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Twenty-Three Years in the Field: Is it too late to change careers?

08/24/2016 Comments off

Entry 08/24/2016 01:57:57 PM – Mentat 1159

 

I don’t normally like to talk about work or the work necessary to networking myself into a new position in a new company.  Well, not publicly and not for years because honestly there’s only just so much whinging and hand-wringing that even I can put up with from the likes of me.  However, since starting the carousel of finding a job that I might like (once again), my tolerance of the contracting field has not only soured but definitely creates the wrong sort of ire whenever I think about it.  Looking back over the years, I can see the path in the sand on just how much the life as a contractor has changed from the time when I entered it and receiving offers hand-over-fist, to today where I’m fighting between the feelings of eye-rolling myself into a seizure to seriously slapping the ever living shit out of some of these bottom-feeders that storm my cell phone like it’s a game of capture the flag.  While I understand that perhaps they’re a necessary evil to getting your foot in the door of some of these places in the area — I would prefer to even use them sparingly to if ever at all.

The fact is, I despise all contracting companies since the late 90s.  Part of it has to do with the high level of turnaround you can have as a primary contact at the contracting agency.  A person that seems to have their act together quickly shuffles off to a better position leaving a vacuum at the desk they had been sitting in the week before.  With that power vacuum first came the lack of knowledge necessary to matching the contractor with the position, and then later with the Special Snowflake Syndrome that slowly came to inflict the younger work-force, it created the unfortunate necessity to lying to the contractor what sort of position they were filling at the company in question.

I remember the second aspect vividly during the first part of the 00s when I was still living in Atlanta, where a contract (short or long term temporary) was made to sound as glamorous as possible, only to discover within the first three hours of being at the job site was nothing like it was described over the phone as to the work and responsibilities that it would entail.  The one contract that I recall off the top of my head as an example had to do with the agency told me that it was an administrative sort of position that required filing and clerical skills for a department of ten.  It was billed as a Librarian sort of position that required to be filled while the person originally hired for the position was on maternity leave.  What it was, was filing claims in a closet about 15′ x 15′ (4.5 x 4.5 meters), in a hodgepodge of misshapen filing cabinets that looked like they were saved last minute from the trash compactor with each drawer stuffed with files in a haphazard manner and at least 5 – 10 Stick Ups in each.  Let me tell you — after an hour of opening and shutting those drawers my sense of smell was completely burned out.  A refusal to return to the position the next day, it took almost a week to recover my sense of smell without constantly smelling artificial lilac or lavender.  I think to this day, if I never smell Airwick Lilac or Lavender will be entirely too soon.

Moving north hasn’t been much better for the contracting circuit.  One of my first contracts involved me working with a 20 year veteran from the nursing field that was given the opportunity to change careers and low and behold was given the cushy desk job as an IT Manager over several IT-related departments in healthcare.  Interviewing with the woman — it was damned clear the woman was a Troglodyte.  She had the voice of someone that spent 20 or more years smoking that had just given it up.  While she seems fair on the surface and her idea of cross-training was sort of on the mark when it came to ensuring everyone on the helpdesk knew how to cover the desk during all contingencies; this great idea came to down in a crash and burn when that training would involve the same sort of schizophrenic and frenetic scheduling that nurses go through in a hospital.  Looks good in theory, but when you realize entry-level IT people make on average $15-17/hour as opposed to nurses that make $29-$36/hour; this was a catastrophically bad idea and sleep hours are seriously and severely being cut when you’re finding your work schedule for three days are 23:00 – 07:30 and then the next four would put you at 11:00 – 19:00…

Yeah…

In my 40s at the time, I’m not a spry just-starting-IT type…  Not to mention this isn’t the sort of thing I’d ever been used to — even when serving on-call — as I’m more than sure, I would bounce like a brick if I continued that sort of schedule.  And like it or not — even though I had to have my contracting agency step in to remind them I’m a fill-in (and not a full-time employee), the retribution that came for not being “cooperative” was in fact borderline harassment and denigrating.

