Laid off, need some advice

apostrophe27
apostrophe27 used Ask the Experts™
on
I got laid off in January after 15 years at the same company. My title at the time of layoff was Software Engineer II. I was hired as an engineering technician in 1997, and advanced over the years. I don't have a degree, just a certificate in Electronics Technology. I've take two or three college classes in computer science and couple in English.

I'd say half my time was spent writing programs to debug and validate our products in house. Most of the rest of my time I did testing of the products and worked with the hardware engineers debug the designs if necessary. I used scopes and analyzers in the course of debugging.

I generally wrote Visual Studio MFC programs, either GUI or console.

My problem is that I'm not confident of my programming skills. I knew how to do the things I needed to do for that job. I don't think I can just sit down and start typing away writing a program. I used to hear some of the guys around me sound like they were typing non-stop all day.

On top of all that, I've been having memory and concentration problems the past year or two due to some medication I'm on. I've had to look up some pretty basic things once in a while because I couldn't remember how to do it.

I was able to get my job done in a way that was more than satisfactory, and in fact was better than others. But I had long term knowledge of how to do the things needed for that job. I had my  notes to refer to, my previous work to start with or use as a reference, and access to the internet to look up what I didn't know and find sample code if I needed it.

I'm looking for advice on what I should do next. Should I apply for a lesser position than I had? I'm not opposed to making some kind of career change where I still use some of the knowledge I have.
Comment
Watch Question

Do more with

Expert Office
EXPERT OFFICE® is a registered trademark of EXPERTS EXCHANGE®
Sorry to hear about the bad news.

Apply for any state unemployment benefits if you are eligible. This will provide you a small source of income until you can find another position. Taking a temporary pay cut with new employment is not a bad thing. I took one and three years later I landed another job making $20K more.

Good luck!
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Commented:
First, please let me extend my sympathy to you regarding being laid off. Most of us, myself included, have walked in those shoes, and it is uncomfortable to say the least.

Second, please do not set your sights overly high, given the statements you made here. I have been working on my own for over a decade now, but I need my memory and my stamina to keep up with the demands. I do not mean to put you down in any way, but if you are having difficulty at the present time with memory and concentration, setting out on your own is probably not the best idea.

So then what to do?

You need to create a resume that speaks well for you in terms of your skills and your experience. It needs to state a goal as to the kind of job you are seeking.

January was a while back. Did the company give you a job hunting consultant? Did you use that consultant? Is the consultant still available to you? In some metropolitan areas, there are job network groups that you could take advantage of and there are usually people in these groups (or workshops) who can help you with a good resume.

Then, you need to approach your contacts. This is the time-honoured networking approach where you ask contacts to give you leads if they can. This is very important.

I am sure you already know that job-hunting is a full time job. You do need to work at it daily. But I am sure you already know that.

Please let us know and good luck. .... Thinkpads_User

Author

Commented:
I am currently collecting unemployment. On top of that, between severance and unused vacation, I got about six month's pay.

I'm totally expecting a sizable pay cut, and I accept that.

I was provided with a career consultant service for two months, and I've been working with them. I'm still having trouble figuring out exactly what skills I should emphasize. I don't want to wind up in over my head.  How do I explain my applying for a job that seems like I would be over qualified for based on my previous title?

As far as going out on my own, even if I had the where with all, I wouldn't consider it right now since I don't have the kind of cash reserves needed to start out.
OWASP Proactive Controls

Learn the most important control and control categories that every architect and developer should include in their projects.

Have you tried taking temporary work? I did that while I was looking for a job. It can get you experience in places and types of work that you wouldn't otherwise be exposed to, and provides a bit of income while you're doing it.
One of the jobs I had was running the postroom in a fairly large office which gave me the opportunity to get to know people from many different sections in the building. Letting them know what my skills were led to some extra temporary work in the building and me being allowed to fiddle with computers again instead of a franking machine.
Keeping yourself doing something helps boost your self confidence, which can take a bit of a hit when your laid off, especially if like yourself you take stock of your skills and decide that maybe you aren't as useful as you hoped.
Don't let that stop you, some of the things you did from day-to-day will be considered very hireable where you see them as easy and mundane.
I sat next to a programmer for a while who typed incessantly and produced pages of code. We had to open one of his packages once while he was away and found that he didn't use loops and variables like the rest of us, he preferred to repeat great sections of code over and over with slight variations. He also commented every line and there was probably more green text than black. It would be good but the comments weren't helpful. One example was:
a=a+1 ; 'let a equal a plus one

What we really wanted to know in his absence was what a was representing at that time and why he was incrementing it.
Loads of typing doesn't mean they know more than you, it might mean that they think less.

