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Ask Slashdot: How Do I Stay Employable? 708

illcar writes "Hi, I am a 40-year-old working as a senior developer for one of the biggest investment banks. I have always worked as a full time employee in my career; however the last 5-6 years have been very tough for me because of office politics, outsourcing, and economic conditions. The financial industry is not doing well, and we may be at the brink of another round of layoffs. My family is growing, my spouse does not work, and I still don't own a house. I am worried regarding my job security & career growth. Considering Medicare does not kick in till 65, I am still looking at 25 long years of career. I am wondering what the best way would be for me to stay employable in the coming years?"
illcar continues: "1. Should I stay technical, and be ready to work as consultant/contractor? How does medical insurance work in that case?
2. Should I capitalize on the domain knowledge, and move onto business/managerial side?
3. Will the MBA degree or alternate career help?
4. Any other suggestions?

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Ask Slashdot: How Do I Stay Employable?

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  • by jcoy42 ( 412359 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:09AM (#40523933) Homepage Journal

    As a 45 year old working in the industry, my first thought is find yourself a nice quiet place to cry.

    But honestly if you can do it move to management. If you've got a proven track record in the field, you've got a good chance at being one of those magic managers who actually can manage programmers (it's like herding cats). They won't respect you of course, but at least you'll be able to communicate with them which is huge.

    And the IT managers I know make decent money.

    Personally, I'm too much of a BOFH to go that route.

  • by smash ( 1351 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:13AM (#40523949) Homepage Journal

    At this stage in your career you should be focusing on the bigger picture (in terms of projects) stuff. I know the word is tainted around here, but ... project management.

    Grunt development work should be done by newer developers (who will work for less), you need to be more focused on managing a team, consulting, etc.

    Don't sell yourself short. You've likely seen many projects succeed and fail, and should have learned lessons on how they could be better managed. Leave the grunt work to those developers who don't have that experience, and try to get into the position of managing them.

    Knowing what can be done and how will make you a better manager - you don't need to be the one doing it.

    • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:38AM (#40524081)

      Project managers are the bottom of the manager totem pole. "Project" usually means stuff like getting everyone to use sharepoint against their will. This is different from product manager or team lead or something that is important.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:49AM (#40524157)

      Don't sell yourself short.

      Hey. That gives me an idea.

      The guy's in the financial industry. He already knows tech. With a year's education [] (and his employer may well cover the cost), he could do a hell of a lot better job than most sell-side analysts do.

      Half the barrier to entry to finance is jargon. (Kinda like how they see tech, LOL.)

      Anyone with a 4-year degree in CompSci can handle any of the math required for a CFA Level 1 (even if, at age 40, you'll need to dust off some stuff you haven't used since college). It's basically a 4th-year-college/1st-year-of-postgrad course.

      Whether he uses the acquired knowledge to be more useful to his employer (in that he'll be able to understand the needs of the people his code supports), or to switch careers at his current employer (downside: wearing a suit, upside: possibility of membership in the 1%), or to jump ship and work for another employer, or even if he just wants a skill that can pay the bills outside of work (you don't need a job to have a trading account, and if the markets ever shut down for more than a few weeks, everyone's out of a job except for the survivalists), is up to him.

    • by nixer ( 692046 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @02:41AM (#40524615)
      The CIO of one of the investment banks once said - in a very public forum - there are really only three roles in IT. Peon - the new guys who don't know very much yet, but should become valuable soon. Worker/do-er - those that actually create the stuff that makes the organization run. Overhead - everyone else. He then said - "be very wary of being promoted into "overhead".

      This is very sage advice. There is no such thing as "grunt development work" - developers will make or break your project. Project managers are only there to support the team and to protect them from the rest of the organization.

      The world is steadily moving to agile - only those delivering value to the team matter. Everyone else is "overhead". Be wary.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @06:08AM (#40525469) Homepage

        That sounds like the kind of CIO that'd make me want to run in the other direction, fast. To use a military analogy it's like saying an army only need privates, be wary of being promoted to an officer. I know some brilliant coders that have written excellent code on projects that have flopped miserably. Why? Very often because the project was a bad idea to begin with, the scope and requirements unclear, conflicting and changing or they're stuck waiting for input or some other group that isn't delivering so ultimately it failed to deliver any value to customers or the intended users anyway. That view is utterly failing to see the value of breaking down the overall goal into objectives, the logistics, equipment, support and training to put that private in the right place at the right time to pull the trigger.

