So far we’ve heard from J.B. Rainsberger and David Hoppe, two technologists who quit left the day job behind in order to have a more fulfilling life.
That’s great for them, you say, but it’s not your goal.
Hey, I understand. Some of us like the places we live, or at least we want to come back.
Perhaps the trade-off of forty hours a week for a pay check and benefits is one you are willing to make, or at least one we are willing to make for eleven months a year.
Or ten. Or nine.
It may have occurred to you to take a year off; to travel, then come back to the eight-to-five.
Of course, you are worried about your tech career. It doesn’t look good to have a hole in your resume and all that, right? I mean, those big gurus who have written books might get away with it, but how about a little guy, or a guy with no impressive credentials?
Meet Adam Yuret, a self-educated technologist who dropped out of high school when he was 16.
He and his wife took three years off to sail on a boat down the Pacific coast, from Portland, OR to Mexico. Adam and his wife bought an old fixer upper sailboat which they spent nearly 2 years rebuilding before they headed out to sea. What followed would be a tumultuous, sometimes highly challenging occasionally amazing adventure. Due to various critical mechanical failures they ran out of money after 18 months. At this point they adjusted their plan from a Pacific crossing to a summer exploring the Sea of Cortez. After that summer they hauled the boat and came home to earn more money before taking another attempt 18 months later. They never crossed the Pacific but they learned a lot about each other and have no regrets. (You can read about their adventures on their 2 blogs: Part 1 andPart 2.
Yes, he had to take the trip in several segments. Instead of a Cruise ship vacation at $700 per per person per week, they sailed their own boat at a cost of, well … approximately every penny they had.
Along the way, the boat broke down. They ran out of money. There was struggle.
And they got some great stories to tell the kids, eh?
Let’s hear what he had to say.
Matt Heusser: So what’s it like trying to get a tech job with no credentials? How was your experience? Do you have a tip or recommendation to give to someone trying to break into the business?
Adam Yuret: I am not sure how somebody breaks into the industry today but I can say how I did it in 1998. All of my friends were moving from the dead-end town of Eugene Oregon to lucrative tech careers in Portland. I had vacillated on following them until life circumstances conspired to push me in that direction.
When I got to Portland I got an interview at a tech support shop as a entry-level tech for Gateway computers at the rate of $10.58/hr. Getting this job would double my previous income and I’d actually get to play with computers for a living. I read a book on the newly released ‘Windows 98 Operating System’ cover to cover at The Virginia Cafe during the daytime when the bar was empty and quiet. I learned lots of cool tricks from that book that came in handy in my new job. When 90 days passed I became a regular employee and promoted to Mentor. A lot of my friends went and took entry level QA jobs at Intel from there, but I wanted to do network administration. A friend of mine asked an independent network consultant for his card so I could cold-call him and ask for an interview. I got that job and 12 years later I’m still good friends with my former employer at I-Net Consultants. From there I was offered my first testing job replacing a tester who had just moved “up” to development. I was hired despite my lack of experience because I knew more about Linux than any other candidate. I advanced within that organization over the next 7 years focusing on systems, configuration management, and testing.
Matt Heusser: I imagine that ‘sailing the Pacific’ wasn’t the kind of idea that you have in the shower all of a sudden — that it built over time. Where did it start? You took the trip together — did one of you have to convince the other?
Adam Yuret: I bought my first half-boat (bought out a friend who was partnered with another friend) in 2001. A little 1973 Aquarius 23 “trailer sailor” I had a lot of fun playing around on that little boat on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. My boat partner bought a larger boat and bequeathed his half to me. This may seem like a big gift but when you are bequeathed an extra 50% of the costs of owning a boat, your costs go up. To put that into perspective, the boat itself was worth maybe two thousand bucks. I went sailing in Puget Sound on my friends’ 35 footer and realized that I could have a lot more fun in the Puget Sound. Between all the great sailing in the south sound, the San Juan Archipelago, the gulf islands and Vancouver Island the options were limitless. At this time I started helping my buddy out delivering his boat between Oregon and Washington state which gave me some offshore experience on the Pacific and I really loved it out there. Whales, birds, complete accountability. If something goes wrong out there (and as Captain Ron famously said “If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen ‘out there”) you must fix it on your own. There are no meetings where blame is dodged or judgment passed, you are completely accountable and who’s fault is irrelevant, you get it fixed and move on.
