Fairy tales can come true

Share this:
April 14, 2003 // UPDATED 10:42 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Centor
Elana Centor

But, first, you have to get fired

"Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you're young at heart . . . " keeps popping to mind whenever I think of my friend D.J. Martin, a self-described risk-averse unemployed computer programmer. Luckily, the floundering IT economy may put his dreams of life as a studio musician within reach.

A music major in college, D.J. abandoned the idea of a career as a studio pianist due to its lack of security. Instead, he became a very successful computer programmer. Until now, he has never looked back; his career path seemed to be paved with gold.

During the dot-com bubble, he received calls from headhunters at least three or four times a week, promising jobs that would double his salary. D.J. didn't bite. He liked his job, he liked the security, he liked the six-figure paycheck, and he figured the company would be around for the long haul.

But on March 14, D.J. was laid off -- sent packing with four months' severance, an opportunity to work with an executive outplacement service and the well wishes of his peers.

On a Friday afternoon, two weeks into his severance, D.J. and I sat down in a Dunn Brothers. We talked about his past, his present and his hopes for his future.

Things began on a pessimistic note. "Right now it's almost impossible to find a job," said D.J. "The full-time jobs are drying up and becoming contract work. A year ago, contract workers in my field were charging $125-$150 an hour. This year those same jobs are paying $40-$50 an hour."

D.J. sees himself having three choices: try to find full-time employment, become a contract worker going from project to project, or follow his dream and try to make it as a studio musician.

Between sips of his French Roast, D.J. expressed confusion, concern and enough anxiety to warrant decaf.

"I've gotten used to the income and I like the idea of being able to take $200 out of the cash machine each week and not give it a thought," he said. "I'm definitely going to apply to any full-time job I can find."

In the next breath, however, D.J. conceded that the chances of landing a job in IT in the next four months are slim-to-none. What will he do once the severance runs out?

"I would never have quit my job to pursue a career in music. I'm risk averse. But, the way the situation is today, I probably will not be able to find a job in four months anyway. So what do I have to lose if I try to pursue music?"

D.J. has not made any firm decisions regarding this potential career change. Besides, thinking about it might not help him in such uncertain times. "I think my chances of landing a job are directly tied to the war wrapping up," he said. "If it's prolonged, there's no way I'll have a job by the Fourth of July."

This week, he's taking a planned vacation to help his dad move to Nevada. When he gets back, he'll get back into the grind of trying to find work.

If this were the late '90s, D.J. wouldn't even consider a music career. He would have had too many great job opportunities as a computer programmer. What a difference a bursting dot-com bubble can make.

"Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you're young at heart . . . " and willing to take a lot less than $200 a week out of the cash machine.

If you have a good workplace dilemma or just a good story to tell, please contact Elana Centor at ecentor@mn.rr.com. You can remain confidential, as can your company.