        That's not to say becoming an officer is for everybody and there's room for special forces, extremely high skill people but still doers that aren't about commanding or supporting other people. I think a lot of people here on Slashdot would like that position, it's not about drawing up battle plans on the map (or is that Powerpoint these days), it's about high quality execution. It still needs commanders with a clue though, if you just put marines in the trenches with everybody else there's little room for excellence, you're just cannon fodder like the rest. You need someone to say "This is the critical part of the mission, and I need you to do it because you're the best of the best". Either that or go into architecture, like what's the backbone of our fighting capability going to be. I think everyone here has tried building a software app on quicksand. It never ends well.

  • by xtrafe ( 1262576 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:15AM (#40523955)
    ...if you've already got one. If you really think you're a candidate to be laid off, get going while the going's good. Shoot for a more senior or mgmt position at a smaller firm, get some experience in that role, and then rise with the tide when / if it comes back in.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:15AM (#40523957) Journal
    If you haven't looked for a job for the last several years, make sure you know how to make your resume look good. I've seen people with excellent skill who couldn't find a job, because they didn't know how to write a resume. I've also seen people who horrible, that had no problem finding a job, because they could make their resume look good. Finding a job is a skill like any other.

    After that, you should decide what you want. If you want to become a contractor, focus on skills (and resume writing skills) that will help you get that. If you want to go into management, go for that. If you want to remain a programmer, then aim for that.

    Realistically, there is enough demand in the market for any of those positions if you can do it reasonably well. If you aren't willing to relocate, that could possibly limit your options, though.
    • by eennaarbrak ( 1089393 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @03:30AM (#40524767)

      Super post, I agree fully.

      Another thing that you may want to consider is to go for "practice" interviews. Having a good interview is also a skill, and the more you do it, the better you get at it. If you interview for positions regularly (even if you are not serious about taking it up), then you become innately prepared for the type of questions that often gets asked, and don't have to overcome your nerves in the process.

      I learned this lesson the hard way recently. I haven't been interviewing in the last few years, but I had to start looking for employment again - and I was shocked at how rusty I was in the interviews. Things that I *know* became difficult to communicate, because I have not thought about it for a while (even the most diverse development project takes you away from some technologies for a while). As I was struggling to find my vocabulary (I'm not a native English speaker), I became self-conscious and nervous.

      But once I interviewed a few times, I found that the common topics came much more naturally to me. My confidence improved, and I think my overall image in the interviews improved a lot.

  • by pbjones ( 315127 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:19AM (#40523971)

    It's a changing world, few people can expect a long career with the same company. prepare you yourself for the worst situation, live in a house that you can afford, not the house that you want. Give your kids a good education, not the best education. Be prepared to shift into a more stable job at the expense of salary. I'm 55, if I lose my job tomorrow then I'm out cutting lawns or doing part-time teaching(?). And if things don't go bad, then you are in a good position for retirement. Start planning for 65 now, not in 10 years time.

  • Solution #2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jahf ( 21968 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:20AM (#40523973) Journal

    -> 2. Should I capitalize on the domain knowledge, and move onto business/managerial side? -

    This. I'm in the same boat as you without some of the office politics. However my manager is changing positions (and probably companies) soon. I managed to convince him to put the other person, far less senior, under me on the org chart. Very little actual management should be needed but it gives a bump to the resume' and a little bit of protection should the new boss want to do some house-cleaning.

    If you have someone where you are now who will do that with you, go for it. If not, then start quietly looking around for a place looking for a senior developer who can manage a team. At this point in your career (like mine) it is probably more important to move up than to stay loyal. It gets progressively harder to show management -initiative- (which is what most people want in a development manager) as you get past 40. It seems like under-40 being a direct contributor is fine ... but post-40 the longer you take to make a move to management the less they feel you are able.

    Also ... brush up on your PROJECT management skills if you aren't currently doing alot of it. Get Agile (scrum or similar). See if you can do scrum-master-like duties. Most development organizations will recognize that even if you don't have direct reports ... as a project leader you ARE managing not only people but also development.

    Management isn't some wonderful panacea ... I don't particularly like it myself ... but especially with the huge influx of employable-but-new faces graduating that are very hungry for a job ... it is very hard to stay competitive. Like you said ... you have 25 years to go. If you don't want to manage people in the HR sense, you have options. If you don't want to be coding as much as time goes on, you have the larger group HR-ish options (but not so much until you've done a report or two for a bit).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:21AM (#40523987)

    You are a Senior Developer for a Bank. By all accounts, you should have job security. Why? Because banks are notorious for having antiquated technology, particularly in-house code. As a Senior Developer, you are in a position to make yourself irreplaceable. Dig your self into the old code that no one wants to touch. Dig in like a tick. If a) you are the only one who knows the language and b) the only one who can understand the logic, then they will keep you. Don't push it, because if they know you are extorting them they will cut off their arm to spite you. Lay low and know where the skeletons are buried. You should have no problem cruising through til retirement.