So with my mind freshly polluted I began reading. I’d never been a big reader, maybe including the Windows 98 book I’d read 4 novels in my life. My obsession was in full force though and I read a non-fiction sailing book a week for approximately 4 months straight. I quickly sold the old Aquarius and bought a Pearson 26 pocket cruiser in Washington state for cruising the Puget Sound. I had a few big storms teach me some lessons when sailing alone in that little boat and my wife joined me for many short cruises. By the middle of 2004 I was obsessed with buying a boat, quitting the world and going sailing. Which is exactly what we did in November 2004. From November 2004 and September of 2006 we did nothing but focus on fixing up Estrella and saving money. Many of the dreamers on the dock who had immaculate hundred-plus thousand dollar boats and 5 or 10 years plans to leave when their perfect boat was finally “ready” thought we were nuts. They’d ask us when we planned to leave and I’d say “September of 06″ and watch their eyes roll as they’d politely say “good luck with that.”
We left on September 19th 2006. We had about $16k in the savings account and several unfinished boat projects to do along the way but we left. You can read more at www.sailestrella.com.
Matt Heusser: How did you afford it? I imagine you couldn’t keep the house. Or did you?
Adam Yuret: When Bernard Moitessier was once asked how much it costs to quit and go sailing, he famously replied that “It costs everything” and he was right. Of course Bernard famously abandoned his wife and children to compete in the 1968 Golden Globe around the world race. He was in the contention for the lead before he decided, after closing his loop that he did not want to return to England to claim his fame and fortune (he would have been the first person to sail non-stop alone around the world), instead he abandoned the race and continued on almost two-thirds of the way round a second time, all non-stop and mostly in theroaring forties – a total of 37,455 miles in 10 months.
I would not ever be able to pay that price, if my wife had flatly refused to come with me I would never have gone. She is more important to me than anything. I suppose the answer to your question is that we saved. We did nothing but work on the boat, and put as much money in the bank as we could. We didn’t eat out, while our friends were taking lavish trips to Vegas and asking us why we couldn’t join the fun, we just stayed home and saved. I would get emails from people inspired by our blog who would say they wished they were as ‘lucky’ as we were. I would often reply and tell them how broke we are. We never had a car new enough to need car payments and we never had a mortgage. I’d suggest that while there is nothing wrong with choosing to dream about this instead of choosing to do it, they were not unlucky that they had car payments, nor were they unlucky that they had a mortgage. If they wanted to go, they could sell everything they own and go. There is nothing wrong with
choosing a house and car over a sailing adventure, but I firmly believe anybody can do this.
We met very wealthy people on lavish yachts in Mexico, we also met people on beat up boats under 30 ft who worked in a machine shop and saved up their money for years.
Next Time: Adam talks more about his trip, how it impacted his career, and what he’s been doing professionally to stay on top.
It’s been two weeks since I did my post on the Jimmy Buffett Life. Some of the ideas, like radically downsizing our lives and embracing an itinerant career, really resonated with people.
But they had, you know, concerns. As one friend of mine wrote “The only thing that bothers me is that it sounds fantastical, even though I know people who’ve done it. It would be so cool if you had a few quotes from people who’ve tried it.”
Other concerns I heard were along similar lines. Things like “That could never work for me”, “I wouldn’t know how to start”, “That’s too risky”, or, perhaps, more honestly, “I’m too scared to think about it.”
Diving into a Jimmy Buffett lifestyle (or even moving in that direction) can be a scary thing.
So i’m trying to introduce you to a few people who have done it, and done it well. Last week, I interviewed my colleague and friend David Hoppe.
It’s Time to Meet J.B. Rainsberger
After four years of working as a staff programmer at IBM, J.B. Rainsberger left to become a programming trainer and later independent consultant. At the same time, J.B. brought the international conference franchise XP Day to North America. In 2005, he won one of the first two Gordon Pask Awards for contributions to the Agile Practice, one year after completing JUnit Recipes, the best-selling Java unit testing book of its day.
Then in 2007, at the age of 33, J.B. did something surprising: He retired and moved to a town of 9,000 people called Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada. You’ve never heard of it. Neither had he.
