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Finding suitable employment can be challenging and emotionally taxing.

Finding employment can be a challenging and emotionally taxing journey. During the last several months of my employment search, I have experienced various emotions. I wanted to write a candid description of my mental state while I navigated this process.

Frustration: Initially, I felt frustrated by the job market's competitiveness. Despite my qualifications and experience, landing the right position has proven elusive, leading to moments of exasperation. The career outlook for security analysts is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects information security analyst jobs to grow 33% from 2020-2030. Demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals far outpaces supply. Has that changed?

We’re in an evolving job market where employers complain that they can’t find the right people to fill their job openings. Their laments are ironic and tone-deaf as their actions of denying feedback alienate, discourage and blow off potentially perfect candidates.

Uncertainty: Job hunting has brought uncertainty about my future career path, financial stability, and direction. Bhavna wants me to stop consulting and find something full-time. But she can’t explain the benefits of working on a W-2 compared to independent consulting. My last employer of record had me on the payroll for a decade before a financial downturn[^1] made me a victim of involuntary collateral attrition in 2013. I was told by a friend who is now an Executive Director at the company that deciding who got to go was a flip of a coin for most managers. By 2010, they had outsourced all IT except information security1.

Self-Doubt: I grapple with self-doubt as the search continues. Rejections or lack of responses make me question my skills and worthiness as a candidate. The lack of feedback from recruiters and hiring managers after the interview is maddening.

It wasn’t always like this. In the good old days, providing feedback and constructive criticism to candidates was standard protocol. The hiring manager, human resources professional or recruiter would diplomatically tell the applicants what they did well and the areas they need to improve. These days, it’s rare to get a rejection letter or receive any input and advice from the company as to why I was unceremoniously passed over. All the niceties and politeness are gone. If they want to move forward, the candidate will hear from human resources; otherwise, they get the silent treatment{^3].

Hope: I have specific rate/salary expectations that align with market trends. To avoid lengthy and stressful New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York metropolitan area commutes that range from one hour to two hours in one direction, I have been focused on finding local hybrid and remote-only roles.

Amidst the challenges, moments of hope emerge when I come across job openings that align with my expertise and interests. I get hopeful when the AI bots that screen the resumes and cover letters let me through. I get hopeful when I get a call from a recruiter or human resources to do a phone screen. I get hopeful when a round (or two, three or four) of interviews are scheduled. I get hopeful during the interview that I’ll be chosen.

Anxiety: The waiting game can provoke anxiety, especially as daily, weekly and monthly expenses exhaust our finances, Waiting for responses after interviews or refreshing my inbox hoping for positive news can be nerve-wracking.

Motivation: I have strong drive and determination, which have served me well in my career and continue to motivate me. I am continuously refining my skills. I have reassessed my skills, interests, and priorities. I have successfully managed large projects and successfully led teams in large corporations. I have highly respected certifications such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Cloud Certified Security Professional (CSSP), Certified Information Risk and Information Systems Controls (CRISC), and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). I am pursuing AWS certification, which may lead to a new direction. Is this not enough? What is?

Resilience: Despite setbacks, I work hard to ensure my resilience shines through. I persist in my job search but with an increasing feeling of powerlessness. I feel like a pawn in someone else's game.

Support: My support system, including friends, family, and professional networks, plays a crucial role. Their encouragement and advice offer some solace during this challenging time.

Reflection: This period of unemployment has allowed for reflection on my career goals and aspirations. I want to work on projects that positively impact the employer and align with my natural talent and what excites me. I want to work remotely2 at home to avoid the commute stress and the noisy open-plan office environment3. I want to be fairly and equitably compensated. I want my opportunities for advancement to be based on my accomplishments rather than on my popularity in leadership.

Optimism: Ultimately, my journey is imbued with some pessimism. I must find a way to be optimistic that the right opportunity will come my way.