    • Right up until the point where the bank goes under and/or merges with a another bank that has a more efficient IT department. Then all of the data will be migrated to another system (that you may be able to consult on), and your entire IT staff will go.
    • by Builder ( 103701 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @05:27AM (#40525271)

      RBS (a UK bank) were told by dozens of people that getting rid of the people who knew the batch processing system and moving their jobs to India was dumb. They did it anyway.

      Week before last it all went bang. People weren't getting paid, at least 2 people were stuck in jail because they couldn't prove that they'd paid their bail due to RBS systems being down.

      RBS won't change a thing after this.

      There is no long term loyalty from any job.

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:23AM (#40523999)

    you won't own a house, forget about it. your spouse needs to get a job. education at your age is a scam, it won't help you as employers only care about your experience in what they are immediately using. be thankful you haven't been out of work for over a year like many.

  • Emigrate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:31AM (#40524033) Journal

    then apply for an H1B visa to work in the US. I've heard employers prefer to keep indentured servants around rather than their 'valued employees'.

  • Easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:33AM (#40524045) Homepage

    Create a program that shifts fractions of cents from your company and puts them in an account you have access to; Then, if anyone gets suspicious, burn down the building to cover your tracks.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:33AM (#40524049) Homepage Journal
    Or find a niche you can ride 'til you die. Unless you actually want to go it on your own, the contracting companies out there will whore you out to any job posting that's even remotely a match and provide most of the benefits you're used to. Just take whatever you're making now, convert it to an hourly number, add 30-40% because when you're paid by the hour you don't get paid for sick time or vacation. Upside is they won't ask you to work overtime unless they're really desperate. Then chuck that number out there and see if anyone bites. You might want to check salary surveys for your area, too.

    Those contracting companies usually provide benefits (health care, 401K etc) for a price and do you a 1040 at the end of the year, just like you're used to now. If the company you're working for likes you, they'll usually do a full time convert or just keep extending your contract perpetually. If you know which way the wind is blowing, it's not so stressful. Sometimes I just shotgun my resume out there again anyway if they drag their feet on a renewal, just to see what's hot in an area.

    It helps to keep a network of recruiters, too. I always try to help 'em out when they come looking, even if I'm not in the market. Currently most of my network of past co-workers is employed, though, so I haven't been very much help lately.

    If the company you're currently working for is very sketchy, I'd farm out the resumes now and ride that job 'til you find a new one. If you get laid off before that, go for the unemployment. Whatever you do, don't let on to what you're up to until you're leaving and don't quit! One way or another you've got to ride that thing into the ground unless you find something else first.

    You can go it on your own as a self-employed contractor, too, but that's really more work than I care to put into working. Sure you make HUGE briefcases full of cash that way, but you're doing all the admin and tax crap the 1040 contracting companies do for you. Some people love that. You might hear from a few of them in this story. I work to live and would rather do other things with my free time.

    • by Dodgy G33za ( 1669772 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @08:51AM (#40526327)

      Not such a good move when he is the sole breadwinner. Which is his biggest problem - choosing to have a partner not working in this day and age is like having a servant. A bloody luxury, and one that makes you so much more dependent on your employer. And you should never let yourselve be in an unequal power relationship for long because you are gonna get yourself rogered big time.

  • by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:39AM (#40524087) Journal

    What if there's nothing you can do to stay employable? Then what? It's ugly out there. They will lay you off just for looking over 40 no matter how well you perform.

    I'd shape up my finances as much as possible. Cut expenses to the bone. Trade in the gas guzzlers for gas sippers, set the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter, use a clothesline (actually, an indoor rack works fairly well). Never go to the movies and cancel the cable TV subscription, etc. Use the Internet for that stuff. Pay off the credit cards. You know, all the stuff they advise people to do to improve their finances. As for buying a house, forget it, unless it's some foreclosure deal you can pick up super cheap. (I hear Detroit has houses for under $10k.) Keep renting, and live with the contempt and second class treatment that's routinely dished out to renters. All a house will do is tie you down, make it harder to move to a job.

    With finances not hindering you, you have another option: consulting. Consultants must be set up to weather slow times.

