A weirdly working 2023
Something weird 🔗
A few years ago, in 2021, something weird happened. I started a full-time job. What made it weird is that was my first full-time (40 hours a week) job in about fifteen years.
As a kid, during the summer, I’d spend 1.5 hours a day cycling, in order do spend half an hour a day on the bus, in order to spend 8 hours a day in a cosmetics warehouse, collecting condoms and shampoos for deliveries. It was boring, exhausting, and it paid ~1€ per hour. Before taxes.
A little while later I got offered a one-off job packing candy bars into promotional boxes. There was about 5 of us: me, a friend, and a few of his friends. We spent maybe 7 hours sitting around a table, telling dirty jokes1 and even eating some of the candy bars. I got paid ~25€ cash2. It was a blast!
Back then I decided (and blogged, on a blog long lost to time) that I’m never going to work full-time again. This was so much better! And I made a killing.
Surely this is sustaintable in the long run.
And for the next 15 years, and the first ~10 years of my professional career as a software engineer, that’s exactly what I did.
I started my first job in the industry (not counting GSoC) during my university years, and I did half-time. Sometimes more, when I felt like it – the office had food in it, and sometimes beer. Way better than my apartment at the time!
After I was done with my studies (I did my BSc and ignored the rest), my boss asked me if I want to go full-time now. There’d be a raise, he said, and not just a proportional one. I thought about it and said “nah, I’d rather have my free time”. He’s still amused about it after all these years. But back then I thought (realized?), that there’s enough money in IT that you don’t need to work full-time to live comfortably.
Having free time allows you to be more frugal, not spending excessive amounts of money to delegate things that you don’t have time to do yourself because of all the work. And even then, making a fraction of what I make now, I still had more leftover money that I could reasonably spend during my PTO. So what was the point of making more?
I’d rather keep my free time. I like referring to it as “free” time instead of “spare” time. Spare time sounds like a spare tire. It’s not as good as the regular one, and if you use it more than the regular one then you end up in trouble. I’d rather have free time instead, so it needs to be just as good (ideally better) than the regular one.
I kept this part-timing up for years, across all the different jobs, keeping up my “nah” whenever I was offered more money for more labour. So it was indeed pretty weird when I did pick up a full-time job after all in 2021. It sounded fun, I liked the people, I believed in the project, and I’d be consistently hit with a truckton (comparatively) of money every month. Nearly everyone lives like this, so it can’t be that bad.
And it wasn’t, for the most part. Because of the work, the people, and the truckton of money. I had a good time.
And then in 2023, something even weirder happened.
Something weirder 🔗
In 2023, I was laid off. That’s never happened before. IT is starved for workers, after all. “Every IT company needs to be a hiring company”, I heard once. And the money is infinite, grows on trees, and nobody cares about your profitability. How could there possibly be layoffs?
But there were, and the writing was on the wall for a while, so it didn’t really come as a surprise. And it’s not really a problem, I thought.
For all these years, there was always a backlog of people lining up to recommend me to their companies. Not even recruiters. I was never on LinkedIn, there was no need. “We’re hiring, come on, we’ll split the signing bonus”, a friend of mine would say every few months. There’s a reason they call us IT Aristocracy over here. So a layoff shouldn’t be much of a setback. I’ll just reach out to all these friends of mine who are hiring.
But they weren’t looking this time around. “We don’t have anything, no. Actually we’re laying people off“.
And so I had to do something I’ve actually never had to do before. I had to look for and apply for jobs. Yet another unusual confrontation with reality. Only now I’ve realized how privileged I’ve been so far with all this.
Something awful 🔗
Because of all my previous experiences with the IT industry, I assumed that a job hunt would be a breeze. A programmer looking for a job? Not vice versa? I’ll be like a girl on Tinder!
But apparently layoffs were all the rage, and it wasn’t as much of an employees’ market anymore. Companies wouldn’t reply at all, including the “we respond to everyone, even if we don’t pick you” ones. Am I still being considered?
Sometimes they’d reach out first, but offer laughable money (“…per week?” “…no”). I guess that’s like getting a surprise dick pick on Tinder, and after you’ve put “asexual” in your bio.
Occasionally they’d be responsive, but have outright disrespectful recruitment processes. Like “You’d get to talk on Slack to the engineers once you complete this extremely domain-specific task that’ll take you a few days of work”. The fuck it this, the gaming industry?
I stopped even trying to look for part-time jobs again, it was hard enough to find anything reasonable.
My break from work lasted a month longer than I planned, and even then I landed in the company that I’ve ragequit within a month. It joined the ranks of those that I don’t even bother to mention in my resume.
Something hopeful 🔗
And then the clouds cleared and the sun rose again. Friends, and friends of a friend were looking for contractors again. Recruiters reached out from the “we respond to everyone” companies I’ve applied to before (I guess I am still being considered).
The real winter has just started. Is the IT winter over? Judging be the layoffs I’m still seeing, not quite. Maybe good things do come to those who wait, and I just had to be patient. Too early to say, but it’s not looking so bad anymore. I’m part-timing and contracting right now, and it feels good to have free time again – not just the inferior spare time. We’ll see how long I can keep this up (reach out if you want to help!)). I’d love to be the proponent and a success story of “part-time work is enough to live nicely”. Again. I’ll let you know how it worked out. Judging by my apparent blogging habits, it should be just under 2 years from now.