Most places expect you to look things up on the internet now, there certainly isn't anything wrong with referring to that or to notes that you have made. It will save your time and allow you to get the work done faster.

oh, and get applying for anything you think you can do. Getting a bit of practice at interviews is very useful for when the right job comes along.

Wishing you the best of luck.
Commented:
Every programmer I know has moments in their day to day programming life that they come across something that they used to know off by heart - but have to look up just to be sure they are doing it correctly. Using the help files, copying code that already exists and not reinventing the wheel is the way I was taught to be the best programmer ever.

It sounds like if you are using these skills you should definitely continue doing that!

Working methodically and correctly actually also saves time at the end of the day. There are a lot of developers that do type a lot - but in the mean time make a tonne of mistakes and are busy (typing) trying to correct those mistakes. This actually costs a company a lot of money, whilst if you can write the code well in one go actually saves the company the time and money it costs to correct the mistakes.

From what I read, your main issue is that you are not sure if you are upto doing what you did at another company because you think you do not have the knowledge needed or the programming skills to back it up. In my opinion, do not underestimate the power of experience.

Every software development group needs different types of people. When I first started working as  a software developer 11 years ago, I used to get frustrated with the older generation because they took their time coding, testing and thinking out the problems perfectly before coding. I now look back and see the restults of their code versus the code of young people (like I was). Their code was well structured, well thought out and near to bug free!

It did cost the company the initial time that the older generation took to program it - but it saved them tonnes of money at the end of the road because there was nothing wrong with the code when it was implemented.

In other words - all I'm trying to say is - do not feel like you could not program at another company, in another language even. Have the confidence that your experience gives you something that companies should desire and need for a good all rounded development team. And know that the fact you know yourself better than the younger generation of programmers out there, will help you teach them to slow down a little and look closely at the code they are writing.

That is my two cents worth - now I'm going back to looking for a new job as well. I took a year off to start a family and although I love spending time with my 10 month old daughter, I really do want to head back into leading new young software developers to create brilliant quality software and taking on software developers like yourself with experience to teach them how to do it properly!
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
>>> I was provided with a career consultant service for two months, ...  I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what skills I should emphasize. I don't want to wind up in over my head.  How do I explain my applying for a job that seems like I would be over qualified .

I think decent employers are used to this. You career consultant should be able to help uyou work out your skills. For example, if you spent more time debugging and testing than coding, they should help you say both things (programming; debugging) in a way that says what you are good at.

I would say all this a different way:  You lasted at the prior company for 15 years. Why is that? What did you offer them that caused them to keep you for 15 years. You have some skills and capabilities and you need to (with some help) write these down in a way that tells others you can help them as well.

Check out the networking groups near year and if there is one, join it.

.... Thinkpads_User
First of all you need to strength up your emotional state.
You have to find the power to stand-up no matter how grey seems now the situation.
Many people had/have similar problems and solutions are and will appear sooner or later.
Do not underestimate yourself, your qualities and your experience.
I have seen many stupid people in high positions knowing so little that is unbelievable…
I traveled thousands of km from one continent to another hoping a better job – and sometimes it was…
For the last job that I have I had to relocate myself and my family again, this time “only” 650km.
I work with people that speak a language which I do not understand enough – I am learning and is going to take years – I was never good with languages, never….and the life forced me to “at least” understand and learn minimum, if not to speak fluent… now is the 3rd language…and is hard, a change…but not boring. But the job is OK.

