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Ask Slashdot: Getting Hired As a Self-Taught Old Guy?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the young-stunt-double-for-the-interview dept.

Businesses 472

StonyCreekBare writes "How can an autodidact get past the jobs screening process? I have a long track record of success, despite limited formal education. Despite many accomplishments, published papers, and more, I cannot seem to get past the canned hiring process and actually get before a hiring manager. Traditional hiring processes seem to revolve around the education and degrees one holds, not one's track record and accomplishments. Now as an older tech-worker I seem to encounter a double barrier by being gray-haired as well. All prospective employers seem to see is a gray-haired old guy with no formal degrees. The jobs always seem to go to the younger guys with impressive degrees, despite a total lack of accomplishment. How can an accomplished, if gray-haired, self-educated techie get a foot in the door?"

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Start your own (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44106949)

business :)

Re:Start your own (-1, Flamebait)

cangrejoinmortal (1315615) | about a year ago | (#44107059)

Gray hair and looking for a job means he haven't saved enough for that (I will not dare to guess the reasons for that because they can range from simple irresponsibility to a medical condition).

Re:Start your own (5, Informative)

bonehead (6382) | about a year ago | (#44107309)

What the fuck are you talking about?

Hate to break it to you junior, but the gray hair comes creeping in LONG before retirement age is getting anywhere near.

Re:Start your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107355)

i would say instead of starting your own business work as a variable part time contractor. get some work on a job by job basis, and it's more due to a direct connection with the client instead of HR bozos. easier to fiddle with your rate to attract someone in the short term, then raise it for future projects once your footing is sure. perhpas this counts as "startin your own business", IDK. it sounds like based on your slef-description you know a lot about things that others don't, for example if you've studied or done work in a niche area. you could start by selling yourself in those niches where you have some leverage, then grow from there. also, good luck! the job market is a bizznitch.

Re:Start your own (3, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year ago | (#44107413)

No shit. cangrejoinmortal has a simplistic moralizing view of the world that experience will fix, eventually.

Re:Start your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107507)

Tech workers make a lot more than average. If you make good career decisions, are fiscally responsible and don't have kids, it's pretty easy to have enough money for retirement before the grey hair shows up. Of course, if you have kids, you'll end up with less money and more grey hairs, so YMMV.

Re:Start your own (4, Insightful)

bonehead (6382) | about a year ago | (#44107291)

If you are anything outside of the "norm" in the field, the best advice I can give you comes in two parts:

1.) Be willing to work for a little less than the going rate.

2.) Focus on smaller companies who are less likely to have automated resume screening systems. Wouldn't hurt if the owner of the company had a little gray himself.

The truth is that although it's better than 3 years ago, the job market is still a bitch. Don't give up, and hard as it may be, don't take rejections personally and let them get you down on yourself.

What is your point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44106951)

"The jobs always seem to go to the younger guys with impressive degrees"


Re:What is your point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107119)

Yeah, lots of employers are lazy imbeciles who can't be bothered to evaluate applicant; that's why they use pieces of paper to filter out some of the applicants. It's a disgusting practice (especially if a business isn't getting an unmanageable amount of job applications) that doesn't guarantee that potential employers know what they're doing at all, but it is reality.

Re:What is your point? (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year ago | (#44107419)

The idea is that 4 years in school with a stamp of approval at the end of it, is a sort of pre-verification that the candidate is worth talking to. RIght now in technology you can accept every resume with a B.S. in EE or CS, and you would never run out of resumes.

Of course, I must be lying since we have this massive tech labor shortage.

Re:What is your point? (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#44107421)

Well, depends on which jobs. Maybe you're using the wrong search terms.

In today's "DevOps" environment, sysadmins are now called "Systems Engineers". And most of the ones in my large company don't have any degrees (unlike the younger developers that we spend most of our time shepherding).

Also tech headhunters are always prowling for experienced "Systems Engineers", so team up with some of them and they'll tell you how to look your best to their clients so you can both get paid.

Bring a rifle. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44106969)

Take the HR weenies hostage, and demand an audience with somebody technical.

Re:Bring a rifle. (5, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#44107017)

Don't forget to say the password 'shiboleet'.

Re:Bring a rifle. (2)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year ago | (#44107021)

Seeing as they had to do some prison time, I guess this tactic worked out alright in the end for The Lone Rangers in Airheads.

The solution is simple. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44106973)

You start your own business.

