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Dilemmas of an old Java hand

Neil Pointer

Joined: Dec 30, 2010
Posts: 3
So, I've got about 10 yrs of Java experience with J2EE, Weblogic, JMS, Oracle and payment/crypto seasoning on top, plus I've whipped up the occasional Web/Android app. I can do a lot of things and if I currently can't, I'm always eager to learn.

For whatever reason, I'm not getting any real traction on my applications and after intro calls, get no further movement. This is the first time in 20 yrs I have to find a job without the help of network friends.

So, I'm trying to figure out where I'm doing it wrong. Here are things that I'm suspecting are wrong with me and/or my approach:
- kinda old, got into programming 20 yrs ago at 30, so maybe I don't come across as the eager beaver with similar experience, yet still only 30-ish
- don't have any formal education in anything; not even a certificate; obviously thought about it, never had the time really (or the need)
- I use only my Linkedin Profile to introduce myself to employers. I don't have a resume, I think the profile format is simpler, more functional
- although I feel I'm a pretty decent developer, many positions ask for a range of deep expertise that just makes me hesitant to apply even
- while I understand the concepts around design patterns, data structures and algorithms, since I've never actually needed to use them explicitly, I could only repeat what I've googled and I'm not comfortable with that

So, as things progressed with the job search, I am thinking I'd have to go into self employed contracting, making a living if possible by doing bits projects here and there.
I don't think this is something I can pull off by working from home due to the nature of app server components that I usually work with, so I'm ok with the traveling bit for short periods of time. Got no family, so no biggy.

As a Canadian, now living in Vancouver, I think the occasional trip to the US is doable, but even if it's only in Canada, I should probably incorporate for ease of interaction when it comes to contracts.
I can also readily work in EU countries, as I have an EU passport as well. Although English is just about the only language (other than Hungarian) that I could rely on, Europe in general is not unfamiliar to me.

So, I wonder if anybody would have some advise as to how to go about this.
Where do I go to advertise my services? Dice, Monster or eLance? I've checked out these places, but kinda more confused than before.
Elance seems to have a bunch of people that are willing to do the things I could for $15/hr and stuff. How do I compete with that?
Also, don't want to work for body shops, if I can afford it.
chris webster

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 2289

As a UK-based freelancer, I don't know how things work in Canada, but in general jobs seem to be advertised at short notice on the big job sites here e.g. JobServe (which also has some Canadian jobs), although sites like Monster etc are probably more relevant for you. The usual timescale seems to be apply today, interviews within a few days, start next week (if you're lucky), so you need to move a lot faster than when looking for permanent jobs. You also need to be much more pro-active: relying on the agent to stumble across your LinkedIn profile probably isn't going to yield a lot of work. Get a resume together and start calling the people who are advertising jobs in your area. As you're based in Vancouver (my favourite city in the world!) you could arrange to visit one or two of the bigger recruiters locally and introduce yourself personally, get some feedback/advice on your approach to finding freelance work etc. It never hurts to make a personal connection. I know Vancouver also has plenty of user groups etc interested in different technologies, so maybe take advantage of these to build up your network.

Incidentally, I am late 40s and currently out of work, so my opinion may not count for much, but in my experience age is much less of an issue for contract work: so long as you have the skills they want at the price they want to pay, and you can reasonably hope to live until the end of the contract, nobody seems to care much about your age!

Not sure about Canada, but the way freelance work usually operates here in the UK is that you are employed by your own limited company, which has a contract either with the end client or (more usually) with a recruitment agency to provide your services to the client at an agreed daily/hourly rate e.g for 6 months. You (i.e. your company) invoice the agency, which pays your company, and you are responsible for managing your company's finances - filing accounts, paying taxes, paying for indemnity insurance etc - so you'll need some advice from an accountant to get things set up so that you comply with your local tax laws etc. Some newbies end up working as temporary staff of the agency instead of having their own company, which means paying much higher taxes, so avoid this if you can.

Most of my contracts in the last 20 years came via agencies who typically charge a 10-20% margin (or as much as they can get away with), although the fat consultancies will often be charging you out to their clients at double your daily rate i.e. taking a 50% cut out of what the end client pays. Getting your first contract is often tough, because even with lots of professional experience, you don't have a visible history of freelance work, so some companies or agencies are nervous that you somehow won't be able to hack it. Agencies will also use this as an excuse to cut your rate (increase their margin) if they can. If you can work directly for clients, then you can usually earn more, but it can be hard to make the initial breakthrough without a personal contact. Also, having a contract with a (reputable) agency can give you a bit more confidence that you will actually get paid.

Anyway, that's how it works here in the UK, and from what I've heard it's fairly similar in Canada, but I'm sure our fellow Ranchers will be able to give you more specific advice. As for working in Europe, the tax laws governing freelance work vary hugely from one country to another (e.g. the limited company approach is not permitted in some countries), so be very careful about signing up for anything until you've got some professional advice on how to ensure you comply with the local laws.

Good luck!

PS: The consultancy CGI Group is currently recruiting for jobs all across Canada (they have offices in Burnaby) and seem to be expanding fast - might be worth sending them your resume?

No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
Jayesh A Lalwani
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jan 17, 2008
Posts: 2746

You absolutely need a resume if you are job hunting. Mainly because you want to get past the HR and connect with the hiring managers. Yes, networking is one way of doing the same thing, but it never hurts to have another way of getting in.

Certificates might help, depending on your situation. At least having a java certification will give enough assurance to potential employers that you can code

You have probably used design patterns without knowing them. Java is full of design patterns.

Lastly, Nd I think this is the most important point, your whole post is focusing on things that you don't have. That's a very dangerous attitude to hold while you are job searching. You need to focus on your strengths, and project your strengths to potential employers. If you talk yourself down the interviewers are going to pick up on that. If design is not your strength, then forget about design. You are not going to learn how to design in between jobs. Focus on things that you have done and can do well.
Neil Pointer

Joined: Dec 30, 2010
Posts: 3
Thanks for the comments guys!

It seems I need to get incorporated first and explore the connections with the recruiting/staffing agencies at the same time.

And Jayesh, your point about me being negative is quite valid. Seems to be a life long thing with me, always be looking at what's wrong, just being negative in general. Kinda difficult to get out of my own skin tho..
Jayesh A Lalwani
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jan 17, 2008
Posts: 2746

Neil Pointer wrote:

And Jayesh, your point about me being negative is quite valid. Seems to be a life long thing with me, always be looking at what's wrong, just being negative in general. Kinda difficult to get out of my own skin tho..

To some extent, this comes naturally to engineers. As an engineer, you are always looking for things to improve, which means that you look for things to critique. The problem is that engineers start applying this to themselves. Espescially, looking for a job is a sales job not an engineering problem. Think of yourself as a salesman who has one thing to sell:- yourself. Start thinking like a salesman. Look for things within you that other people will pay money to have

Self critique is good to have but not when you are starting to look for job. Ideally, you should be working on improving yourself while you are in a job, not between jobs.
I agree. Here's the link:
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