  • Ass from your head (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XenithOrb ( 649843 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:42AM (#40524105)

    The only thing I've really gathered from this thread is that no one knows dick about what's going on and no one knows their ass from their head about what to do about it. It's simply amazing that there is no real guidance here and all views are diametrically opposing.

    This tells me a few things:
    1) No way's better than another, no method of thinking is better than someone elses; do your best.
    2) Everyone is still fighting for the same slice of pie and it's only getting more random as to how that's done; competition is a bitch.

    • by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @04:19AM (#40524947)

      The only thing I've really gathered from this thread is that no one knows dick about what's going on and no one knows their ass from their head about what to do about it. It's simply amazing that there is no real guidance here and all views are diametrically opposing.

      This tells me a few things:
      1) No way's better than another, no method of thinking is better than someone elses; do your best.
      2) Everyone is still fighting for the same slice of pie and it's only getting more random as to how that's done; competition is a bitch.

      That's the whole point of discussion, to have different views and opinions even if you, in your infinite wisdom, don't think that any of the opinions posted have value. Personally I think that your post is flamebait and didn't add anything useful to the discussion at all.

      The original poster, and all of those of us who are in a similar position, are interested in those different opinions which will apply more or less to each of us as our situations, while similar, are each different. Training, for example, might not help a 40 year old programmer find a job, but might well be of use to a 40 year old network engineer who is also looking for work.

    • by Dodgy G33za ( 1669772 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @08:59AM (#40526417)

      Then you haven't read what I have read, or haven't taken it in. There has been quite a bit of useful advice:
      1) The wife should get work - more than one income = greater security
      2) Get into an area of the bank that is high value and obscure
      3) Go contracting.
      4) Drastically reduce costs

      I have no idea why your post has been modded interesting, but all of the above are worth a go, even if 3) is high risk without 1), but as you say in this economic climate things are uncertain.

      My golden rule has always been: Spend what you need, not what you earn. This means that as you earn more money, don't just upgrade the car/house/family/holidays etc as if your new income is the norm. Work out what you need. The rest goes into assets. For a rainy day, or for retirement, which ever comes first.

  • Stay Hungry (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hardgeus ( 6813 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:45AM (#40524121)

    I am not in your specific field, but close. I am 36. My advice:

    Stay hungry. Keep reading programming blogs. Work on hobby projects on weekends to keep your skills sharp. Write stupid games in languages you never use at work. Obsess over every little mistake in your code. Post ridiculous nuances of horrible PHP (fill in your language here) behavior.

    When necessary, stay up till 4 AM writing code. Build a team of hungry programmers. Build a team of guys who code all day, and go home and code a little more when they're not playing Diablo or whatnot.

    I hate to be an anus-hole, but your post sounds like the words of a tired burnt-out programmer. I wouldn't hire you. Medicare? Job Security and Office Politics? I didn't see anything in your post to indicate that you're still passionate about software development...And passion, IMHO, is the crux of staying employable in this field.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @02:03AM (#40524507)

      >When necessary, stay up till 4 AM writing code. Build a team of hungry programmers. Build a team of guys who code all day, and go home and code a little more when they're not playing Diablo or whatnot.

      Are you looking forward to ill-health (Weekends? 4AM? Your body is not going to put up with that kind of shit forever), divorce, and/or alienated kids (assuming you even manage to keep a stable relationship)?

      This isn't meant as an insult. It's just the naked truth. That kind of shit is for twenty-somethings who don't know any better.

    • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @03:42AM (#40524803)
      By the time I was 40 I had grown up, and I hope you do too. Knowing what I now know, I wouldn't hire you, because your driven lifestyle makes you likely to miss the big picture ("obsess over every little mistake" - no, you need to get a sense of proportion to fix large code bases), and you want a team of people like you (overly narrow focus). Fine, no doubt, if you want to design HFT systems, but not so good when a variety of real world problems with different priorities are flooding in all the time and a balanced, rational approach is needed to manage the workload and stay sane.
    • Re:Stay Hungry (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wrook ( 134116 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @06:08AM (#40525467) Homepage

      Passion is important, but so is effectiveness. It seems obvious that the more time I spend doing something and the more attention I give to it, the more I will progress. However, this is not true. Programming is a task of the mind. If you are not alert, there will be things that slip by you. I'm not talking about bugs, I'm talking about missing the abstractions that make you a better programmer. Not only that, but the mind requires time to sift through the information you're giving it. You actually need time to forget what you are doing in order to reinforce it.