There really isn't much you can do, unless you know people.

Re:The solution is simple. (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year ago | (#44107089)

Or you can find a niche where formal education isn't terribly relevant. I got my previous job because the niche I work in has a gross lack of talent and I had a track record of building good stuff.

Granted, there are only a couple gray hairs on my head, but sometimes you just have to really hunt for the right employer.

Re:The solution is simple. (3, Interesting)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#44107273)

AC's second sentence is on the mark. Work your contacts from previous jobs and tasks, so that you have someone in charge at a new place invite you in.

Else, as has been suggested, either consult or start a business.

Dyeing hair and eyebrows is not so far-fetched. About ten years back when a friend of mine quit his job with a state agency just several years shy of fully-vested retirement to open a consulting partnership with a friend of his, he dyed hair, brows, and mustache for the first four or five years. Once their client list and reputation were built up and they had more work than they could possibly handle, he stopped and let the grey appear, with no problems.

I like the way this is worded. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44106983)

Even though this question is asked every single week here.

put down an degree or one on some of pages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44106985)

put down an degree or one on some of pages of the on line job app.

Re:put down an degree or one on some of pages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107303)

Sadly, this incoherent AC probably gets interviews all the time.

Re:put down an degree or one on some of pages (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#44107363)

unfortunately, lying on a job application is a criminal offence - tantamount to fraud.

Re:put down an degree or one on some of pages (1)

ushere (1015833) | about a year ago | (#44107429)

does that include politicians?

Re:put down an degree or one on some of pages (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year ago | (#44107449)

Because they won't check that, and fire you immediately if you are caught lying, right?

Wrong. It happens, it's no good for anyone, and usually hits before the first paycheck.

Start your own company. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44106995)

Then do contracting here and there.

for the grey hair part... (4, Funny)

adminstring (608310) | about a year ago | (#44106997)

Get your hair dyed some other natural-looking color, with eyebrows to match. You can always go back to grey once you have the job.

Re:for the grey hair part... (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44107205)

I suspect the problem is that the application forms that the submitter has to fill out, require certain degrees and get tossed into the trash if those requirements aren't met. And probably by the lowest level HR person at the firm.

One of the things I noticed years back before I gave up on IT was that they wanted very specific requirements to even allow the application to submit. And that was before the most recent economic downturn. It's probably gotten even worse now.

Networking. (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#44107011)

This is where networking comes in. Cold-calling hiring managers (per se) is partially to weed out people who don't have any "in" to the company, already. That, and maybe die your hair. It sucks, but in a world where everything but your actual work-ethic and capability is secondary to things like youth, height, attractiveness, and diploma, you have to manipulate the game to your favor so you can get your foot in the door.

I also think there tends to be a problem where most people assume that if you're over a certain age and you are not seeking a management position, there must be something wrong with you. After all, if you have put in your years, why would you want to do anything other than manage people, right? . . . Right?

Re:Networking. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44107215)

While he's at it, he might be able to set up some informational interviews or get a job at a temp agency.

Move on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107013)

You are better off not working on such a place, keep looking and you will find a place that values your skills. Consider doing your own business as a consultant.

You have to contract / set up a firm (5, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | about a year ago | (#44107015)

Set up a firm, start networking. If you deliver projects on time and budget then you will soon have more business than you know what to do with. Ultimately this strategy will work out better for you in the long run, but is more challenging to get going.

Generally speaking, if you have real talent, you are a sucker to work for someone else.

Re:You have to contract / set up a firm (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#44107137)

In this situation it's going to be all about who you know. You say you have a long history of successes? Contact the people you worked with and worked for. Someone, somewhere, is hiring and at least some of those people will be in position to push your resume at least past the first layer of defense. Lack of a formal degree will see your resume to circular filing cabinet in record time, unless the HR drone has a reason to believe otherwise.

Re:You have to contract / set up a firm (4, Informative)

wickedskaman (1105337) | about a year ago | (#44107237)

THIS. Don't let pride get in the way of calling folks even from way back when who have been part of your professional life. Don't assume it's a waste of time.

Re:You have to contract / set up a firm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107375)


Remember all those people who you worked with successfully? They're now all over the place, and unless you're a jerk, they would probably rather hire you than some unknown quantity. You just need to make sure they know you're in the market.

Re:You have to contract / set up a firm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107147)

100% correct. I did this 10 years ago and would never work for someone else again. I have more work than I need. My only regret was waiting until I was 40 to do it.

