I kind of promised – myself, anyway, and perhaps others – that I’d write some of this down once I’d gained some distance from it. Now that I’m back from the Big Michigan Trip, it seems like a good time.

The market really is pretty bad. I’m lucky that over the years I’ve met a bunch of people who are a lot better at this networking thing than I am, and worked in some areas that are pretty lively right now, but I know a lot of people who are having a harder time. It really is luck, by the way. As I get older it seems like all those contacts become more valuable, but it’s not the contacts I make now that matter. It’s the ones I made ten years ago, when I had no way of knowing, when I was just trying to do the right thing helping and talking to others. Maybe that’s more karma than luck, but either way it’s not skill or planning on my part. I know too many people who are just as qualified, who have tried just as hard, who are having a tougher time of it.

Here are some other random observations.

  • Pre-interviews, whether on the phone or over coffee or in person, seem almost de rigeur nowadays. Sometimes there will even be two, before you even get to the real first round.
  • There are more rounds, spaced further apart, than there used to be. There are also more delays to check references, more delays constructing an offer, etc.
  • Many companies are posting jobs that, on closer inspection, turn out not to be real. Personally I find this rather scummy, and it’s no surprise that a certain three-letter company is “leading to the bottom” in this area.
  • The Boston area is less of a tech-startup hub than it used to be. In my own specialties, I found a lot of smaller companies doing stuff in Silly-Con Valley, in Seattle, in Austin, all over the place, but relatively few here. The work’s being done; it’s just being done within bigger companies. Between that, and news of VCs pulling out or shutting down, I seriously wonder whether we’ll continue to be the #2 area for this kind of thing. Maybe we’ve lost that status already.
  • You’re still better off avoiding recruiters if you can. I know there are some good people working in the field, several of whom have been extremely helpful to me in the past, but I didn’t get one lead that way this time around. In fact I got -1, because one guy deliberately poisoned a likely opportunity. He’d mentioned a company five years ago, done nothing since, but still felt entitled to a fee even if the company later reached out to me on their own initiative so after he found out he triggered their “drop candidates if there’s any question about referral fees” policy. I won’t give the name here but, y’know, I might give an honest answer if anyone asks me for it while we’re having a beer together or something. I might also name some people I think are better. There’s that karma thing again.

Join me tomorrow, when I take on another job-hunt-related subject: puzzle questions.