      I highly recommend that you limit the time you spend at the keyboard. You will progress faster as a programmer. You need activities that allow your mind to wander. This will consolidate what you are doing. I actually quit my job as a programmer and now only spend about 2-3 hours a day (if that) programming. In the 5 years that I've done that my programming ability has improved at a much faster pace than when I was working 70 hour weeks. Because I have so little time, I'm focused and aware of what I am doing. Because I am not tired, my ability is much higher and I discover things faster. Because I give my brain time, the concepts coalesce faster.

      Anyway, give it a try sometime. I think you'll be surprised.

    • Re:Stay Hungry (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @07:43AM (#40525873) Journal

      When necessary, stay up till 4 AM writing code.

      Oh, just fuck off. People like you are part of the problem, not the solution.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:48AM (#40524143) Homepage Journal

    It can't be outsourced, and have you ever heard of an unemployed plumber?

    It's meaningful work, too, work which has saved more lives over the centuries than doctors have.

    (Even I can't tell if I'm serious about this).

    • Plumbing in the Roman world made their cities inhabitable by bringing in adequate drinking water and draining away sewage. The problems of the plague in London were solved by Bazalgette's sewage system, water purification plants and piped water.

      Another thing: there are plenty of plumbers but not that many intelligent plumbers. The same goes for electricians. A plumber with IT qualifications will normally have the business and topological skills to do the job better and for less than a plumber without, and b

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:49AM (#40524159)

    ...but let's face it, some of us have no interest in management, or consulting. That's why, after a 15-year career in software development, I turned to teaching. And if you're laughing because I'm advocating teaching as an alternative career, you miss my point: Sometimes getting out of the field is a viable option. I grew tired of lining the pockets of CEOs and PHBs and gutless business owners who simply ran their businesses into the ground, businesses built partially on my hard work. Sometimes you have to take a step back and ask yourself "What exactly have I done for society these past years?" Chances are, if you're a software developer at a "large investment bank," not a hell of a lot.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:49AM (#40524161)

    IT tends to throw out the old and import the young because the old hands don't keep up with the new technology. But if you have special skills that are vital to your industry they'll keep you around until you choose to retire or die of old age.

    You will have to keep up on technologies as they come. Your company will tell you what skills they're looking for... Definitely keep training.

    The suggestion to move to management also isn't bad.

    Work on increasing your value and look at job openings that are close to your skill set. Ideally you don't want to care if you're fired because you're so valuable that you'll just get another job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:52AM (#40524175)

    There's two types of companies out there: those that see the software you create as an asset and a source of revenue (directly or indirectly) to be managed, and those who see the software you create as an overhead cost to be minimized. These companies will treat you accordingly: in short, your salary is either part of a profit center, or part of a cost center. If you can help it, _NEVER_ work building software that is viewed as an expense. In all but the most spectacular, idealistic, privately held utopias of small companies you will be treated like vermin if what you build is an expense. When the software you build generates revenue and you work in concert with business, then you're respected and valued as a developer. You are not viewed as a "code producing resource" to be maximized and controlled.

    A fun spin on this is to sell your experience as a consultant. BDC's (Big Dumb Companies) are full of projects in need of rescue or "quick turnaround" that the BDC will pay out a tasty premium for 6-9 months at over 2X what they pay their own coding slobs who are too dis-organized and balkanized by middle-management fiefdoms to get the chance of doing a project in the first place. When you do this, you're working in a profit center (for you consulting agency or perhaps yourself) _AND_ you get the advantage of exposure to a variety of tools and problem domains.

    Oh. And for the record, don't buy a fucking house. Second worst decision I ever made, IMHO. The idea that it's the smart long term financial solution for everyone is total bullshit:

  • Banks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:56AM (#40524193)

    I worked in IT at one of the larger investment banks for a bit.

    At somewhere like Apple or Google, IT is everything. Or a lot. At an investment bank it is nothing - the investment bankers and sales people are the entire focus. You can argue about how important IT is there, but these are institutions with tons of money to burn, and if they make a mistake, the US taxpayer will always bail them out. That's the thing, they have a ton of money. I have seen insane things go on in terms of technical time bombs waiting to go off. But they have so much money, they can throw money at any problem and it will be fixed. IT is treated like garbage I would say. I think it's insane people would work there in IT over a long period of time. Where I worked, almost everyone who did not leave of their own accord was pushed out - they can people all the time, especially when the market dips. Then again, it is such a big industry, sometimes people find a good spot which seems like a sinecure, and it is not so bad. But some people who think they found a sinecure one day find out they were wrong. It can be a good experience to work at a place like this for a year or two, and it looks good on a resume, anyone who stays for a long time I think is crazy, and their personality always seems to me to change, they seem unhappy. Look how nervous you seem in your post, it does not seem the post of a content, happy person. You're at a company at the apex of world financial power, yet they make you feel insecure. You're one of the workers doing all the work that creates that wealth for them, but they seek to make you feel like a disposable peon. You are a disposable peon.