Saturated market. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107245)

Set up a firm, start networking. If you deliver projects on time and budget then you will soon have more business than you know what to do with. Ultimately this strategy will work out better for you in the long run, but is more challenging to get going.

Generally speaking, if you have real talent, you are a sucker to work for someone else.

Speaking as someone who has been there - easier said than done.

There are many many folks out there doing the same thing and more will be coming down the pike after that big IBM layoff. And with economy not getting much better, I expect more big layoffs in the near future - meaning a lot of unemployed tech workers looking for a way to make a living. I don't care how good you are, there are only many jobs out there.

Unless you can get your previous employer to hire you (doesn't apply in this case) getting the jobs is very difficult - especially without a track record.

Just networking and handing out business cards will land you nowhere. Folks will be polite and take your card but you'll never hear from them. You have to be a salesman and most techies are not good at that. Selling your skills to a hiring manager is complete different than selling your service to a business operator.

And starting a business takes money and risk. When you're older, risking one's savings or worse going into debt on a business is fool hardy. With 4 out of 5 businesses failing, more than likely he'll end up with nothing.

Simple (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#44107019)

If you had done your research on the subject just in the last few days on these very pages, you would know to apply to Google

Re:Simple (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year ago | (#44107509)

yeah, seriously, the guys needs to watch the Internship! obviously not a movie-goer. in fact, when you apply, put the Internship movie on your resume.

Umm (2)

DFurno2003 (739807) | about a year ago | (#44107031)

Either start your own business or catalog your accomplishments and hope whoever you are presenting them to understands the skills needed to achieve your level of success.

Personal experience (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107037)

My situation is very similar to yours. I haven't been able to get an in-person job at all, just contract work, where I've been moderately successful.

I've had several third interviews for jobs, but they always wind up hiring someone less-qualified but with a degree. I've pretty much given up on the job part, and resigned myself to contract work unless one of my app projects takes off.

How do you know this? (4, Informative)

mrscorpio (265337) | about a year ago | (#44107047)

How do you know the people getting the jobs have no experience? I am probably not as old and not as experienced as you, but I was getting beat out for entry-level jobs by people with degrees AND experience, sometimes a ridiculous amount of experience for the position and/or pay. Fact is, there are a LOT of people looking for a job or a better job out there, and lack of a degree is an automatic disqualifier for a lot of positions right now due to the number of applicants hiring managers are seeing that have both the desired experience and degree.

Don't bother Start your own biz or be a consultant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107053)

Don't bother Start your own biz or be a consultant

Networking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107055)

Skip the canned hiring process and make contacts directly

Maybe move somewhere else? (1)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#44107069)

I have a long track record of success, despite limited formal education.

Most companies are willing to trade years of experience and certifications for specific degrees. Do you have certifications?

Despite many accomplishments, published papers, and more, I cannot seem to get past the canned hiring process and actually get before a hiring manager.

Are the "published papers" in the same tech field that you're looking in for a job? You have enough knowledge to write papers on the subject but no one will hire you to work in that field?

Is the job situation where you live that bad? Can you move?

Insufficient Data (4, Interesting)

hondo77 (324058) | about a year ago | (#44107079)

Maybe your resume sucks. Maybe you're asking for too much money. Maybe you smell bad. Maybe you don't know as much as a fresh college grad. It's hard to answer this without knowing more about you. Have you ever gotten feedback from headhunters when they review your resume?

Re:Insufficient Data (4, Insightful)

eljefe6a (2289776) | about a year ago | (#44107131)

This, plus: Take a good, hard look at yourself from the employer's viewpoint. Is your resume 10 pages long, etc? Are you networking? Do you have a good LinkedIn profile? Linkedin is how recruiting is done now. Being self-taught only makes a difference if you let it.

Re:Insufficient Data (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107433)

This, plus: Take a good, hard look at yourself from the employer's viewpoint. Is your resume 10 pages long, etc? Are you networking? Do you have a good LinkedIn profile? Linkedin is how recruiting is done now.

Being self-taught only makes a difference if you let it.

When I worked at Lockheed Martin, 2 years ago, they had a policy strict hiring/promotion policies about education.
I.E. you could only get so high with an associate degree, a little higher/more stability with a bachelors, and only those with masters degrees were allowed to be architects. It was education over ability. There was one architects in particular that ran around saying stupid shit like, "some objects are data objects, and other objects are function objects but never both". But he had a degree and so he got promoted.