I prefer a remote work setup to eliminate time wasted commuting and value a quiet, focused environment. Fair compensation is crucial to me, and I prioritise engaging in meaningful work that contributes positively to society rather than solely benefiting corporate leaders and shareholders. Maybe part of my frustration stems from asking for something that doesn’t exist.

Part of my disillusionment lies in the disappointment with the idea that I am solely responsible for my career. My experience has taught me that it's not just about individual effort and qualifications. The modern job market is a complex ecosystem influenced by economic trends and corporate policies. It's a domain where sometimes uncontrollable external factors, such as market disruption or shifting industry priorities, play as significant a role as one's skills and achievements.

Recognising this has been both a sobering and liberating realisation. It has allowed me to understand (but not yet accept) that while personal accountability is crucial, my career trajectory is shaped by various elements beyond my control. This understanding is helping me maintain perspective, focus on what I can control, and find peace amidst the intrinsic uncertainties of the job search process.

  1. Now they are bringing that work back in-house. Good news if you live in India. That’s 1,500 formerly American (and formerly New Jersey) jobs going to India. ¯\_(?)_/¯
  2. I have worked remotely as a team lead for the last two years. I was so successful at my accomplishments that I was offered a promotion. However, the post-pandemic company policy required me to commute two hours one-way to their New York City offices twice a week. My team and the person I reported to work in other states. ¯\_(?)_/¯
  3. According to researchers, open-plan offices are full of noisy distractions that reduce knowledge workers' ability to think and be productive?

It feels like I am drowning

In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image. The blur could be in the background, the foreground, or the mid part of the image. Bokeh refers to the quality of the blur, not the blur itself.

Many photographers misunderstand the term Japanese term bokeh. In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image. The blur could be in the background, the foreground, or the mid part of the image. Bokeh refers to the quality of the blur, not the blur itself. Depending on the characteristics of the lens, bokeh can be good or bad.

I typically capture my images with the camera set to aperture priority mode, with exposure set to auto and ISO either fixed (35mm film) or assigned to a range (e.g. 160-1600). Ever since I bought my Fujifilm mirrorless camera, I have been attracted by the super-budget price tag and “look” that vintage lenses created. I still had my Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm f/2 lens from my 35m film, so I melded the old and the new with an inexpensive adapter.

16 April, 2022 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 R WR

The XF27mmF2.8 R WR and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR have decent bokeh characteristics, but as you can see from the images, my 40-year-old Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 lens beats them both. I have mainly used this lens adapted to my Fujifilm X-T3, where it functions as an excellent short (76.5mm full-frame equivalent) portrait lens. I love the buttery cinematic quality of the out-of-focus area that the MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 creates at f/2. I think it's the perfect portrait lens for my Fuji X-T3. Because this lens only has six non-rounded blades, bokeh is lovely and circular at f1.7, but highlights in the background become more hexagonal once I stop it down a touch to f/2 or f/2.8.

Bokeh | FujiFilm X-T2 | Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm f/2

When I had the radiotherapy treatment for my Graves Eye Disease, I lay in the same position on a bed below a radiotherapy machine. A tight, form-fitting face mask was gently placed over my head and neck and fixed to where my head rested. The face mask was explicitly moulded for my head and face. The treatment took up to 30 minutes and was not painful, but I had two panic attacks during my first treatment. It took three doses of Xanax to calm me down enough to make it through the procedure. I used Xanax for the entire six weeks of radiation therapy. I had not expected panic attacks. I felt as though I was drowning.

I grew up on a farm, so I did learn to wash my hands frequently, but I have no phobias about diseases, Thank goodness. I would not be able to work in any modern office (there are no cubes or offices anymore).

I tolerated it for far too long, but the commute to Wall Street was an abomination.

Risk is defined as “the possibility of something bad happening”. I am triple vaccinated. The risks have been reduced. The possibility of anything wrong happening is extremely low. My cyber-security job involves the use of techniques and controls to mitigate risk. It’s just math, and the math of COVID suggests to me that the fully vaccinated have minimal risk.