You might think “of course! He is clearly some uber-genius who earned millions of dollars! I could never do that!”, but J.B. has been very open about his lifestyle; that he is “retired, not rich” — he even blogs tips and tricks on living something close to the Buffet life.
I thought you might like to hear from him.
J.B. Rainsberger: I didn’t like my job and I didn’t like where my career was headed: I saw a Morton’s Fork of either long hours at a huge company like IBM climbing the ladder or selling low-quality, commoditized programmer training to clients like, well, IBM… it didn’t leave me feeling particularly fulfilled. I wanted something else, but I didn’t know what, so I figured I should have options. (I guess I discovered Real Options without realizing it.) In my life, my job restricted me the most, so I assumed I’d do better without one. I read ”Rich Dad, Poor Dad“, “The Wealthy Barber” and “Your Money or Your Life“, books which gave me the idea that I ditch my job forever. We ran the numbers. We realized that we couldn’t afford to retire in Toronto: $500k for a house alone made it a non-starter. The spreadsheets told us we’d retire in our late 50s at the earliest, and who could rely on a long-term projection like that? I wanted to know what it would take to retire sooner.
Around the same time we noticed something about our lives: we lived almost exclusively along a 2-mile stretch of Bayview Avenue in Toronto, covering five subway stops. We spent 95% of our time there: grocery store, bank, mall… we did everything else online. If we had voluntarily contained our lives to a 2-mile stretch of a single avenue, then why not Main Street of a small town? It seemed feasible, and a little bit too good to be true, so my wife, Sarah, looked for places to live. We found one, and after two separate week-long visits to try living there, we moved there. Nine months later, we had retired.
Matt Heusser: Now when most people hear “retired”, they think either a company pension or living on the interest from a huge savings account. Knowing that the stock market has provided negative returns for the past ten years (and ‘stable’ investments are close to zero), I imagine that you mean something a little different. Could you tell us what retirement means to you, and how you got there?
J.B. Rainsberger: I started with the idea to measure wealth in time, not money: how long can you stop working before you need to work for money? If that’s 6 months, then you can retire for 6 months. You’re “6 months wealthy”. That led to the idea of serial retirement: take 6 months off, then work for however long it takes to take 1 year off, then work for however long it takes to take 2 years off. During my time off, I reasoned, I could figure out ways to make money that didn’t require ongoing work, so-called “passive” income, and that would lead to longer periods of retirement. (Not really passive, but really, really high-leverage. I estimate my current hourly wage at $1,000 to $1,500. Not bad.) Retired, then, means “indefinitely wealthy”: for the foreseeable future, and as long as the economic system doesn’t collapse, I don’t have to work to pay for our basic living expenses. In order for this to fall apart, something so significant would have to happen that losing passive income wouldn’t crack the top five our worst problems. To earn the money to pay our basic living expenses — housing, food, taxes, insurance, communications, modest entertainment — I work less than 20 hours per year answering emails from the manager of our single-family rental houses in Dauphin.
Matt Heusser: What kind of profit can you make per month on a rental property? I mean, once you provide for maintenance, pay the mortgage and property tax bill, how much is left over?
J.B. Rainsberger: Not many markets offer 10-15% annual cash-on-cash return like Dauphin does. It provides a steady stream of renters, and we bought houses that cost on average about $40k, allowing us to diversify with as little as $250k. We have no mortgages, which are profit-killers on these tiny houses, although they also cost relatively little in interest. (How much interest can you pay on a $30k mortgage, really?) We own six rentals at present and profit about $25-30k per year, which pays for the basics. We learned this by buying a house for ourself, leaving it vacant for a year, then having to rent it to meet insurance policy regulations. $600/month in rent and no mortgage meant about $5,000/year in profit. If we could do it once, then why not try again? It worked. And again? It worked again. We found the market at just the right time: the houses now cost about 50% more on average, and so not only do we have good cash flow, but the houses have appreciated enough to give us 5 years or so of slack in case we have to sell them. You probably couldn’t do that in Dauphin right now, but I’m sure you could do it somewhere else. Opportunities exist everywhere.
Matt Heusser: Say someone is reading this blog series, they want to change their life, and sees something appealing in these ideas, but they don’t know where to start. Between the mortgage, the two cars in the driveway, insurance, taxes, utilities and food, they’ve spent $40,000 a year without leaving the house. What advice would you give them?
