers thoroughly read and use "What Color is Your Parachute?". If nothing else, it will walk you through making a coherent case for yourself of why you want to pursue a given career, and that coherent presentation is going to make hiring managers stop running and start listening more. Right now if I was hiring a job that was responsible for setting the business direction of a networking product, I'd be worried about hiring you because your record shows you actively running from the business development aspects of your career.

    Your Physics degree is certainly not worthless and should not be hidden. You can most likely take on complicated problems, decompose them at a high level, aren't afraid of the unknown, etc. Also the fact that you finished your PhD means that you can stick with something, too.

    • by menno_h (2670089)

      "I find networking technology absolutely trivial"

      A physicist's "trivial" means something more like "it won't take me more than a year to work out the general theory, and then I might be able to provide a full description somewhere in the next two years, but it isn't TOO hard.".
      In other words, he groks networking technology.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BonThomme (239873)

        but only for spherical chickens in a vacuum

      • by enjar (249223)

        I understand the context and the meaning. HR drones and many other people would be confused and/or insulted, as they would take it more as "beneath me" or "barely worth my time". It comes off like this:

        "I can understand the formation of galaxies and quantum mechanics. Networking is trivial. Please do yourself a favor and hire me."

    • Would mod this up if it wasn't already a 5. PhD's have a deserved reputation for being slow producing, narcissists, with little grasp of reality; and everything that goes with the narcissism: magical thinking, bad boundaries, arrogance, entitlement....

      Please remember, most hiring managers don't choose the people that can do a job; they chose the people they aren't threatened by and that managers believe can be influenced regardless of fitness for a position. If people in interviews make the hirers feel i

  • Scary letters (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    With all due respect, as someone who does hiring, I will say that the letters Phd are what would scare me off. For a job that doesn't require it, it indicates that you are desperate for a job and once you find something better, you're gone. Your resume would end up deleted without so much as a phone call. Also, in my experience, people with graduate engineering/science degrees tend to be more academic and less pragmatic. There is such a thing as too smart in the real world sadly.

    Google or Apple is where yo

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:10PM (#42497309)

    Move to China, Taiwan or Singapore and study Chinese. A PhD is respected a lot more there than in the US. I'm moving back in 6 months.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:16PM (#42497345)

    Science careers are extremely tough. Physics is even worse than other fields, with its obsession with youth and large number of graduates. Most physics graduates end up switching fields or working in engineering jobs in research labs. There is a shortage of scientists, but not a shortage of academic research scientists. Who do you think "lied" to you about it? Didn't you bother to look around you in grad school? Count the number of staff vs graduating students?

    Trouble is, by switching out of the computer field, you also give the appearance of having burned out on computers. You have skills and experience, but it seems a little much to expect for people to just hand you a career after you made a bunch of unusual career moves.

    What's wrong with your current job, though? A DoD and NASA program manager seems like a respectable job for a physics Ph.D.

  • There seems to be a grass roots movement growing, to explore options for bringing safer, cheaper-to-build "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors" (a.k.a. LFTRs).

    If there are no deal-killer issues with getting Energy from Thorium, I'd guess the number of jobs for Physics PhD's will rise.

    If you're new to this, cf: Kirk Sorensen's recent talk at TED.com; for details, search YouTube for "Thorium Remix."

  • by Zarhan (415465) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:25PM (#42497403)

    There are several comments here stating that the PhD means that hiring managers are scared of those. They are - but only if it's a "pure" PhD. I've got a lots of friends in academia who haven't spent a day in the industry. They are scared witless on what happens if their grant money expires (and are without tenure), since industry is such a different world and hiring managers know that they'd be like fish out of water.

    However, you seem to be in a very much similar situation as me. I completed my PhD last year. I happen to also have industry experience, including 9 years of working for an ISP, and a CCIE certificate. From my experience, it's a *very* attractive combination - to an emplyer, it means that you know what's going on in the real world and understand customers, and yet you can also look at the bleeding edge of research and maybe have some insight on how things at the horizon might affect your business in a few years - and maybe capitalize on those opportunities ahead of the curve. I know several people with similar backgrounds - in big companies they are usually located somewhere near CTOs office or similar positions, if not directly in R&D departments, but a few of them (myself included) deal with customers and their networks on a daily basis.

    That pause in your resume doesn't really matter *if* you can demonstrate that you haven't been in the ivory tower of universities but can actually deal with real-world problems.

  • The big companies: GOOG, MSFT, FB, even twitter can recognize the value of your PhD and give you a job you'll find rewarding. You've clearly got math chops and technical chops so as long as you can communicate well you should be a strong candidate. Look for keywords like researcher, applied researcher, data analyst, decision scientist, technical program manager, etc etc. There are tons of jobs for people like you and you don't have to pigeonhole yourself as pure research (overselling) or network admin (underselling). I spent a long time in academia before finding an industry job I really enjoy that is only tangentially related to my original research expertise.

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      I have to agree with this. My company is not very big - less than 1000 FTEs - but we have a ton of PhD staff. There are six other companies in the U.S. who do what we do and every one of them also has a bunch of doctorates. If you came to us with a PhD, it'd be a definite bonus, rather than making us nervous.

