January 06, 2006

Page 4

Tech workers left out of economic recovery
Rachel Konrad, CNet News.com
March 21, 2002, 17:25 GMT

Many tech workers are feeling left out of the nascent economic recovery, but
historically the job market lags behind other indicators as the nation pulls  
out of a recession

VC bleakness is bad news for Scott Hazen Mueller, an Internet operations   
manager who was laid off from a Sunnyvale, California-based Internet service
provider in July 2001. Three months after that layoff he accepted a job as a
project consultant, but that dried up after five months. He's been unemployed
ever since, watching his savings dwindle and going into debt.

"It's been pretty ugly, especially the Web job boards," said Mueller, 38, who
lives near Modesto, California, and originally began looking for jobs in the
Silicon Valley. "I've sent out something like 500 resumes, and in the last
seven months I've had one interview...I'm willing to go wherever it takes. I'm
talking to one recruiter for a job in Columbus, Ohio, and another in the Los
Angeles area."

Mueller's spirits have lifted in the past few weeks because his phone has
started ringing with calls from recruiters. Although none have resulted in
interviews or offers, he's happy they're at least returning his calls.

"I've seen the most activity in the past week as I've seen in the past seven
months," said Mueller, who boosted his salary by switching jobs three times in
the past five years. "Maybe things are rebounding. At this point, I only want
to go to work for a solvent company where I can stay there for a good, solid
five years. I'm ready to settle down."
2002 was not a good year to be an expert in the arcana of the Internet. Even though the peak had been two years before and the bust officially had been in 2000, in 2002 things were still going downhill in the industry. Jobs were few and far between and competition was fierce. Even though Scott had amassed a very impressive resume and was well-known and respected in his field, there were just so many applicants for every opening that he seldom made it to an initial phone screening, let alone to an interview.

However, the real clincher was not his salary requirement (negotiable), his job duties (flexible) or his location (relocatable) - it was his physicality. Scott had paid for his career with his health, and by 2002 he had balooned to a morbidly obese 315 pounds on his 6'2" frame. On learning that he had only hit the 98th percentile of weight, he was heard to complain that he was upset, that as an over-achiever he was accustomed to be a 99 percenter.

Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, that first impression is absolutely critical, and the first impression someone would get of Scott in 2002 was that here was a heart attack, waiting to happen. It is not unusual for a man to die when his industry goes tits-up; it happened when the US steel industry collapsed, and it happened quite a lot in 1929, when the stock market crashed. Scott was in a rapid decline, and by 2002 he had begun to develop stigmata of ill-health on his face that were off-putting to those who met him.

Furthermore, like many men who lose their careers in mid-life, his first marriage, to a dedicated parasite and shaky to begin with, had absolutely collapsed when his first wife assaulted him in their home during an argument. Given his shaky financial position as an unemployed person and his desire to attempt to salvage his home from the wreckage of his life, he toughed it out in the same house with his ex-wife for four months after filing for divorce. Finally he threw his hands up at her obstinance - she got a job after he filed but refused to help make the house payment, for example - and he just walked out on the house, the mortgage and her.

With no job, no assets, no savings and no prospects, he did what many adults do when all else has failed - he moved onto his mother's couch. He took with him an eight-year-old blue Ford Ranger pickup truck, a moderately obsolete PC and laptop from his salad days, a wardrobe that didn't really fit properly anymore and a rickety aluminum table to set the computer on. The only personal item that showed any class whatsoever was the office chair that he had bought a few months before. It was the replacement for the one that had broken when his ex-wife attacked him.

Every other week, he went downtown to cash his unemployment check. Each weekend, he'd shop for groceries and go to the library. He read pretty much everything Orson Scott Card had written to date - it was a very powerful way to ensure that his own situational depression became even worse. At around 2:15, he'd start watching that day's episode of Babylon 5, captured on the recorder in the satellite box, and timed so that he could skip through all of the commercials. At 3PM each weekday, he'd make the rounds of the major job boards - monster, hotjobs, careerbuilder and flipdog were his usual sites.

The big excitement of this part of Scott's life was when he got back in touch with an old friend from the 1980s. His friend Paul turned out to live several hours away, in the small town of Susanville, so Scott got in his little blue truck and took off for a few days out of town. Shortly thereafter, Paul and his wife Vicki decided to move back to Modesto, so Scott again took off for Susanville, this time to help them load up and move.

In part out of sheer boredom and in part because he liked browsing the pictures, Scott signed up on a few Internet dating sites. In the past, working as an executive, he had discovered that he just liked meeting up with people and socializing even if he barely knew them, as long as it wasn't in a semi-anonymous setting like a bar or a party. So, he figured that as long as we was bored and lonely, he might as well try making a few friends. Posted by scott at January 6, 2006 10:12 PM