J.B. Rainsberger: When we realized that we couldn’t retire in Toronto soon enough, we had to really re-evaluate our life priorities. I started with the premise that we could more easily spend less than earn more, but how low could our cost of living go while maintaining a lifestyle we could enjoy? We did the hard work. It took three weeks of debating and soul-searching to choose the three things in life that we absolutely had to have. Everything else could change. We felt this gave us more options. In the end, we looked for a place to live where houses cost less than $50k, there was high speed internet/digital cable TV (our communication and modest entertainment) and I could bowl regularly (I grew up as a competitive bowler and wanted to get back to it). For everything else, we tried to open our minds to possibilities. “Here’s a crazy idea…” became a regular conversation starter at our house. About six years later we began living a lifestyle that many people want but believe that they can’t have: we travel Europe for months at a time, I spend some of that time doing interesting work with clients, we eat well, we drink well, and our worst problems amount to whether our luggage arrives on time at the airport and whether we can find decent cappuccino near the hotel. First-world problems indeed.
We haven’t had it easy the whole time. We lost about $100k on a failed business. We lost about $10k on two houses. We had a tenant trash a place and steal the fridge. Still, when we tell people the sequence of events that led us here, you couldn’t sell that script in Hollywood. By speaking at user group meetings, I caught the attention of a conference organizer who invited me to give a keynote talk. At that conference I met a 20-something poker-playing salesman who liked hanging around with geeks. I offered him a discount to attend the first XP Day in Toronto where we hammered out in two hours a basic agreement for him to work as my “agent”. At that conference we placed a subcontractor with a client. Six months later we did it again. Six months later we placed four subcontractors with a huge client for 1.5 years. All that mostly-passive income — I processed expense reports and deposited cheques for a living — bought our rental properties, as well as the house in which we live. Now I get to work part time doing what I enjoy, and when I decide that I don’t want to work for six months, I don’t.
So let me give your readers two kinds of advice: the long-term pie-in-the-sky kind, and two things they can do right now.
First, the BIg Advice. Ask yourself some big questions, and don’t be afraid to spend months answering them. Are you willing to make big changes in your life to retire? Are you willing to have crazy ideas, share them with your family, and try to make them work? Are you willing to try each day to throw away a little more of your conditioning? Are you willing to do the math to see if it can work? Are you willing to give up a few things you like in order to build a life that you love? What three things do you absolutely have to have, but can be flexible on absolutely everything else?
Now, two things you can do right now. First, buy the book “Your Money or Your Life“, read it, and you know those exercises at the end of each chapter? Do them. Take them seriously. Do them all. Yes, all. Really. Your life depends on them. Next, buy the board game “Cashflow 101“. Yes, hundreds of dollars for a board game. Do it anyway. Play it with your family, with your friends, with anyone who’ll play it. Yes, really.
Matt Heusser: Thank you for your time today, J.B.
J.B. Rainsberger: You’re most welcome, Matt. I hope your readers find what they’re looking for.]]>
For most of us, life after high school is pretty easy. You get some education, then you go get one of those ‘job’ things. In some cases, you repeat.
The job trade-off is pretty easy: Forty Hours a week for a steady pay check.
Like I said, though, that only holds true for some people. For others, not so much.
That “not so much” — going independent — has been a recent theme on this blog.
I think it’s time you met my friend, David Hoppe.
I knew something was odd with David in 1998, shortly after I met him, when I asked if he was working, and he replied “A little bit.”
A little bit? Really? Isn’t having a regular 8-to-5 like being pregnant? I mean, you are or you you aren’t, right?
It turns out that David was an independent technologist. He builds systems, he fixes systems, and he even writes a little bit of code here and there.
What he ain’t got is one of them job thingees.
I kept in touch with David over the years, and eventually went independent myself last May.
For those of us facing corporate downsizing, offshoring, and re-organization, escape from the cubicle may seem like a fantasy.
In that case, well, this could be your life.
I’ll let David tell his story.
Question: How did you decide to go into business for yourself? Tell us about your first client.
David: My first client was a referral from a school lab partner. The business he was working in needed some custom software and we collaborated on a this project. The project started in 1997 and is still somewhat active. (this is the project that inspired me to attend that meeting of Grand Rapids Perl Mongers were I met Matt.) Really, though, even in high school I was doing my own thing, fixing computers at a local computer store.
