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This is an opinion article by Brett Huffman, assistant professor of computer science. The Pilot welcomes letters to the editor and opinion articles from the whole community. Please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I made it through—and you will too.
To all of you wondering what kind of future your life holds, I submit this to you: I too found myself facing an uncertain future. In early 2000, I moved to Southern Cal with my minty fresh Computer Science master’s degree in hand, right as the high-tech industry crashed. Suddenly, there were more out-of-work programmers than bikinis in Laguna Beach.
Don’t know about the dot-com implosion? That’s when everyone was pouring money into companies like Webvan.com, Pets.com and, my personal favorite, FogDog.com. A few companies made it, but most went bust, pushing thousands out of work, and destroying millions in investment. Then to top it off, not long after that, 9/11 happened. It was a scary time.
My interviews, the ones I did get, were epic fails. In one particularly large crater of an interview, they asked me things that only a 10-year veteran would know. I walked out wanting to cry. In other cases, 200 people would be interviewing for one position.
Did it all work out? Yes, for many reasons it did work out very well. We were doing a lot of praying at the time. That gave me strength to get past the particularly hard bumps. It also helped in making good decisions when it was time to make changes.
I found some particularly good mentors with which to surround myself. They helped me to stay on track. At one point, I was doing some side work in my mothers-in-law’s basement for a shady CEO who refused to pay me when the job was done. My fantastic mentor helped me to see a bigger picture. I couldn’t get caught up in feeling cheated, I had too many positive things to focus on.
Soon my career took off. A kind business owner – a husband of a Prin grad – decided to take a chance on me. I’ve not been out of work for more than 10 minutes since then.
Here is an absolute that you can bet your TikTok-dancing rear end on: Companies out there still want you. They want your youth, energy, enthusiasm and know-how. Yes, you bring know-how to them. The people in charge of finding new talent haven’t been in Business, Teaching, Fine Art or Computer classes in 20 years, but you have.
These companies want the flexibility you bring to their workplace. You are about to finish a crazy, roller-coaster semester: Who could be more flexible than you right now?
What we are experiencing is a preview of how business is going to be done in a few years. Here will be part of your next interview:
“Can you work remotely?” Yes, I’ve done that extensively.
“Can you hold meetings with people scattered across the world?” Absolutely, yes. I have a lot of experience with that.
“Can you learn remotely?” Yes, and I’ve shown I can be very effective at it.
The employers of the coming months and years are going to want people who didn’t just survive this event. Rather, they will want people who have shown they can thrive by overcoming obstacles, conquering fear, supporting others, and staying positive. If you can do that – and it’s not too late to start – you will earn the reward of never being out of work. You will command your future.
Finally, one more thing. Be contrarian to everyone else: Right now, when everyone else is being negative, you be positive.