Any risk management aims not to eliminate all risks (impossible) but to preserve and add value (being able to live life) by making intelligent decisions(get vaccinated). We all do risk management all the time. Some do it emotionally (bad), and some do it with data (sound). You do sound risk management when you buy insurance (risk transference) for your car. When you buy six jugs of milk (all of which expire are the same time) just before a major storm, you are not doing risk management; you are just panicking.

July 2021 | Minolta XD-11 | MD ROKKOR-X 45mm F2 | Kodak Pro Image 100

I think requiring face masks for all passengers on a plane or train is risk management theatre. It’s a performance with the illusion of control. Falguni sent me tons of information about how the air systems in the aircraft keep the air clean and how it’s safer than being in a crowded restaurant. Ok, so then why wear a face mask during the flight?

But the continued requirement to have masking on planes and trains means I can’t travel too far. Certainly not overseas to visit my Mom, whom I have not seen since March 2020. I may never see my family again.

9 February, 2020 | Bhavna | Pentax P3 | SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 | Ilford HP5+ 400

But the short answer is:

Bhavna and I never liked crowded, noisy spaces. We tolerated it. We have always chosen early morning movie times over popular times. We always go out to dinner (~ 5:30 PM) on Tuesday nights instead of Friday nights. We go to breweries just after they open on the weekend. We pay extra for the VIP tickets to the beer fest to enter one hour before the crowd. When we visit the Jersey shore in the summer, we do it in the middle of the week. We want the best experience. We do not feel we can get that in a crowded place at popular busy times.

So if the space is crowded, then mask or no mask, outdoor or indoor, it feels like I am drowning.

Snap back to reality

Is it safe to work in an office building again?

A sense of dread overcame me when the director made the announcement. The company has decided that the first day in April (yes, April Fool’s Day) is when all staff (employees and consultants) must start working from a corporate office. Is it safe to work in an office building again? I have to admit this is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot since the announcement. While the pandemic distancing and masking requirements are being rescinded, COVID is still spreading.

Before the global pandemic, I worked from home two days a week. Since March 11, 2020, , I have worked full time from my home office. There is no stress of a daily commute. My house has all the things I need to feel safe and comfortable. I chose the chair, the desk, and the tchotchkes that adorn my desk. At home, I get to select the room temperature. I make coffee from freshly ground beans each morning, then sit and listen to music while catching up on the latest technology news; I play catch with our cat or stare out the window at the birds at the feeder. I don’t have to be concerned about what I wear. A collared shirt is all I need up top. I can wear whatever I want down below. When I need a break, I can grab lunch from my kitchen, then sit and catch up on a Netflix show or talk to our cat. I can take a nap or have lunch with my wife or outside at a local restaurant with a friend when the weather is suitable. All these will be lost when I return to the old normal.

I knew in the back of my mind that at some point, the (mostly) men who run these corporations would resort to their 1950s way of doing things, back to the old normal, back to thinking employees can only be productive when sitting in a corporate office. But SARS variants that were around back then weren’t as contagious. The Delta and Omicron variants spread more quickly. The thought of sitting inside an office building where my risk of COVID-19 infection is higher and then bringing that home to my family scares me. Because of social distancing and facemask mandates, No family member has been sick, not even with the yearly flu. We should all be that lucky.

I don't think employers have made a clear case of the advantages (to the company and staff) of being at the office compared to working remotely.

I am vaccinated, and I’ve had the booster, but one can still get very sick. I will not know if I (or Bhavna or Shaan) have an underlying health issue that can cause a problem until I get COVID. Maybe I am being overly anxious, but I can’t help it. We have been told we will get COVID eventually, but I’m unsure. However, while I might end up with COVID, that doesn’t mean I should go out of my way to catch it. I think one thing that scares me is Public Transport. We must wear masks on all public transportation, but I know some people won’t, and I get anxious wearing a face covering. After thirty minutes, I start to feel claustrophobic.

I want to work from home permanently. But how do I get what I want?

Is it safe to work in an office building again?