This was back when people built computers for fun, and if people hung out in the store, the owner would sell more stuff. He paid me a teenager’s wage to hang out and be helpful. Sometimes customers paid me tips, which I subtracted from my ‘salary’ in good faith. I set up a BBS for him with two modems. (9.6K baud! Luxury!)
Question: After high school did you get one of those “day” job things? Why not just keep it?
David: I had a few, and a night job too. Mostly lukewarm experiences, also intertwined with quite a bit of much more interesting side work. After the last day job ended I had no prospects for full-time employment but a pile of side work lined up. My wife had a job with insurance, and we had no children yet; we were in a good position to have one-half the family go independent. That was ten years ago.
It has not exactly been a smooth ride. Some times things have been tough, but as an independent, you can always invest more time in your business, either finding new work or working more hours. If times are tough, you can work evenings and make more; that is not always an option as an employee.
Question: So help us fill in the gaps here. Your last job ended. You have no “job”; were you collecting unemployment? How did you find your first client? How many hours did you bill in your first week, the first month? What made you think that would be steadier than an employer?
David: I left voluntarily, so no, I didn’t qualify for unemployment. My first clients came from personal references or were side jobs until that was the mainline work. I do not recall the first weeks billing, my billing system does not go back that far, I was rolling the bills by hand for quite some time before the billing system was setup. I am pretty sure I didn’t bill any hours at all the first week, I was still in shock at having quit my job, not really sure what to do next. I think the last regular job paycheck was for the first few days of January 2002, so its been ten years. Within a month I was probably billing ten hours a week, and within a year I was hitting a pretty standard thirty-plus.
Question: What kind of work?
David: It was all over the place. Mostly either IT support for small businesses, or subcontracting of subcontracting for large businesses. All the way up to writing the code for the linux box that communicates over a modem to communicate gas flow and control information to the power company. That was a pretty big contract; I got to come back and modernize the systems a few times, help move them to cell phone based, etc.
So basically, in addition to some programming work for big companies, I’d work for a small company. If the printer breaks, or the hard drives die, if they get a virus infection, they call me. Companies with buildings and employees and marketing budgets are a whole more expensive than little ol’ me in my station wagon.
Question: How do you decide how much to charge?
David: Randomly… mostly based on how much I thought the client would pay. I had one client tell me to raise my rate, that is an advantage of having good clients, they want to help you as much as you help them. I usually ended up undercharging which put the client and myself in a bad position. Undercharging is worse than overcharging. With undercharging, the client becomes dependent on you (and they can’t afford to go to anyone else) — it’s just not sustainable. Eventually you need to raise the rate or drop the client; it’s a difficult choice and a hard conversation, either way.
Overcharging is not so bad, if you don’t get the client so be it. Determining where the middle is, that is the hard part. The middle is bigger than you think, it starts at what you can live with (not what you can survive on, what you can thrive on) and goes to unreasonable. Unreasonable shifts over time and it is relative to you more than the client. Don’t feel bad if the client can’t afford the rates — that is not your problem. Really. It’s not. They have bigger problems and you don’t want to get sucked into their mess.
When you fill your time and have to pick and choose projects it is a sign that you are under charging. Also note, you should never start low to “get in the door,” the door will slam shut and you will be stuck. Crawling out a window is a perfectly valid option at this point.
It is a disservice to the client to under charge, you may feel you are giving him a good deal and feel good about it. However in the long run if you can’t survive you will not be available when the client needs you.
There is a lot of weird advice available in this area too, most of which should probably be ignored. Two things to look to for rates are what the market is willing to pay, what your competition is charging, and how busy you are. If you are too busy on billable work, charge more!
Question: How many clients do you have at a time?
David: It depends on the type of client, and how you count. Six months ago, I was supporting ten companies. My biggest client was perhaps one day a week. Right now, I’m working for one major client forty hours a week, and weaning off a few of the older clients. It’s all tradeoffs. Right now I have more risk, but I’m not exactly complaining about the hourly rate, if you know what I mean. (In my evenings, now, I’d rather develop products for mass commercial sale.)
Question: How do you budget? Plan?