    Anyhow, your age works against you. People are smart enough to not say any age discrimination stuff, but I've been forced to pass over extremely qualified candidates more or less because (unsaid) they were old, had a family they would have to spend time with, might stick up for themselves etc.

    If you want to stay in finance, connections are everything. When the cuts come, and they always do, the managers will get together and decide who stays and who goes. Are any of the decision makers going to fight for you? Aside from this, keeping in touch with people when they move to other companies is important, especially when you're looking for work. The stupidest thing you can do is stick your head down and do a good job for sixty hours a week. No one gives a shit - at all. If you think the vultures running your company care, if you think your manager's manager cares, you are a complete fool. Politicking is everything in places like that. As far as consulting, usually these places want to deal with consulting companies, so you have to get to know the project managers and such at consulting companies. This is not hard to do - the project managers want to have a good relationship with hired staff at the company, they want their consultants supported and to get more business, they know you can always be the one who is bumped to team lead or manager.

    Also, if you're not chasing the brass ring where you are there is NO reason for you to be there. Your goal should be to be either a managing director in IT (which there are very few of, because the bank considers IT a backroom joke) or in the elite architecture/engineering team. Why would someone kill themselves at these places otherwise, other than to get the experience and resume blurb for a year or two?

    As far as getting a job, it is like this: there is a bell curve. Most people are in the middle. You are probably in the middle. Most interviews are looking for people on the right end of the curve. When you go on a technical interview, do you miss questions? I've interviewed dozens, maybe hundreds of people. People on the right side of the bell curve can answer mostly everything I throw at them - 99 out of 100 questions. A few people are on the left side and know very little. Most people are in the middle, you can tell they kind of know it, and could probably do the job, but you're n

  • My advice (Score:5, Informative)

    by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @12:58AM (#40524203)

    I'm a big believer in the idea that social interactions are more important than job skills when it comes to getting or retaining a job. Just think : how many people have you worked with that seem to have no job skills whatsoever, but they often thrive in an office, undeservedly becoming manager when they don't know how to spell IBM?

    Those people are either lucky, or more likely, they know how to manage the social game. With that in mind, here's my advice:

    1) Learn to play office politics.
    I'm not talking about some sort of 80's and 90's era sabotage-the-other-guy or beat-them-with-a-better-pitch schtick. Just realize that the ability to socialize in a business setting is a valuable job skill. Make sure you know what's going on in the office, and at worst, offer to pitch in where you can, or act to perform introductions between those that need and those who can provide.

    This ability is especially rare among stereotype IT/developer types, so when it's recognized, it's usually well rewarded. If you're having problems in this area, I recommend joining a toastmasters group if simple social interaction is your issue, or asking a manager to mentor you ... which leads to my next item.

    2) Keep climbing up.
    The standard business operates not based on income, but the rate at which their income is fluctuating. If it's not going forward, then there's something that needs to be 'fixed' - at least from a stock, investor, board standpoint. This feeling trickles down though. If you're happy doing the same job for years, then either there's something wrong with you, or the job - according to some managerial viewpoints. That's why they ask you stupid questions like, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years," in your interview/review. They're just checking that you're normal, according to their standards.

    The easiest path up is management. Ask to be mentored, indicate that you want to move into management. Leverage your technical seniority. You can go the project management route since there's an easy certification for that, if you're into certifications (some companies are, some aren't).

    Alternatively, court the architect position. If it doesn't exist at your company, request that it be created for you. You don't need more money (though you shouldn't ~say~ that), in fact, you might not even need new responsibilities. Just do it for the title. It's important. Maybe not to you, but when they make decisions at the top level, they know they can afford to get rid of developers - even a senior developer or two - but an 'architect' sounds invaluable.

    3) Take ownership
    You've spent significant time at your company, and you have a good idea of the technical domain. You must have a million ideas about what can be done, and what can be done better. Find something you can care about and make it happen. That means drawing up a business plan, inserting yourself in manager's schedules, getting approval, learning .. ugh... powerpoint, drawing gant charts, whatever it is that will sell that idea to the business with YOU as the lead.
    It helps then, to be able to pull it off, but honestly it doesn't seem to be all that important.