Wasn't all bad though. There was plenty of work to clean up after the architects.

Two Words (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44107095)

Grecian Formula.

Liability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107097)

It has a lot to do with liability. My lawyers have urged me on several occasions not to hire someone without an engineering degree because in a lawsuit it would be almost impossible to defend if a non-degreed person had engineering responsibility on a project.

Re:Liability (1)

rhizome (115711) | about a year ago | (#44107167)

Software "engineering" is not a chartered discipline, so your lawyers (multiple!) would appear to have their head(s) wedged.

Re:Liability (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44107247)

Yes, it actually is, it's just that nearly everyone doesn't follow or learn the discipline.
Frankly, I have never met some who calls themselves a software engineer that actually understood engineering.
This is there needs to be a PE equivalent for Software, and it's why it should be a crime to call yourself and engineer without said credentials.

Actual engineer is problem not what you think it is/. It involved disciple, understanding, and the ability to sign off on work and take liability.

And not, not all software gigs require a engineering level discipline, but all of them would benefit from it, in the long term.

Re:Liability (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107485)

There is a software engineer PE:

Re:Liability (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44107197)

CS is not IT

Re:Liability (1)

mini me (132455) | about a year ago | (#44107269)

The OP claimed to be a techie, which probably rules out interest in engineering disciplines anyway.

Talk about overthinking it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107121)

The old tricks are the best tricks. You need a plausible excuse for breaking out the bottle, but once the decent aged whiskey is in the open it's game over.

Go into business for yourself (4, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44107123)

Start a business. You'll enjoy that more than working for someone else anyway. In many states you can start an LLC for a pittance.

Barring that, you need to network. HR departments exist (these days) as a shield between hiring managers and the great unwashed masses. One criteria is that you must have [from
Caveat -- I'm an old guy with lots of experience, mostly self-taught, working in a field not studied in college. (That didn't, in fact, exist when I was in college.) Finding a new job is often an adventure because my college credits were a long time ago in a completely different area. In most cases, I've known someone who knew someone, managed to get the manager's ear, maybe over a beer after hours.

Re:Go into business for yourself (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44107169)

Message was garbled. That was supposed to read:
One caveat is that you must have (some degree) [from (some college)] just to get past HR and get the manager's ear. (But you probably already know that.) You need to find a different way in. You say you have many accomplishments -- someone must have noticed, and you must have built relationships during those accomplishments. Time to exploit that, call in favors.

Put down 'X' years of education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107129)

I don't know if you have ANY formal education and/or training, but list any that you have. I have a lot of college, but no degree. I generally just list that as six years of college, and don't bother talking about a degree unless specifically asked. If they ask if I have a degree, I truthful answer, "Lots of education, but no actual degree."

I also bring up the training I have had, and try to tie it in to the job I am applying for. I was trained by the USAF as an Inventory Management Specialist, which ties in to the EDI work I am doing now, although the USAF never heard of EDI back in my day.

I'm an old fart too. Everything that you can relate to the work you are trying to get will help. Good luck.

You probably don't want to work at those places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107133)

If you want to be appreciated for your self taught skills try to find a place that will actually value them. I'm not sure where you're based, but in most cities there are a lot of tech startups, a "cheap" senior dev is always very appealing to companies that don't have everything figured out yet - which means they don't have a HR department acting as a barrier to you and the people that could evaluate your skill set. If you're looking for big money and benefits than tap your social network and try to get into places sideways, but if you're trying to add value somewhere that will appreciate the value and don't need that extra level of office sophistication startup's can be fun.

If you're good, you probably won't have to find another job - they'll find you. Everyone at the startup will end up somewhere else if the first venture failed - and they'll vouch for your abilities.

Small shops and networking (2)

Anrego (830717) | about a year ago | (#44107151)

You'd probably have better luck with smaller shops. The kind where the owner will probably meet with you personally if you go in and ask for a job in person. Be prepared to compensate for your lack of formal credentials with examples of your work.

Probably varies from place to place, but around here, previous experience trumps education most of the time. Larger places you might need the degree to get passed the automated keyword hunter, but your references from previous employers and what you can say about what you've worked on are what sell you.

And on that note, with that long track record of success, you should also have a large collection of people who know the kind of work you do and would recommend you to others. Get in touch with them and see if they know of anyone looking for someone with your skillset.