David: Budget? Plan? what are these strange thing of which you speak? (Matt adds: That’s hilarious. )
No really, it is good to plan. You need to plan, my best year ever I set a crazy goal and wrote it down. I hit my goal and then some. The next year, I skipped the whole goal setting thing and slipped. A lot. There were other things going on, life and whatnot, but you need to make goals. Write them down, it really helps.
Goals are good, planning is what makes things happen. Depending on current projects, I will review monthly or weekly. Making a plan for how much I need to work, filling in billing sheets with the plan then as each day is done, I can see if I did what I wanted or slacked off too much. Getting into a good plan, do, measure cycle is important for me. When I “forget” to do this things usually slide and I will put things off until I notice the hard way that I need to get back into a planning cycle (billing time is a bad time to notice you have been slacking.) Billing goes a lot easier when I plan ahead too, its more fun to see the plan come together and I do not put off billing and recording work completed.
Feed back is important to me, it is build in to my planning system, I like to see if the plan is reasonable (will I have enough time to do everything) I like to see the results of the plan ($$$) I like to see the progress made towards the goal as I flip things from undone to done then to billed.
Don’t read me wrong I am not a super organized neat freak. I do my best to find simple systems that work for me, recording mileage in a note book, I have one per car. A spreadsheet where I can see my plan for the week, as the week progresses I update it to reflect what really happened. I also have a billing system that I record work in for creating invoices. A few custom reports that developed organically over the years help me keep tabs on how I am doing.
Mostly I use a spreadsheet at the beginning of the month with a list of what I expect for that month. Plug in the expectations, then that gets implemented. The spreadsheet is good when my wife and I plan out the month it is a good impedance match for our most effective communication methods.
Question: This has been great David. Would you like to do this again in a few weeks?
David: Sure. Let’s talk about product development!]]>
In an earlier article, I suggested that the half-life of a tech career is fifteen years.
Now that doesn’t mean that your career is over at fifteen years; it means half the people who started in technology have gone on to something else. By fifty, that number is likely 25%. By sixty-five … you get it.
Let’s say you like technology, and want to stay in it, or at least stay around it. What could you do?
Here’s one option: Take a lesson from this guy.
The Jimmy Buffett Life
Imagine your life completely different. No apartment rent, no heating bill, no car loan, no commute, no lawn mower, no lawn, no stuff to maintain.
Imagine ditching it all, and getting all of your time back.
Get on a boat and move to somewhere warm year-round — somewhere with a beach. Get a job playing music in some dive bar for tips, free food, and beer. What more do you need?
It turns out that all that stuff is a huge anchor, a big money-sucking machine. The cost to crash at friends places (or the beach if you need to), to have a suit cases worth of stuff — well, you can earn that in three shifts a week at a dive bar.
And it is a choice that many people make every year.
Unless you are lucky enough to be reading this in your earlier twenties, though, you are probably saddled with the under-water mortgage, the piles and piles of stuff that you can’t untangle. What’s more, you have real commitments; friends and family you see not as holding you back, but as partners in making a better life. I hear you.
This blog post is for you.
The Contract Life
If your goal is to switch over to the Jimmy Buffett Life, you might start by picking up a copy of Tim Ferris’s The Four Hour Work-Week.
The book is a rambling mix of ideas, mostly about generating a passive income selling products for far more than you pay for them, and outsourcing order entry and fulfillment. I can’t say I endorse all of his ideas, but there’s a least one I found fascinating – the mini-sabbatical.
In the United States, if you surveyed most people, they would say they want the security of a full-time employee job in a standard place.
But what if you threw that all away, choosing instead to embrace the contracting lifestyle?
You might find some competitive niche in a large metropolitan area (or be willing to travel) and active seek contract jobs for three to twelve months. You live as cheaply as possible, then when the time comes for the contract to end, you go live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle (or something close to it) in some tropical locale, preferably with universal health care coverage, for one to six months.
You make sure you have internet, keep the rent contract month-to-month, and move back when you’ve got the next gig lined up.
To accomplish this, you might either move closer to a metro area. You might have to downsize the life (a little) and be careful with money. But the key idea is this: Enjoy your retirement a little bit at a time, while you are young and healthy. Along the way you’ll move from the full-time employee race to the contract role, which I find can extend your half-life by at least ten, if not fifteen years.