    4) Self-promote.
    Ugh. I hate this one, but it's necessary. The only people who may really know your value is your co-workers, and if you're on a small or isolated product, maybe not even them. Your manager ~may~ have a good idea of what you're worth, but let's guess that it's 50%. His manager only has about a 10% grasp, and the department manager with 300 people only knows you by job title and the section his direct report manages.

    If your manager isn't whooping up your name and your co-work

  • Keep it simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xacid ( 560407 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @01:09AM (#40524253) Journal

    Pure opinion here - if it was me in your shoes I'd have the wife getting into the job market (heck, what is she going to do at 40 if you get hit by a bus anyway?). At 40 if I was uneasy about my current job I'd start looking at sprucing up my resume and putting my name out there just to see how the market is biting. I'd like to think we're all fairly flexible in case of layoffs - I seem to always run into various people looking for all spectrums of folks in the IT world. The biggest thing is being willing to relocate. Beyond that all I can say is I hope you've made the most of your career thus far because that's what's going to keep you afloat.

  • by krick-zero ( 649744 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @01:11AM (#40524265)
    I assume the reason that you haven't purchased a house is because you can't afford it where you currently live. If that's the case, you really need to move somewhere that has affordable housing. There's lots of places with affordable housing that have developer jobs. I recently moved from New Jersey, which is mostly horribly expensive, to Cary, North Carolina, which is a small town between Raleigh and Durham. I bought my first home at age 41 for $215K. It's an older home, but it's 2000 sqft, on 1/2 acre, with an in-ground pool. My property taxes are $1600 a year. A similar home in NJ would easily cost over twice as much and the taxes would likely be 8K or more per year if I was lucky. Here in the Raleigh/Durham/Cary "Research Triangle" area, you could probably find a job with Deutsche Bank or Credit Suisse if you really want to stay on the Financial/Banking career path.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @01:16AM (#40524295)

    (1) Stay physically fit and active, and keep up your appearance. Nobody wants to hire a middle-aged slouch with a pot-belly, tattoos, and greasy hair. Your spouse will appreciate this too.

    (2) Learn another human language. Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, etc.

    (3) Participate actively and meaningfully in the open source projects of your choice, using your real name (not a goofy pseudonym) so that you will have examples of your work to show to potential employers.

    (4) Participate in local charity and volunteer organizations. This will help improve your people skills.

    (5) Turn off the TV and read books instead. Non-fiction is best, but even fiction is better than nothing. Keep improving your mind.

  • by superflit ( 1193931 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @01:44AM (#40524417) Homepage

    As a foreigner living in US for some years I got scared by the way our fellow americans live with Debt.

    First thing is check your mortgage and check if it is possible to re-adjust or re-finance with lower interest and after check ways for you pay it in ADVANCE.

    Being as employer and employee I can assure you:

    The man who has freedom, real freedom (paid his house and has 'easy' cost of living) is in better way and better mindset to negotiate.

    Anecdotal story:

    I had to fill a position for medium level from several applicants I had 2 very distinct.

    a) One was middle age (35) but has all his house paid, and he even took one year in Paris just 'for learn French'

    b) Other was 45 and have 20 years of mortgage because he fall for the 'housing bubble'

    The guy with the paid mortgage was very calm on interview, proactive and well mannered.
    Other the mortgage guy was desperate and near a hear attack.
    I had to choose the free mortgage guy because he was the best choice for the company. technically and MENTALLY
    Please, I assure you I want the best for all the fellow man who live this country.
    Can you 'downsize' your costs? move to a smaller but PAID(or lower month paymnt) apt? Bring MORE safety for your family but less 'luxury'.
    I know the american dream is big spaces or house, but really. Do you really need that?
    What about get downsized on costs and Later move on but more security?
    Medicare and Social Security ONLY works if you had ALREADY paid your house.

    I hope for your safety and best for your family

  • by tonywestonuk ( 261622 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @02:29AM (#40524579)

    I am 39, going 40 this year. 3 years ago, I was an RPG programmer (IBM Iron). My employer, TD Waterhouse bank, had no interest in moving to more modern tech.

    I saw the writing on the wall to my carer, I needed to act. So, I made a facebook game..... it was pretty pants poor, though I did learn new skills. More importantly, I was able to show this game off in an job interview for a Java Web developer.... I got the job because of it.

    So, my advice to you is to build your own personal project, Make a website, make a facebook game. the game might not get you anywere, but it will improve your carrier prospects no end.

  • Take the red pill (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperCharlie ( 1068072 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @02:59AM (#40524675)
    "You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

    I took the red pill 4 years ago. I was a senior tech drone at a university and could have easily spent another 25 years to retirement skating in the tech side of academia. I woke up one day at 43 years old, looked back, and realized my life had been stolen. I had spent 5/7th of my existence doing things I didnt give a shit about while waiting for the weekend to cram my life into.

