Self-Confidence and Job-Hunting

I realize that potential employers may Google me to learn more about me and my background. Despite this, I’m going to post what’s on my mind, rather than putting a front forward about how confident I feel about my job search.

I’m pretty proud of myself, sure. I joined one other co-worker to create a relational Access database that currently has over 150,000 records in its main table, with 20 users, and has only completely crashed and burned once in a year and a half of operation. I’ve recently redesigned two websites from the ground up (buzzword: full development lifecycle) using PHP and a custom database backend for content management.

But am I confident about my skills? That’s a deeper question…

I don’t have the skills that most IT employers are looking for. I haven’t programmed ASP, I don’t know .NET, I have no experience with SQL Server. I don’t know Oracle. I’ve never used Ruby on Rails or ColdFusion or [insert common server application here]. I’m not a Windows expert or a hardware guru. I’m not certified in anything (besides the apps I got certified in from NISDM). What programming I do know requires occasional Googling — except for the straight-up HTML, which I’ve been completely comfortable with for years now. I sometimes forget the exact property names for CSS stuff, or I don’t know the syntax for a given PHP function.

I thought maybe I could break into IT and programming with what I know… but I’m not sure. I don’t know if anyone will give me that chance, when they could potentially find someone in the job market who already knows all the languages and applications the company uses.

But what do I fall back on, if I don’t go into IT? Web design, another skill with which I’m not entirely confident? I don’t feel like I’m bleeding-edge enough to be accepted into web design, and my basic familiarity with Flash (NISDM-certified!) won’t get me anywhere in multimedia or interactive design. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going for an entry-level graphic design job, no matter how much my two Graphic Design profs praised my intro-level work back in the day. And I love editing video, but I haven’t done much of it in the past six years.

Any field I go into will require me to do some quick growth to get up to speed. I’m willing and eager to do that… but I’m doubtful that anyone will hire a 31-year-old who’s been out of college for six years at such an entry level.

I guess I’m just frustrated with myself for wasting six valuable years of professional growth just working for The Man. Doing gruntwork and getting paid. I’m grateful that I kept my hand in, so to speak, by doing volunteer web work and personal projects and taking some freelance work recently… but I don’t think it was enough.

I’ll find an appropriate job eventually. I have time, financially speaking, thanks to my severance pay and retention bonus.

But do I have time before I self-destruct mentally?

ETA: After talking to Sheryl, I’m feeling a little more confident about my ability to get into IT at a grunt level. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed, but I know something will present itself that’s appropriate to my skillz and abilities.

9 thoughts on Self-Confidence and Job-Hunting

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  1. i think one thing you also have to consider…we all have to google stuff we’re unsure of. i have to google .net crap all the time. no one knows everything 🙂 no one expects you to. but your employer will expect you to figure it out, whether you ask another coworker with more experience, or use your google-fu.

    we do it every day. we even get stumped. even our senior devs 🙂

    i wonder if after your job is done if you could shadow me at work. even for a couple hours. see what it’s like. today we were joking that we should give you a mock phone interview (we were joking because we have a guy on the team that grills the crap out of applicants with questions even the rest of us don’t know the answer to 😉 just to kind of give you an idea of what we look for. 😀

  2. dude. i would love to spend a morning with you at work sometime in october. as long as you don’t think i’d bug ya too much.

    i think i’m having the fish vs. pond battle again, like i did after college. yeah, i’m the only person (left) in my dept who can build a database… but get me into the IT job applicant pool, and i’m a little fish again.

    as much as i say my versatility is my strength… it’s bs. it’s a way to mask the fact that i know a little bit about a lot of things, and haven’t really specialized at all.

    *shakes head to get negative thoughts out*


  3. well that’s just it. we all feel that way. it’s not just you 😛 i don’t know a whole whopping lot about any one thing (although after 5 years, i do say .net is my strongest skill, but i’m still not a MASTER of it in any way shape or form). in fact, a lot of companies look for the jack-of-all-trades because they can put them wherever they want and let them adapt.

    i honestly think that your search is difficult because of your location. there just arent a lot of jobs in toledo period, much less IT jobs. they exist, but they’re hard to get into. because not only are you a little fish, there are 5,000 other little fish and only 100 tanks o.O

  4. oh..and by “i wonder if you could” i meant “i wonder if it would be allowed by my employer” 😀 i’d have to check. there’s not exactly “bring your friend to work day” here. 😛

  5. your company seems to have everything else — they *should* have “bring your friend to work day”! 😀

    srsly, tho — i gotcha. assuming nothing magically pans out for me in the next two weeks, maybe we can work something out.

    i know that if i were to expand my search even just to ann arbor, i’d have a better chance of finding something better. i’m just not willing to make a day trip for my commute every day. 😛 sux.

  6. it’s funny how that will change, though. if you lived up here in detroit, an hour commute is pretty reasonable 😛 a lot of people work downtown so to live somewhere you like you mostly have to drive an hour to work 😛

    ann arbor can be 40 mins flat on a good day, which up here is pretty good. and it certainly beats the 2 hours per 20 mile rule of Boston 😉

    at any rate, yeah, if it turns out you can come up, i’ll ask 🙂

  7. I’m with sheryls on this one. Don’t underestimate the power of diversity on your resume, and don’t sell yourself short on technical skills. Companies hire people, not technical databases. So, be a person.

    I googled stuff all the time, bought books for that ONE paragraph that explained a concept, and got stumped regularly. It’s the game. What makes an IT person is the ability to figure it out, and you, my dear, are good at figuring it out.

  8. Thanks, guys. I feel a little better now. It’ll still be a crapshoot as to whether I can find a company who will hire someone with problem-solving and troubleshooting skills, rather than programming knowledge, but I think it’ll happen. Eventually.

  9. Went through my desk at work today, throwing away things I won’t need after next week. Found a bunch of notes and papers and flowcharts for developing the database. Pages of VBA that looks complex, but really isn’t. Same with flowcharts. Made me realize that I *do* know what I’m doing. I just forgot. 🙂