Employment Security in the Computer Industry

Or How to Keep Your Job


Mon, Apr 21st, 1997 01:00 by Lilith DemHareIs ARTICLE

It seems that there is no such thing as job security anymore. Who knows how many jobs I've held until the carpet was yanked beneath me. Downsizing, lack of budget, some college kid who can do more for less pay are often the uncontrollable forces that cause us to get the boot.

So, how do you keep your job? Make yourself NEEDED, and make sure nobody else can do the job and still be willing to accept the pittance you receive.

This is easiest in the computer industry, especially for computer techies, network administrators and consultants. These people work intimately with computers, and one of their main tasks is to keep the computers in good repair, and functioning for the rest of the computer-illiterate world. This means maintenance, repairs, technical support, and, most vitally, clever sabotage.

That's right, sabotage. Of the repairable kind. Repairable only by you [apparently]. If you seem to be the 'magic fingers' that only has to touch a computer in order to make it work, then people will come to depend on you like oxygen, and the Powers That Be wouldn't *dare* sack you, in fear that their whole network will crash without you.

Sabotage doesn't have to be destructive, just disruptive. One tried-and-true tactic is to change the IRQ port on the network card from whatever it is, to something that conflicts with, say, the mouse (usually IRQ 2 or 3). This is one to do first thing in the morning, early-early, before the user of the computer arrives. Then, when they turn on their computer, it won't connect to the network, and they'll get frustrated. Then, when they give you a call, tell them you're busy, but you'll get to them as soon as possible. Wait twenty minutes or so. (Any longer, and they'll pester you again.) Then, mosey on down to their computer and play with it. Ask them irrelevant questions. ("Did you quit in the middle of network Hearts without shutting down properly?" "Have you been playing with the control panel?") Then, fix the problem, sketchily explain the problem in computerese, so they can't possibly understand, then show them that you miraculously fixed their computer, and they can access the network. They'll be so grateful in their tears that they'll adore you forever, and protest when the boss suggests that he give you the axe.

There are many easy tricks you can do to ensure you still have a job. If most of the problems are discreetly caused by you, you can control the types of breakdowns, and the frequency.

It's generally a good idea to have the occasional day without deliberate problems. Make these days intermittent, and not too frequent. If people have a few days here and there that nothing happens, they will appreciate them. Toss in the occasional comment like, "nothing's happening. Must be because I fixed that cable problem." They'll attribute their good luck to you. If you can control the problem flux, then that means you can arrange for a "good day" when you have a day off. This is good for several reasons: chances are, nothing will go wrong, and the boss won't call you in to fix it, you *can* get days off approved, and people will be more patient with you if you're not there.

There is a disadvantage to taking lots of time off. If you are gone for three days or more, then somebody smart in Lower Management will notice the pattern of good days with you being gone. They'll suggest it to Upper Management. Somewhere, somebody may figure out that you're tinkering with things, and then you'll lose your job.

So, what do you do if you want two weeks off? Easy. EVERY techie has a unemployed techie buddy somewhere. This buddy will probably be more than willing to pretend they're from a temp agency, and cover for you while you're gone. He'll continue your regime of sabotage and repairs, and earn a few needed dollars besides. Then, you can go off to Bermuda, and not have to worry about losing your job. If your buddy is competent, he'll make it seem like you were never gone. If he's not competent, everyone will be very glad to see you back, and you continue to keep your job.

If your buddy is NOT your buddy, he'll expose your plan, get you fired, and steal your job from under your nose. Chances are, this won't happen. If he's too efficient, once he has his job, if he wants to keep it, he'll have to continue with the "no problems" charade. Soon, the boss will see that he's not necessary, and will fire him.

Don't worry. Your buddy will cover for you. You both benefit. Your job is kept secure. He'll case the joint, then report it all to his techie thief buddies, and one night, they'll clean out the joint of all computer equipment. In that case, you can slip yourself into "adviser" position, and advise Supply on what computer systems to buy. Get something advanced, preferably with the best operating system you can get. This new OS will be different enough that problems will crop up left and right. Since nobody but you knows how to work (and fix) this system, you're assured job security for quite some time. But it may be a while before you can go on vacation again.

If you get to the point that you're considered vital to the company, you might try for a slight pay raise. If you can show enough evidence that lots of your contemporaries elsewhere are earning as more than you are requesting, chances are you'll get the raise.

Be careful to not ask for too much money. Either you won't get it, and you're stuck with the same old salary, or you won't get it, and they'll sack you, in favor of some kid who can fix your problems, and is willing to work for less.

Job security is easy, if you know how to make yourself vital.



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