The best part is that these kinds of frequent changes (A) buy you time to figure out what to do, and (B) Force you to reconsider every few months.
They prevent you from getting in a rut.
On top of that, you’re now in business for yourself. From here, technical recruiting, subcontracting, whole-hog outsourcing, and all sorts of partnerships open up all kinds of possibilities.
But I can’t do that!
Of course you can’t — or, at least, it might be more charitable to say, this kind of whole-life change isn’t for everybody. What you can certainly do is take a careful look at how you spend your time, and money. Cut back on the stuff that takes your time.
Likewise, look for ways to trade time for money, by which I mean, you spend less money and get your time back.
You might not end up getting a huge chunk of time back, but you might extend your tech career a bit, and who knows? Get a month a year on a beach.
It beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
More to come – including a couple of interviews with folks on this path.]]>
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state of Michigan, you need to do a few specific things. First, you need to walk through the doors of a “Michigan Works!” office and do some paper. Then you need to create an account on Michigan Talent Bank.
It sure seems like a brilliant idea. I mean, have every person who is looking for work register with their skill set, then give any employer access to the database.
Shrink job searches, eliminate all the folks in the job market just to get a counter-offer, shrink the welfare budget by getting people back to work, and, let’s face it, help companies save on employee costs by hiring folks who are the most hungry.
Everybody wins, right?
Like I said, it’s great theory.
The state of Michigan doesn’t want just anybody signing up for the search. They do not, for example, want out-of-state recruiters offering jobs far away. Nor would they want a scammer to have access to the list, to try to trick the unsuspecting (and desperate) into a get-rich-quick scheme.
So anyone can search on Michigan’s Talent Bank, but to get contact information, you have to apply as an employer … and that’s where it gets weird.
You see, if you apply as an employer, you’ll get an account, but it won’t be verified. The website indicates that you will receive a phone call to talk through the details.
You guessed it. My tiny little business, Excelon Development, has some positions to fill, and I signed up on October 29th.
After a month of no phone calls, I tried to log-in with the ID I had created and got an email that I was not a verified employer. I could email them for help, or call 1-888-253-6855 during business hours. So, the very next day, I called during business hours.
Then It Gets Weird
When you call that number, the first thing you are told is that if you want unemployment benefits, call a different number. If you want to sign up for Michigan’s Talent Bank as a Job-Seeker, call a different 800 number. If you are really seeking to sign up as an employer, please hold.
Then you are transferred to the voice mail box for Michigan’s Talent Bank, and told that it has overflown and can not take more messages.
Then you are dumped to the state of Michigan Switchboard, and told to type in the first five letters of the name you would like to connect to, or hold or press zero for an operator. After you wait for an operator, you are told that all available operators are busy, and the system hangs up on you.
At least I was when I tried this experiment on Nov 30, 2011.
So the one thing we know about the system is that some employers are trying to get access to candidates, and the phone support is horrible.
I tried the email support, got a reply within a business day and an account within a second day.
Really though – who can’t be troubled to check voice mail?
The Talent Bank System
Every state in the union has a talent bank; they government-funded attempts at a private/public partnership, and charge no fee to employers to search or hire.
As a result, the employers are customers only in an academic sense; it’s a free service. Likewise, the job seekers are not really customers — they get paid, indirectly, to use the service, by making it required to collect unemployment benefits.
This means the system itself has no incentive to provide great performance.
You don’t need to be a six-sigma black-belt to figure out what that means.
But notice, I said every state in the union. And it’s essentially the same system in every state.
I suspect this isn’t just a problem in Michigan.
What you can do
Find your own local talent bank. If you have the papers (you can file a doing business as (DBA) at the courthouse) and are considering hiring a cleaning lady or a painter, go ahead and sign up. Conduct your own experiment. See what the service is for you; if it’s bad, tell someone.
Who knows? In six months, we might actually get people checking and responding to voice mails, which might actually mean employers find the candidates they want, and people find jobs.
Think about it. Say after all this work, ten people find jobs. Yes, I believe that with a few tweaks the number could be hundreds of times that, but let’s say we start with ten jobs.
Isn’t that great?
Here’s a solid lead — a chance to stop complaining and be a part of fixing the economic condition in this country.
I’ve said my piece. What you do with it?
That’s up to you.]]>