I would like to encourage you to look forward with optimism in the future, but be ready for changes and be ready to pay for the changes – you may have to learn new things or generally invest energy: make better resumes, go to interviews, fairs, and ask people for jobs, learn a new language, make a new course for programming, try to evaluate yourself – build your trust in your skills, relocate if is necessary.
It may also happen that you have to be satisfied with less…at least temporary.

One thing that helped me to get the right strength: pray and speak with God – it easy to be done and costs you nothing.
Try to find the next steps in your life – now is the moment.
A new job will arrive sooner or later anyway.
I am genuinely sorry to hear you are in such an emotional turmoil over what could be a really exciting time. I remember being there myself.

This is easy to say and VERY hard to do - but you SHOULD look on this (sudden?) change of career as a blessing from whatever God you pray to, and take stock on what it is that you REALLY LOVE doing in life. Are you good with people? - then look for a change of career that will let you use those skills. If you love working with your hands, why not try doing it? This may be the ideal opportunity to learn new skills for your future workplace, using such government/private facilities as you can (I dont know your location, but here in the UK we get all KINDS of money and opportunities thrown at us just so we arent an unemplyment statistic!)

If you genuinely enjoyed your time in software development, why not continue with it? - as a few people before me have said, if you were retained for as long as you were, you must have been doing SOMETHING right- and as I have often said to my customers, memory is overrrated - as long as you can remember how to type "Google", you'll be OK: the difference between a computer "fiddler" and an engineer is that, when things go SERIOULSY wrong - the engineer knows where to look - (often on EE)

One thing I havent seen mentioned is your relationship status; if you have a partner, have you discussed your alternatives with them? If you dont have one, that can be both a blessing (hey - I could be the new Jimmy Buffett!) - and a curse (I wish I had someone to confide in). - and if you HAVE, is it possible that they could "take up the slack" while you did some retraining?

Please try to look on this as an adventure, and I KNOW it will work well for you.

Have a good life!

Author

Commented:
Thank you all for the advice and encouragement. I needed the thoughts of people in the same field who are more familiar how it works.

@RobinD - I was thinking of doing some temporary work. How did you get hired at a job unrelated to your experience? Wasn't the employer afraid you would leave if something better came along?
I'm in the Uk where we have agencies that specialisr in placing people in temporary work. It used to be for secretarial work (admin)but they cover a lot of differdnt skills now. I was hoping for something a bit more IT related from them but I had a few assignmenys that were completely different.
The employer is aware that you are looking for work and might even offer it themselves and pay the agency for the introduction.
Sorry about my spelling-new phone and fat fingers.
apostrophe27

I had the same experience after leaving a civil service job which I'd held (and hated) for over 20 years. I finished up with excellent qualifications in customer service, but nobody would employ me as I was perceived as "spoiled goods" due to my experience in public service.

During my time out of work, I made use of government training facilities and got a basic qualification in VB; the first placement I had after that was developing databases in Access- and when your MD says, "you can do Access cant you, son?", you learn to say "YES" in a loud clear voice (then buy the manual).

I enjoyed database work, and was quite good at it, but because I was a "Newbie" and over 40 to boot, I always felt like someone would one day come and tap me on the shoulder saying "what the HELL are you doing playing at programmers? - get back to your real work?".

Movement to my own company has been gradual, as I realised that the bit I enjoyed doing was getting the information from the clients, and that has led me to where I am today.

RobinD is spot on the money with his analysis of the UK market - the one thing I would also say is to get your "VERY BRIEF" CV ou there to as many agencies as you can raise - and make the most of the bits you feel best about. Thats just about how I started out - and dont forget that some employers will actually FIGHT to keep a good member of staff, so whatever you had in the last job that kept you there - spray it around your new employer a bit!

I've been both sides of the interview fence, and its a GAME - employers make their minds up before the interview mostly - the fleshpressing is just a rubber stamp, so if you got the interview, all you have to do is lose the job! They are mostly desperate to get QUALITY, and will FIGHT REALLY HARD to retain it - especially the smaller employers.

Author

Commented:
Thanks again everyone. Your input has been a big help

Do more with

Expert Office
Submit tech questions to Ask the Experts™ at any time to receive solutions, advice, and new ideas from leading industry professionals.

Start 7-Day Free Trial