People who can refer you to the company they work for are your absolute best bet. Your chances of getting a job are magnitudes higher when someone inside the company, who knows the role and office culture and the position, is saying "this guy is good, he's exactly what we need".

It's all about the paperwork. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107153)

Everything seems to revolve around college nowadays. Heck, there is a grocery store fifteen miles from here that won't hire anyone to wash dishes in the deli unless they have a COLLEGE degree.

Two choices (1) (245670) | about a year ago | (#44107165)

1) Network
2) Get lucky

Re: Two choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107255)

3) Just for Men

Re: Two choices (1)

musth (901919) | about a year ago | (#44107385)

4) Conceived by extroverts

Sell the accomplishments (2)

sdinfoserv (1793266) | about a year ago | (#44107171)

As a fellow grayhair who just recently switched jobs - sell what you got. Sell vision, dedication (You won’t be pulled away for screaming babies), experience, understanding of risk, that you've actually already done what they are trying to do (yes - research!). You are now less the doer and more the vizier. Most importantly, sell confidence, without it you're toast. Good luck

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107189)

Getting a Degree with a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and a few part time online classes?
If you can do it outside the classroom why not do it as part of an official curriculum and get credit for it?

Learn more about PLA from :

... or Google like I did.

Wish you good success!

NSA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107191)

Education and background don't matter there. All you need is a GED, lie about your background a bit, and be willing to swear an oath to defend the USA with your pinkie behind your back so that you can leak secret documents to the Chinese,... Plan on relocating, though. Like, to Ecuador or Iceland, via, Hong Kong, Russia, or Cuba. And don't expect to see your family again. Or your smoking hot stripper girlfriend. Ever.

Your a gray hair and you (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44107207)

haven't figured this out yet?
1) Start your own contracting firm.
1) Make contact through user group meetings, seminars, what have you.
2) Become active in any coder events.

References (3, Insightful)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year ago | (#44107213)

If you have done impressive things over many years, you should have contacts who are aware of your abilities. An inside experienced contact at most companies can get a resume of someone they think is valuable in front of hiring managers.

Unfortunately if you don't have a formal education and don't have anyone who can vouch for you it will be very difficult. Put yourself in the position of a hiring manger with dozens of resumes on their desk - they are looking for an efficient way to cull the resumes down to a manageable number and formal qualifications are an easy (and generally reasonable) method.

You are asking a wrong question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107219)

I have never seen the lack of the degree as an impediment to getting hired. I would say the majority of people I have worked with did not have a CS degree. I seriously doubt that this is why you are not getting hired. I would bet there is another reason.

Why do you want to work for these people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107223)

Incompetent gatekeepers work for people on both sides of the gate.

Maybe it's not them.. (4, Insightful)

bsdasym (829112) | about a year ago | (#44107235)

..maybe it's you. Speaking as someone with ~20 years real experience and no formal education at all (HS dropout, even), I haven't had any trouble finding a good paying gig (W2 or 1099) since putting the first behind me, let alone getting an interview. So, I say, seek within for the answers. The "young guy" is bringing something to the table you're not, right out of the gate, and it's got nothing to do with his degree or your lack thereof.

Re:Maybe it's not them.. (1)

musth (901919) | about a year ago | (#44107407)

And much more to do with his youngness, hipness, price, and malleability.

Accomplishments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107239)

If you think it's no accomplishment to have an impressive looking degree, then go get one. Night school if you must. Make sure you come out top of the class.

ALso (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44107271)

Government work,

i know lots of unqualified successful peps, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107275)

If you have the knowledge and skills, then certs are easy. Depending on the specialisation, you don’t generally need a 3yr degree – eg Microsoft MCPs, CCNA, etc which would go a long way to helping demonstrate your skill set. If certs aren’t an option, advertise your skills, eg a blog about the technical things you’ve discovered, or something else. As a recruiter, these would be these demonstrations of experience I’d look for in lieu of qualifications.

Re: i know lots of unqualified successful peps, bu (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107379)

You dont need certs... I have dyslexia so i find formal qualifications hard (believe me I've tried), but still manage to do VERY well.

Make Friends (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107287)

Buy a few people lunch. Network with people in the company you want to work for. Join their church. Coach their kids baseball team.

Get out of the man cave and mingle.

