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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 saphena (322272) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:31PM (#42496987) Homepage

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

  • Hid your PhD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Janek Kozicki (722688) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:34PM (#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 IceNinjaNine (2026774) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:38PM (#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.
  • Join a startup (Score:4, Insightful)

    by loufoque (1400831) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:38PM (#42497065)

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

  • by mapuche (41699) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:39PM (#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.

  • Research? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by csumpi (2258986) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:45PM (#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.
  • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:48PM (#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 enjar (249223) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:57PM (#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.

  • Scary letters (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:07PM (#42497295)

    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 you would probably do well IMHO.

  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:15PM (#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.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:46PM (#42497561) Journal

    This. Or just cut the pretense and make real money as a black hat.

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

    by NFN_NLN (633283) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:01PM (#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 @03:48PM (#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.

  • by jittles (1613415) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:25PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:31PM (#42498393)

    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 dynamo (6127) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:41PM (#42498445) Journal

    No, in this case, it means editing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:43PM (#42498817)

    What does your PhD demonstrate? PhD means that you are a scientist capable of independent research, somebody who can run a lab, choose own directions and achieve results. And here you are, seeking a "product manger" position. What kind of PhD are you?

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

    by afaik_ianal (918433) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @06:04PM (#42498997)

    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 Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:46AM (#42501871)
    Slashdot really needs to consider adding one more mod option, "-2, SPAM" and make it the only moderation that can have a score of -2.

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