I would like to say before I continue that not all of the contracts I’ve had have been progressively worse since the late 90s as there are some good contracts out there that I can say were not only enjoyable but thought provoking as well.  Working with the kids at Providence College, performing lessons for how to program in Access and SQL to someone that was on the verge of understanding OOL, opportunities to speak with people that remembered the times before NAFTA and so on…  The fact remains that it’s not looking much better now than it did 16 – 18 years ago.

It’s just…  it looks pretty damned bleak at the moment that even the closet optimist hidden deep inside is having a hard time trying to maintain a positive outlook through the current environment.  Let’s see if I can draw pictures in the last month alone that have dealt with that has either left me rolling my eyes so hard I about had a convulsion in the process.

I have received calls from places like Maryland (using a 617 Boston Area Code but the return call number started 410), New Jersey, Manhattan, NYC and Colorado, trying to find technicians to work for a company that has a negative reputation of underpaying and cutting the workforce in a way that prevents anyone working there from being able to claim unemployment benefits.  While I won’t mention the name of the company in question, I can tell you I had once interviewed for the position and couldn’t keep a poker face when I was told the starting salary was $7/hour less than the competition (that subsequently had more responsibilities for less pay).  When I was told I should be “thankful for being hired by this company…”  any semblance to a poker face was completely obliterated when I told him the starting pay at the three companies in competition against them was more offered to a janitor than a tech support specialist.

Yeah, they called me 10 minutes after that interview making up some excuse that the hiring manager had an emergency meeting and wouldn’t be available.  I never heard from that company again.  But that doesn’t stop the bottom-feeders in contracting agencies to contact me about the “opportunity”.

I received a call from another agency with a Metro-Boston area code that I remember submitting my resume (CV) to for a third shift position.  That resume fell into a black hole that a month later – I finally received the “we received your resume…  are you still looking for a job?  We have something in the Boston area…”

Uh, that was a month ago.  This type of call is a bait and switch.  No thanks, I don’t like companies that don’t have the decency to send an e-mail or make a quick call confirming that the position has been filled.

Then there’s the agency I used to work for prior to being hired full time.  Let’s talk about their tactics a moment, shall we?  First they call but don’t leave voicemail.  This usually occurs at least 3 – 8 times a week.  When they do leave voicemail on around the ninth time, it’s the sort of nattering on like they’re your best friend, “oh just touching base see how you’re doing…”

Uh…  Have I ever made an effort to call you since I was hired full time at Lifespan?  No.  Are any of you my friend?  No.  And given that I warned them of the mess that was being generated, which was blatantly ignored in an effort to kiss as much ass as you could to make the management happy by providing fresh bodies…  Well, I’m not going to be rushing back to work for a company that doesn’t listen to first-hand eye-witnessing…  That and let’s just say while this agency might be doing something legal, it isn’t remotely ethical…  And I’m not about to sacrifice my upstanding attitude for that approach to business.

I know that’s convoluted.  I wish I could say more, but the repercussions make me a bit…  edgy.

Finally comes the call I just got from Woburn, MA.  Seems that this agency is trying to get people to both companies with the notorious reputation of having extremely high turn around.  Told him about that and the fact that I’ve talked with ex-employees from both companies and they tell me the same stories…  Mass firing of employees before they can collect unemployment, burning out the contractor pool for years…

How do you know this? He asked

How many contracting agencies do you think have called and contacted me about job opportunities with them in the last ten years?  You’re the fortieth.  Do you think you have a chance to keeping their business?  Nope….  I refuse to work for those companies.

He stammered out some professional comments and got himself off the phone .

The fact is, they’re so bad they’re reaching out to agencies outside of their state because those in the state know they can’t get people back in there.

So the question I’m asking myself now is — it is too late to change careers and make macramé plant holders, selling them on the corner in front of City Hall?  Heh, then again, I’m not too sure it’s a good choice, given this news article recently.  If the Mayor’s Press Secretary was almost mugged — who’s to say I wouldn’t be…  again

With that, I need to wind down for the night.  Early day tomorrow as I have laundry to do and that means up at 04:00.  Until the next time.