Work for Microsoft (1)

JD of the DB (949774) | about a year ago | (#44107299)

If you have Microsoft skills, Microsoft does not require degrees for coders in Redmond or for field reps (Windows server, active directory, exchange, sql server, sharepoint, etc) around the world. Management actively fights discrimination including age discrimination. The focus is on how well a person can do the job. []

It's like any other industry. (1)

betterprimate (2679747) | about a year ago | (#44107301)

My advice is to be clear about your working experience and your depth of knowledge; honest, so to speak. All "audiophiles", music engineers, and even famous producers that I have known never went to college.

Maybe you are in the wrong location? It sounds like you need to hustle and network.

Re:It's like any other industry. (1)

betterprimate (2679747) | about a year ago | (#44107519)

Sorry, I misread that you were in an audiophile.

You are lacking a lot of information. We cannot tell you anything until you provide at least your focus in "techie". What's your niche??

It probably has nothing to do with your age or your lack of education. The best software and developers don't have a collage degree; even the billionaires.

Experience *always* wins over education, so I really don't know what your problem is. Maybe you don't have enough practical, proven experience in delivering real solutions. The agism is hyped here on /.; the real issue is change and knowing how to market yourself. Neck beards get bitter; old people get bitter. Many of them are talented but don't know how to deliver or present themselves.

Among your abilities, I would cite demonstrated experiences that you have had that have contributed to your character: management, yada-yada. Showing management in past experiences in irrelevant jobs says a lot. You know, the stuff that you get with age. Don't get hung up on it, truncate it.

About recruiters.... They need to be treated as they are. It's okay to be condescending to them. If you're networking, none of it matters. They harass me every day. Sometimes I just respond with "LOL". If you're a boss, act like a boss. That's not to say you become egotistical, but understand most of these recruiters are the young folk too. They're early-to-mid 20 somethings who are vain, no skills, barely passed college, whatever. A lot of them are girls with a moderately pretty face; real psycho bitches if you dated them. The guys are flunky frat boys.

Oh, yeah, you might want to set up a LinkedIn account. Recruiters there are basically having an orgy. Job propositions will just jizz all over you.

first thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107305)

First suggestion: don't use words like "autodidact". Using 2-bit words makes you come across as either overcompensating for a weak resume or pretentious and potentially combative and/or non-cooperative team member.

bad idea (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44107315)

I repaired computers for 7 years before getting a corporate job. I was the best of the best at it (and still am) yet without SDLC training and actual stories from actual IT workers turned college professors, I'd be doing a very bad job at my current job. I could still easily repair individual computers but the best practices and SDLC rules are everything. So I'm glad I got 2 degrees in IT. No matter how self taught you think you are, you're still not good enough for a corporate job without training.

Re:bad idea (1)

musth (901919) | about a year ago | (#44107457)

I was the best of the best at it (and still am)...

Along with a thousand other people reading this comment. But I get it, this is you illustrating your positive attitude, right?

Work for the government (3, Interesting)

mendax (114116) | about a year ago | (#44107321)

I'm serious. I know a fellow who is not only 71 years old but a convicted felon who is still on federal supervised release and hasn't work in over ten years who recently got a job with the State of California doing some sort of IT work. The state hires older people. Hiring managers aren't blinded by the cost of older people's health insurance because it doesn't come out of their budget. I suspect it's the same with the Federal government.

Choose COBOL (3, Interesting)

BanteringCTO (584124) | about a year ago | (#44107329)

Most of the younger developers want to work with the newer languages, and they want to create rather than maintain. Many companies struggle to find competent COBOL programers, largely for maintenance work. If you are as adept at self-learning as you imply, it should be an easy language to pick up. Check out this article currently posted on /.: [] Good luck!

online resume (2)

chris_mahan (256577) | about a year ago | (#44107339)

Put your resume online somewhere, make the page google-search-engine friendly (html5, validating, good structure, no fancy tables or javascript).

There are fewer restrictions there, because no page numbers, etc.

People scour the internet to find talent.

Be open to contract work, even 3 months contract, as these can turn into 6, 12, or full time.

My story: 2010 a recruiter found my resume through google search, called me for position, was 3 months contract, got extended 3 more, then 9 more, then full-time, and I've been full-time at the firm 15 months now.

Looking for a job is a full-time job, which includes research.

Also, if a degree is holding you back, get one online (as cheap as possible and as fast as possible). Showing on your resume that you are continuing your education toward a degree can positively influence the resume-filter guy in HR. (Put something like: Attending University XYZ, aiming for a B.S. in Information Systems.) Also, degree does not have to be absolutely related to your career; it's just needed for HR to check the box marked "4-year diploma".