      Why the difference? No, we're not a software company like those mentioned by robbo, but we are nonetheless highly technical (in the EE field, as it happens) and value people with expertise in technical

  • by Alomex (148003) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:40PM (#42497529) Homepage

    I went back to school and finished my PhD in Physics. They lied -- there really is no shortage of scientists.

    There is a shortage of scientist, just not in the fields that are typically pursued within the hallowed halls of academia. Go ahead and do a PhD in High Energy physics, String theory, Cosmology or Relativistic physics and you'll end up like the person in the GP post. If you study, on the other hand, semiconductor physics, friction, or material physics you'll find half a dozen offers for well paid positions in industry research labs in no time.

  • With that background, get into the math-heavy end of computing. Get into machine learning, robotics, or quantitative finance. Apply to the big guys: Google, Microsoft, maybe Oracle. They're not afraid of PhDs.

    If you want to stay in networking, consider going to Cisco or Blue Coat Systems and working on network traffic management. They need more theory. Cable TV systems for traffic management are a collection of tuning knobs in search of a coherent policy.

  • Find that IT job, and look at who is trying to sell to you. The quality jobs are going to be found via networking (the person to person kind) anyway. Not all companies are run the same way- do the legwork- find the companies that already employ people like you... and then you have a place to concentrate your search.
  • I hate to say it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stox (131684) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:15PM (#42497809) Homepage

    Physics Phd's were very popular hires for High Frequency Trading firms due to their demonstrated problem solving abilities. This has now extended to some of the Fortune 500's in "Big Data" analysis teams. Stop looking at Physics jobs, and start looking at jobs which will benefit from the skill set you have developed to get your degree. You might be surprised.

  • The managers that ran screaming...you didn't want them. They are hiring on buzword filled resumes that they actually think mean something. You want a manager/company that wants extremely bright people that can solve problems that do not have buzwords yet. How long did you really network trying to find a job? 6 months a year at least is necessary. Work your connections or linkdin. Tackle this as you would a networking problem.
  • by Kittenman (971447) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:50PM (#42498087)
    I suspect you're looking locally - relocate. I've even changed countries for some jobs (broaden the mind and learn a language). If you're in the States - try Canada/Australia/the UK. After that, Europe ... plenty of places would be more than happy to get a Ph. D in Physics.

    Iran is looking, I believe ....
  • by Zigurd (3528) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:59PM (#42498157) Homepage

    Learn Android programming. While this advice is well-founded in personal experience, it may also be slightly self serving. [amazon.com]

  • After the dotcom bubble burst so long ago,when tech jobs were so scarce, ...

    I've been continuously employed since I graduated with a BSCS in 1987. Twice with the same small software development company, Unisys, SAIC - both at the NASA Langley Research Center - The New York Times and Northrop Grumman - all as a system programmer and/or system administrator on just about every kind of system from PC to Cray 2. The one time I unintentionally lost my job, I immediately found a part-time programming job at a small local hosting company and a new full-time, at my previous salary, two

  • by Natales (182136) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @06:25PM (#42498715)
    Not sure where do you actually live, but what you are describing is simply not true here in Silicon Valley. The industry is very hot and there is a lot of competition for talent. The more, the better, so your education and experience is far from a problem. And I'm not only talking start-ups, but even larger companies.

    Now with the appearance of SDN (Software Defined Networking), all your networking skills will become valuable again. It's a new market with the traditional players will fight with the newcomers and innovators.

    I know because I'm exactly in that business and I can't hire fast enough.
  • I finished my Ph.D as an experimental physicist 20 years ago, and got a post-doc. And I managed to get a job in IT after that. A few comments on your story: (1) Physics to network technology is not a natural jump. Your resume should be highlighting all the relevant experience you gathered while doing your PhD. I did a lot of heavy coding for data analysis, big data crunching, and unix system administration on cutting edge hardware. My other option besides the Sales Engineer job I ended up taking was transla
  • Your credentials are impressive and if you take advantage of free business training available through SCORE [score.org] you could make something happen. I've finally had it with changing jobs every three years to get ahead. I signed up for a SCORE mentoring session and spoke with a mentor who had some unbelievably great ideas. He even related a story about a 70 year old woman who was laid off from her medical billing job only to become businesswoman of the year 8 months later. To me, that was inspirational. So, I'
  • You either work at a job willing to train you, in which the Ph.D looks like a silly albatross, or you go get up to date. If you do the latter, people might assume you are up to date because of the Ph'D. But to say "I have a Ph'D and I am not up to date" sounds vaguely like "I've fallen and I can't get up"
  • Basically, every single person you know who might be able to get you a foot in the door in a tech job needs to be on your speed dial. Did you make any friends at school? Maybe you had some science classes with people going for Computer Science type degrees. Don't be ashamed to hit up you relatives, either.

    A wise philosopher once said related to a particular job that it is a, "valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing." This is why the best people to ask are people who owe you favors, or pe

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