The last 6 months have been hard. With the company I worked for going out of business without a day’s notice, life became a lot harder. Because of it regular funds to my own company to invest in research and development depleted, which also made it hard to generate more income out of that.
I was thrown back into the land of the unemployed. Scraping by, making some money here and there, but most of all, lacking a nice healthy amount of income. Which is a reality I know a lot of IT personnel have been seeing in the last couple of years. The golden years of IT are over. It is not the time anymore that you will get another job if ‘you just work with computers’.
Being almost 40, I was already playing with the idea of maybe changing my career. But I did not want to. I love my work, and I am good at it. So with a great résumé, a truckload of great references from excellent companies and prominent people within, and awards in excellence for usability design and development; I thought it was a slam-dunk; I would be back in a moment.
I was so wrong.
My expertise is in real usability design, information architecture and management. And the first thing I noticed is that Usability Design (UX/UI) went completely down the drain. Even after the two decades since my 4 year college in cognitive psychology, development, art and design combined in the major of InterAction Design – the world still not really knows what it is.
How many times I have been visiting companies, as an interviewee or as a consultant, usability is still something companies want because it is good for marketing. But they still think it is something you slap onto something you already have and you are done; a bona-fide qualified usable product. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
When talking tho the team, the company, and mentioning that usability design is quite more work than putting wireframes in Axure, and that it involves graphic design and architecture; that it is expensive to do right – it is usually also the exit talk. Companies don’t want to know that.
And I know there are tons of so-called usability experts out there that beg to differ; but I would just like to invite them to visit for example Verizon’s career site, who told me that my major of ‘InterAction Design’ at the ‘Utrecht School of the Arts’ – which was the very first and most qualified school who even taught Interaction and Usability Design – was not a real major. I had to mention that my major was system engineering to actually get on with the process. Oh, and that was after the page told me that the Netherlands was not a correct country, but it needed to be NLD.
Usability Design is not something you do with a set of rules. There is a foundation of rules, which have nothing to do with technology; but clearly a lot of people who know how to make wire frames would love to disagree with me.
But all this, it is not something new. Before leaving college, one of our teachers was smart enough to mention this to us; the world will not understand why they need us. They need us badly, but it is a hard sell. Because; how do you sell something that is expensive, has no guaranteed outcome, and might not always mean that your product becomes more successful?
A good usability design makes your product good, solid. Less frustration. Less calls to your customer support. That is where you will safe money. And on top of that, people will leave with a good impression; give word of mouth, like the product, and are inclined to buy more products from you. That is where you make money. But there is no immediate return in profits by implementing a good usability design.
But this is not even the bad thing. Like mentioned, this is something I was prepared for. Even after 15 years of Apple introducing the world to what good UI/UX design can do for you, it is still more a magic word for most – even to the so-called UX/UI designers who really have no idea.
Then thing what I was surprised about the most is the recruiters. Finding a job is made impossibly hard because of the tons of recruiters that contact you non-stop with jobs that are in no way a match for your skill-set. All in the hope to send immense amounts of spam and that one of them will give them a little bit of commission.
Most of these are not even capable of writing a correct message, and do not even take the time to introduce themselves or send me a mail that does not show 100 wriggly lines from the spelling-checker.
For one company I got a phone-call from the CEO mentioning that they never had someone come in and deliver a real personal letter and résumé before and he called to thank me for that. Really? What happened in the decade that I was away?
But the painful element of the recruiters is that there is hardly any mentioning of price anymore. Oh, everyone is ‘competitive’, but the jobs that actually still post an income with a job are short in supply. And my response to most recruiters is a polite request for more information about compensation. Which, actually, is a 100% mismatch with my résumé – and not off by a normal amount, but easily a difference of $100k or more.
That is, at least, when the job is actually a match. Because on a daily basis I receive tons of emails from recruiters who never even looked at my résumé, including jobs of being a hardcore C++ programmer to managing a marketing team with Weight Watchers. Yes, recruiters really are the new spam to me.
But things became even stranger when I decided to work with a recruitment agency. They showed real potential, and I felt really good to leave work in their hands. Until I saw a posting for a job, and exact match, that actually was done through my recruitment agency. And I never heard of it.
I contacted my recruiter, who mentioned it was not in her portfolio but in that of a colleague, that is why she did not have it.
I was absolutely stunned. There is a job, a perfect match, with my recruitment company, and I was not matched because it was not in ‘my recruiters” portfolio? Then I started browsing around; another match, also with my recruitment agency, but then in New Jersey, not even 25 miles away. Also – no information. It was of another office of this agency – so it is not in that recruiters’ portfolio. So I decided to then respond to it through their job website. I could not. Because my account was linked to the Philadelphia office.
I could – honestly – not get myself connected to the New Jersey office because I already had an account. I was absolutely baffled! And this is not a small agency; it is one of the largest in the country.
How can an agency with thousands of jobs miss out on possibly thousands of perfect matches because of their commission plan for their employees? You can even automate it! Have the match delivered to the correct person automatically! Why is that not in place? I am not talking rocket-science here!
And then, the final disappointment; the one I have heard about from others, and that I really do not know what to do with: Being Overqualified.
This hit me hard. With the company I worked with I did my job. But with my own company, running a small IT firm and also it’s own media studio – I did not only build up trust with a lot of companies, but also got accolades and great references of big names in the industry.
2 decades of pure experience, raving reviews, knowing how to manage, budget, run products, even build it from scratch on my own if needed… the term ‘overqualified’ destroys it.
I do understand why, but the fact that I cannot fight it, is painful. Overqualified means not that ‘you know too much’ or ‘we cannot afford you’ – as anyone else who have been ‘overqualified’ can agree with me – ‘Overqualified’ means that you might be a danger to the people who are already working there. It is not that you are too good; it is that the others are afraid you actually might show that the others could do better.
The first time I received that information, that I had too much experience, hit me straight in the gut. Here I am, someone with a lot of experience, a passion to work, not being able to get even a normal job. I see tons of jobs out there, which have not been filled since the beginning of this year – so that is almost 8 months. Even the recruiters I work for mention that the positions are not even filled, not even being interviewed for.
And that makes me feel sad for this industry. And I know there are loads of people like me; wanting to work, willing to work, and an excellent match for the job – and not able to.
This is where I see, that with all the automation going on, IT does not work. Because if companies cannot and even do not want to fill up their positions, or otherwise not want to best for it, how can we ever advance?