Take any work you can get. You don't have to put it on your resume (there's no database of jobs people have had out there except in govt) if it's not related to your career.

To start your own business and if you don't have assets to protect, you just do work on invoice basis. File a schedule C when you do your taxes (turbotax etc, have that). Do report your income, and pay your taxes. It will be a hassle to find clients, but you can find them. Everybody has crappy computer systems that break. Establish trusted relationships with a few, and before you know it, by word of mouth, they will advertise for you. A word of warning: do not take on exploratory work. Do only what you have done in the past, successfully. It will be easier on everyone, and your reputation will be: gets the job done well and fast. Exploratory work should be considered part of your ongoing education. Any costs incurred there (books, computers, etc) can become a business cost and be deducted from your schedule C income.

I am not a lawyer, a tax professional, etc. Check local laws. etc.

It is who you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107343)

I've worked with some older guys who were largely self taught, at least at first. What they all seemed to have in common (beside's confidence) was that they knew the boss. So much of getting hired is who you know, not what you know. Get out there and network, talk to people in the business. If you have such an impressive collection of work in your past (and published papers) then there must be plenty of people you know in your chosen field. Leverage that into getting a job.

Calling BS, Let's see what you've done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107351)

Unlike many other disciplines, the computer industry allows individuals to create programs, frameworks, toolkits, technical documentation, etc. relatively easy. You don't need permission from some bureaucratic agency, certification from some professional group, or a 4-year degree to get started.

The web makes it trivial to publish. Social networks (such as Slashdot) make it possible to gain wide recognition, and if your target audience finds your work interesting and useful, you will receive inquiries.

You captured the attention of Slashdot, let's see your work. Is it good?

I know how you feel. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107357)

I, too, am an older guy. No formal education, but plenty of accomplishments. I, too, cannot get past the screening process.

I sincerely believe the issue is a lack of a degree coupled with "...he has xx years experience but no degree? There's something wrong here."

The younger peeps may discover this situation when they get older. For their sake, I hope not. This sucks.

Fake it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107377)

If you're really desperate, why not fake a generic degree from some remote and obscure overseas college? Chances are, it won't be checked. Once you've established yourself in the new job, do some brilliant work that makes it hard for them to dismiss you if the fraud is discovered. But only do this if you're about to have your home foreclosed.

Re:Fake it (1)

chris_mahan (256577) | about a year ago | (#44107423)

I recommend against that. Some companies do check, and then they can fire you for cause, and you can kiss severance and unemployment benefits goodbye.

Easy (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#44107411)


It has nothing to do with being an auto-didact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107475)

As a young(er) auto-didact myself, who is deeply involved in the hiring process at my current company, I can say with a great deal of certainty that (in Silicon Valley at least) your degree matters almost not at all. It's usually the last thing anyone puts on their resume, as well as the last thing I read. I'm wayyy more interested in what you've been doing for the last few years of your career.

Hiring is (again, in the Silicon Valley at least, for all of the companies I know of) meritocratous. This isn't because anyone cares about being fair; it's because we need to hire people who can get the job done, and there's just not enough of those people floating around that we can get picky about their alma matter and degree from years ago.

So if you're not getting the job, blame it on the fact that your interviewer didn't like the answer you gave on when to comment, how much to unit test, or how many pounds of hair America generates. Or maybe blame it on the type of programming you do (here's a hint: learn Javascript!) *Maybe* blame it on your gray hair (although, just speaking for myself, I'm *looking* for programmers with experience; I keep finding young college guys instead). But don't blame it on your self-learning, because nobody cares how you know what you know, they just care what you know.

Gray hair? (1)

magi (91730) | about a year ago | (#44107481)

A pack of hair color costs something like $10 at your local store. One problem solved. (If someone has good tips for coloring beard, I'd like to know.)

My guess is that if you want to apply to an organization that uses formal screening process, you're off worse. Networking is the word of the day and if you have a lot of previous work experience, you might already have a professional network. Use it, and sidestep the screening. If not, build your network. Participate in groups, attend conferences, etc. Be active, social, and ambitious, in the right way. Create your own projects, team up, work hard. Target smaller companies that may be more flexible about their hiring practices.

