October 12th, 2000


My cynical advice to the youth of the bay area...

- Work during the summer, but don't work for retail, don't work for food service, and don't work doing something fun that pays crap. Going through a summer of hell working your first job in a more technical environment will translate into many, many thousands of dollars down the road.

- If your parents know how to do something that pays a lot, get them to teach you their job.

- Either have a good writer with a lot of work experience write your resume, or find the best resume you can get online... and then rip it off.

- Learn how to interview well for a job. Sad but true... it is more important to know how to get a job than to actually know how to do a job. I honestly believe that most any teenager with a year of training could work the same job I do (technical writing) and be making $45,000 per year by the time they are 21, possibly younger. I also think that within a year or so of being a technical writer, they could make $60K+, depending on how good they are with computers. If I had only known...

- Consider doing college part-time while you work. Unless you are accepted at a truly awe inspiring college, take classes at a JC to complete the first two years of basic requirements for college. Most technical companies prefer people with skills over degrees, and ideally prefer people with both skills and degrees. Consider taking 6-12 months of evening courses at a J.C. in classes such as C++ or Java programming, database management, technical writing, or web design. You could easily increase your salary by $20K within a year by doing this.

- Consider working as a contractor. List all the tasks, programs, and skills you think you could do ok at, even if you have to exaggerate your job skills to get your foot in the door. Once you have a contract position with a technical company, you'll do ok if you work hard and learn fast.

- It is more important to know where to find answers to all your questions than to know the answers themselves. Learn to search the Internet really well. Most people can't. Know how to do advanced searches with Google, or how to search Usenet using deja.com. The answer to most every question you might ever think of has already
been asked in Usenet and has already been answered somewhere online.

- Don't burn out. Go out and enjoy yourself when you can, but learn to appreciate inexpensive pleasures. Work late, stay up late, go to work tired, and learn to deal with it.

- Don't associate your identity too closely with your company. Despite the lip service paid to the contrary, the most important people for your company to make happy isn't the workers, it is the investors... and if the company believes that the investors will be happier if you are laid off, you will be. Work to live, don't live to work.

- Live with your parents as long as you can, even if you are working fulltime somewhere. If you get your own place, expect to pay over $1600 more per month for rent, bills, food, etc... that's about $20,000 over the course of a single year. If you manage to invest that money instead, you might be able to buy a house in some other part of the country and retire before you are 30.

- Don't have kids before you can both afford them and can afford to spend time with them. This usually means the late 20's - mid 30's for most people.

- If you are getting a car, buy a good used car with decent gas mileage and low insurance premiums. Take good care of your car, but keep driving it until it just doesn't work anymore.

- Get a job, get stock, get wealthy, get outta town to some place with affordable real estate, and do whatever you want for the rest of your life! Work for a non-profit, teach, do something creative, or just do whatever you always wanted to do with your time. Just don't get stuck in the rat race unless you really like it, or you will probably never get out.

Is all this easy to do? No... does it require some sacrifice? Yes... but it is a lot easier than being a poor student or trying to pay rent on the wages you make in retail. You may think that you don't have the technical skills to work in this valley, but do you have a pulse and the ability to think on your feet? You do?!? Congratulations.. you're qualified.

That'll keep me busy... !

Last night, I was up a bit late, but I spotted a cool thing to do... The Witches Ball, taking place in Palo Alto, inbetween San Jose and San Francisco. Sounds like my kinda thing... I also found out about a Samhain celebration on the 28th, though I still have to get the fine details.

... and this morning, I was commuting to work with Kirsten, listening to KFJC when the DJ announced that he was giving tickets away to see The Dirty Three, yet another great band from Australia. If Nick Cave had someone else do a soundtrack for his life, well, the Dirty Three would be the band to do it... needless to say, I was excited. I recruited Kirsten's help, and between her cellphone and my work phone, we mobbed the phone lines and got the tix!

Somehow, amidst this active social life, I am supposed to deliver documentation for a new piece of software... I am also designing a new web-based GUI for all of our documentation, and contributing to the GUI design for our software. Oh... and we're also migrating to Dreamweaver. Since the manager is reticent to actually pay people to train anyone, and I'm the only person here who knows Dreamweaver, I guess that would make me the expert. Whee... I always wanted to do technical support again. Um... NOT!!

In other words, I will have a busy October... and I still don't know what I'm doing for Halloween!