I left university back in 1992 with an honours degree, perhaps not the best degree ever issued, but it was a degree in computing, and added to my A and O levels, I thought it’d stand me well for a lifetime career. I had used computers at home as a hobby, and enjoyed writing code and getting the various peripherals communicating. I’d started the degree knowing that there was a lot of money in IT. My job was going to be fun, and it would pay well too. Or so I thought.
It was a slow start when I left university, but I got a job with an electronics company building and testing PCs, before moving on to coding and support elsewhere. Since then, I have worked for electronics companies, software companies and service companies. I’ve worked for government departments (both local and national), the NHS, the police and even London Transport, back in the days before TFL.
I’ve written a lot of code in my time, and fixed a lot of machines. I’ve been the friendly voice of Tech Support, and I’ve been the grumpy Systems Admin in the corner. I’ve used pretty much every version of Windows since 2.0, older versions of MacOS, I’ve used Linux, BSD, AIX, Ultrix and VAX/VMS to name a few. I’ve written code for most of them, and provided tech support, both software and hardware for them all. These days, I help teach basic IT to adults who never got the chance when they were younger.
But what I have learned in the couple of years that I have been out of work is that that degree, and that experience counts for nothing. Even when applying for entry level jobs in support, I am told that I don’t have enough experience. It used to be the over-qualified excuse, but I’ve not had that in over a year, now it’s that they were looking for someone with more experience. And this for jobs paying close to minimum wage. If 22 years isn’t enough experience for that, then I don’t know what is.
I see on the news that we’re in recovery, that there is work out there now. The government tells us there is a lack of IT skills, but for some reason, most IT folk seem to be out of work, or at best are self employed and/or sub contracting where they can get it. I’m no statistician, but something seems wrong to me.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there is something else. Am I too lazy? Am I just unlucky and missing the best jobs? Or perhaps the industry just doesn’t want to employ someone of my age in any position? I know for the fact that the average age at my last long term role was 12-15 years younger than me. The benefits system is no help, and to be honest, if I didn’t need to, I’d prefer not to rely on it at all. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that option.
And so it looks like I am going to follow those people into self employment if I can, assuming that I can get customers and get enough work to cover costs.