Previous accomplishments are not necessarily a proof of anything, the problem is that everyone can boast about their accomplishments, so nobody pays attention to them if they don't know you, but school grades are official and considered "objective". So, your accomplishments only matter to people who know about them - mainly your network.

Of course, you must be able to develop yourself to the tip of your field. You need to show that you have experience about the field - perhaps write a professional blog, or something, be social. Younger people often have more ambition than us older guys, and you have to rebuild that ambition in yourself, even though I know it can be hard. Be proactive, smart, and develop something bright.

'nuf of pep talk. More booze, sleep.

No objections from me (1)

cliffjumper222 (229876) | about a year ago | (#44107489)

I've hired gray hairs, long hairs, dyed hair and no hairs as programming contractors. Age and experience are not so important to me for these mid-level programming gigs.I care about a few things though - are you up to date on not just coding, but contemporary development methodologies? Have you worked in an Agile team before? Do you have a niche skill that fits with my project (in my case often embedded programming, or Linux device drivers). I'm far more interested in what you've done in that last year before you came to me, so work experience is important. We *will* check if you can program and what approach you take to solving the type of problems we have via multiple interviews on the same day, so if you really can't program, then you will be found out. Also, we place a lot of weight on recommendations, so if you have worked with others on a team and they vouch for you, that will help a lot. Finally, if you are a jerk personality-wise, then we won't want you. Having been burnt more that once by hiring people with serious personality issues it's one of my top things I try to weed out at interview. Finally, a good agency might help you - they take a nasty cut, but push their employees.

I don't have gray hair yet, but... (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about a year ago | (#44107493)

I am a software engineer who graduated with a CS degree in 2004. I have almost 9 years of experience. I think experience is essential. I know I am certainly a lot more productive now than I was after I graduated.

I will say however that I see the rationale for hiring new grads over old gray haired guys with lots of experience especially if when they are self taught. I may have been inexperienced when I was first hired, but I was willing to take less pay and I was very easily molded. Not every new grad is intelligent, but that's what interviews are for. A lot of the older people with 30 or 40+ years of experience are pretty set in their ways. They don't like learning new technologies or methodologies. They tend to find ways to do things their own way regardless of what they are told to do.

I am fairly sure that I am going to be like that when I get to be in my 50's and 60's. I can already feel myself being more stubborn about certain things. I feel fortunate that I had a good background on CS theory. I feel like if my mind becomes closed to new ideas I might be able to last for a while on a good foundation, not that I plan to let that happen. I don't know how hard it will be to learn/appreciate new technologies/ideas when I get older. I guess I will find out when I get there.

I don't know how open you are to getting a formal education, but I can't recommend it enough. I have seen a lot of new grads who are pretty inept. I have seen lots of schools and teachers that do a pretty terrible job of teaching subject matter. But when you get the education just right, it can really work miracles to improve your understanding and productivity. I don;t know how old you need to get before it stops being worth it to get a good education, but I suspect it's older than people think. If you actually enjoy learning I would say you should definitely do it. What's the downside? I watch youtube videos of college lectures in my spare time. I find it extremely fascinating, and I am addicted to the sense of power that comes with knowledge.

I don't think being self taught precludes you from getting a formal education. If you don't need a degree you don't even need to spend any money. You can witness all the same lectures as an MIT or Standford student online. I hope that when I am older, I can keep my sense of curiosity and my desire to learn.

The best way to get a job is to be useful. I am not so great with resumes, and I am not a good salesman, but I do know what I am talking about, and I am confident in my abilities. I always do really well in interviews when I can manage to get them. I can't imagine trying to do the things I do if I had tried to teach myself everything.

Sound advise... and at least you have hair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107499)

If you're set on working for someone else and not your own business.... find a subject you like and study, study, study, certify. Not just paper cert, build it, break it, fix it over and over. Whatever "it" is. Be the expert in that nitch and prove it to whom ever you contact. Our own company has been crying for good database and project manager resources and hiring no matter the age. I've worked with talent from age 24-64

Re:Sound advise... and at least you have hair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107527)

Oh, and the 64 year old guy left recently with his certification for another company with a huge pay raise!

Ask a large group with nothing in common (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44107515)

I'd ask a large group of people who think they know everything, but don't; and are not in the same position as me.

Are you any good? (2)

houbou (1097327) | about a year ago | (#44107531)

Are you good? how do you know? Have you self-taught yourself actual experience? Be somebody's apprentice and work on contracts for a bit, you need some experience to go with that knowledge.
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