Until a week or so ago, I believed that my department had finished with staff reductions for the year, and that we clearly had enough work this year to use the staff we had. But then last week I learned that someone really goofed up (the term FUBAR would probably apply if I used that kind of language) when calculating the budget for my boss's boss's departments, resulting in a serious shortage in funds. The immediate result is that there will be no replacements for anyone who leaves (which really isn't a change at all). But it doesn't take much of a leap of intuition to figure out what the next step could be.
On top of this, after this year we will be done with our major project of migrating development from one revision control (SCM) system into the corporate standard system. At that point, there are a few other related projects, but none are either sure to happen or will need the full staff.
I have a couple of reasons to think that I would not be one of the first people let go if the department does have let people go. I got a very good rating last year, and I've actually worked for my boss for longer than anyone else in the department (and longer than any other boss I've had).
But there is another concern. Even if I retain my job, I don't know if it will remain a job that I want to do, or is the best use of my skills. I am a software engineer, and I do my best work -- and get my highest satisfaction -- when I'm working in designing, implementing, testing and troubleshooting software. I've dabbled in project management, systems engineering and even management, and know that I'm not as good nor as satisfied with those. However, it is becoming obvious to me that it is rare, especially in large companies, to find people at my position and years of experience who are doing development work. Most of the positions at my level are for systems engineers, project managers and managers. The development jobs that are available in this country are all targeted at people within 5 years of graduation.
I have strong reasons that I would like to stay with my current employer: my 16+ years give me a nice amount of PTO each year, I've got a traditional pension plan and a decent salary. Of course the way things are going, any or all of these advantages could be lost -- the pension plan just lost a fair amount of its value this week.
I also have some reason's that I am reluctant to relocate: potential child custody issues, the fact that The Kid and I are about half-way to black belts at a Chicago and Minnesota only karate school, and desire to be involved with future plans at my church and with the Chicago Worldcon bid.
So far, desire to stay with the company has held stronger and I've limited my search mostly inside the company -- where most of the postings that come even close to matching are not in the Chicago area. But I might be willing to leave if things start looking shakier, or they keep increasing the temperature of the water this frog is in (so to speak).
I have never had much luck with getting jobs -- I've had four professional jobs, three since college. Of those I've really only applied or interviewed for two. I got my current position by calling my former boss and asking if he would be willing to take me back, and I got a job in college when a guy who had hired me to do some data entry on a previous project realized that I was a good programmer who would be a good fit in his new company.
Beyond that, I have only ever had one job offer I turned down (I actually had two offers and a current position in late 1997, and took the job that took me to San Diego for a year). I can only think of a handful of other interviews I've had beyond that (2 or three with my current employer in 1992-1995 in Phoenix when I was trying to move there, two or three before I got my first position with my current employer after graduating, and a couple of others here and there).
So I know that my track record with job searching is very poor, which makes any attempts to leave my current job scary, and the though that it might leave me even scarier.
A few years ago I decided that a refreshed degree would help me look less like an out-of-date one-industry person. With luck I'll finish the degree in December. But, since I started on my degree -- an MS in Software Engineering from NTU -- the whole software industry has shifted a large percentage of development jobs overseas. So both inside and outside my current employer, I'm not sure that the new degree will necessarily help.
Over the next weeks and months I've got to start taking more immediate action on my career, if I can figure out what to do. In most ways my ideal situation would be to stay put with my current company and manager doing what I'm doing now. Beyond that I think my preferences would be a job with my current company here, a job with the current company in another friendly area (San Diego, and Phoenix are the main areas that could fit that bill for my current company), followed nearly equally by a job in this area with another company, then by a job elsewhere for someone else. However, the biggest thing I'd like is probably something that no longer exists. I'd like a job where I could feel reasonably safe that I could stay put for a while and not have to be searching for the next job just to make sure I don't end up unemployed -- like far to many of my friends.
This posting was started last night, but was interrupted by a power outage.