    I decided enough was enough and I walked away.

    I took my savings and retirement and got rid of every debt I owed and bought some land. I started a small business and got my monthly living expenses under $1000. Im at about $600 right now and hope to go lower.

    I built a house by hand..still working on it, but its all mine, every stinking stick of wood.

    Ive got a ways to go as Im working towards doing the farm thing..but thats my path. Decide what yours is and follow it. Maybe it is to be an employee, maybe that fulfills you.. but I suspect deep down that no intelligent person really wants to work until they are old, used up. I suspect they are just doing it because they are afraid of the unknown and afraid of losing their security. The question is, is security worth looking back on your life to realize you never really lived?

    No, its not easy. No, it is not fun. No it is not secure. But yes...yes it is freedom and hell yes it is living. At least for me.

    Which pill ..which pill to choose.
  • by boley1 ( 2001576 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @03:14AM (#40524715)

    I had similar concerns and this is what I did, and how it turned out.
    [Sorry this is so long, but I spent way too much time making it this short.]

    At about your age I was facing the prospect of going the management route or doing what I loved. I had been acting like a manger as a team lead but avoiding much of the messy side of dealing with personel. I was expected to move on up and take on the added burdens of full management and give up the hands-on fun (for me) stuff. Didn't want it, yet I saw what happened to 50 year olds who didn't move up. I didn't want that either. So, I planned an exit strategy, and left becoming more or less a consultant. I had an incorporated company(very important to be an employee of a company - not a freelancer) already set up and 6 months of cash put away before I left.

    Here are a few key things that worked for me. They weren't really part of my strategy, but just came naturally, and really paid off.
    (1) I really cared about the folks (mostly 10 to 15 years younger) I was leaving behind, and I wanted them to succeed after I left. I made it a point to mentor them, so they could survive after I left.
    (2) I really cared about the organization and the current projects I was working on, and delayed my departure for a year, to make sure they succeeded and there was a heir apparent team lead to take over.
    (3) I didn't tell anyone what I was planning, other than my wife, my dad (who had just retired) and a close uncle.
    (4) When I was ready to leave, I went to my boss, and told him I would like to sit down with his boss and anyone else that they wanted to invite and explain exactly why I was leaving, what I intended to do after I left, and make sure that any rumors would be put to bed about why I was leaving. I reviewed everything I would say with my boss, and asked for any suggestions he had that might make what I said as painless as possible for him and his boss.
    (5) The main points of that meeting were (1)(2) and (3) and I wanted them to know what I planned, before my peers and team members found out, so they could prepare to deal with any fallout.
    (6) I also offered that I would stay up to 6 more months to help finish or transition projects, or I was prepared to be escorted by security on the spot to clean out my desk (which was official human resources policy at my previous job).
    (7) The last and maybe most important point I tried to make in this meeting was that I was hoping not to burn any bridges, because they, the organization, the bosses, the team members helped make my career, and I didn't want them thinking bad about me, because who knows, they might even need me from time to time as a consultant. I told them that, I wasn't just thinking about it.

    Now frankly, I figured I had a 50-50 shot of being shown the door immediately or worse. They probably thought I was a bit crazy leaving excellent pay and benefits for an uncertain future, but seemed to respect the approach I was taking.

    Bottom line - they asked me to stay on for 6 more months and gave me a great send off complete with memorabilia. 6 months after that I was their consultant and they started outsourcing some development tasks, and now 12-1/2 years later, I still do work for them. Most of my income comes from other sources, but they are a dependable customer and the people I left behind have brought me a lot of business through their natural networking. My house is paid for, both my kids went to college, for as long as they wanted, and are doing very well in their chosen professions. I'm able to give away a substantial portion of my income to benefit those less who are less fortunate. So at least to this point it as worked out well by any measure.

    One last part but not the least part of this story - (I'm pretty sure this will get mod'ed down because it cuts so much against the grain), I prayed this whole thing through, before during and after. I 'knew' this was the right thing for me to do and there was a right way to do it.
    Full disclosure: Yes I'm one of those. In

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @07:05AM (#40525687) Journal

    ever notice how they stay in the same jobs for 10 years, maybe 20? while managers, consultants, experts, systems analysts, etc, get layed off repeatedly?

    go be a peon.

    not joking. you can still get layed off, its just that they will always need someone to repeatedly do boring ass work shuffling stuff from one place to another.

Air is water with holes in it.