Ramit’s Inbox: An email from a very confused guy who can’t find a job

Ramit Sethi

Here’s an email exchange I just had with a guy who lost his job and isn’t sure what to do next. There is a lot of good info here, and you’re going to learn about planning ahead and not making the same career moves everybody else does.

chess and blood

Note that this guy writes emails that are 10x too long (which is probably part of the problem), and my extremely brief replies were sent from my iPhone. I’m including all of it so you see how your emails to others are received, but I bolded the important parts so you didn’t commit suicide with an xacto knife to the eyeball.

Ryan writes:

“I graduated from XXX of XXX in December of 2005, and in less than 3 years was making 6 figures as a Software contractor in XXX at XXX. When I started at XXX in July of 2008, they told me I’d be there for 2 to 5 years. By October, the buyout of XXX was announced by XXX, and at that time the bottom fell out of the financial sector and subsequently the job market in XXX. (XXX and XXX were the two biggest employers of tech people in the area, and both were positively clobbered by the recession.) I was let go in December, but had managed to bank living expenses for about a year. (Being someone who once had 12.5k in credit card debt, I was thrilled to be in this position.)

In the past 5 months, I’ve kept in touch with as many recruiters as possible (roughly 3 dozen), who I call on a regular basis only to hear “I’ve got nothing.” Also in that time, I’ve had a whopping two interviews—one contract, one perm—and I got neither gig. I’ve found that when the candidates far outnumber the jobs, there will always be someone with a more complete skillset than you, and that person will get the job unless you are willing to make next to nothing.

What I’m trying to say is that the job situation here is dire. Meanwhile, I’ve burned through half of my savings, and this is starting to annoy me. (It wouldn’t, as much, if there was light at the end of the tunnel.) I’ve ruled out the possibility of moving thus far because I genuinely like living here, but I am increasingly resigned to the inevitability that I will have to.

As someone who has been involved in a technology startup, do you have any advice for someone in my situation?

I am single and have a car payment and a rent payment. My expenses are roughly 2 grand a month. At what point should I take a job just to take one, to protect not only my savings, but my future employability? (Granted, this particular gap in my resumé will be a very easy story for me to tell during an interview, but that doesn’t mean it looks good.) Is it worth it, at this point, for me to move across the country? How stable is the job market out there?

Thanks in advance for any advice you have to offer, and simply for taking the time to read this e-mail. And forgive me for rambling.”

– Ryan

My response:

“Well, what specifically are you doing to improve your job situation?”

Note that I usually find a one-line answer to long, rambling emails forces people to confront the horrifying realization that their email has drifted off into a pointless, circuitous morass of irrelevance.


“I spent much of the last several months expanding my network. The job culture here is very much recruiter-driven, especially on the contract side, but increasingly on the perm side as smaller companies have been swallowed by larger ones. I mentioned in my earlier e-mail that I keep in touch with like 3 dozen recruiters on a regular basis, which is about 30 more than I was keeping in touch with before my last gig. I have pretty good coverage of the XXX-area job market through these resources, at least when it comes to Java gigs, but have come up empty when it comes to actual jobs. The only things I’ve gained from this experience was more minutes on my phone bill.

Even though I preferred to stay a contractor I did not rule out perm jobs knowing how shitty the economy is right now. I had an interview with a company two weeks ago that went great but found out today that I did not get the position. My recruiter asked if there was anything I could’ve done better, and they said no. Ultimately they went with somebody with a wider skillset. Namely, this guy was a pro at UNIX scripting, and I was not.

In a job market where there are 50x more candidates than jobs available, perhaps the best way to get a job is to have every skill-set imaginable. I realize now that I should’ve spent more time over the last several months expanding my skill-set, or perhaps starting a business of my own.

Now, knowing that I could benefit from doing that, I have 6 months before I run out of money, with no guarentee that the jobs in XXX will ever come back. Under normal economic conditions, 6 months is a long time. In the current climate, it’s almost time to become desperate.”

My 2-line response:

“I would go where the jobs are. And stop depending on recruiters. If you act like every other job candidate, you will get treated like them too. Use personal networking and improve your skills.”

Key takeaways

All jokes aside, Ryan now realizes some really key lessons:

  • Build skills before you need them
  • Networking is not a dirty word — make personal relationships before you need them
  • If your emails to a random blogger are really, really long, your resume and cover letter are probably equally verbose and almost certainly play a role in recruiters ignoring you

One of the most important differences between rich people and non-rich people: Rich people plan for things before they need them, while others are caught treading water when something bad happens. To Ryan’s HUGE credit, he planned ahead with an enormous buffer of savings that’s allowing him to figure this out. That alone is remarkable. But from a career perspective, think about how to apply this to your life.

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  1. Jeff Lee

    Good stuff. I’m a fan of short, to-the-point emails.

  2. grunties

    Excuse my touchyness, but you hit a nerve.

    “One of the most important differences between rich people and non-rich people: Rich people plan for things before they need them, while others are caught treading water when something bad happens.”

    Bullshit. Poorly informed, confirmed by nothing more than having the idea in the first place bullshit. The simple fact is that rich people have a buffer that the poor don’t, a buffer that keeps them above the catch-22 threshold where debt leads to charges leads to debt. You don’t need to be a personal finance manager with hundreds of clients and a good track record to see this, although the fact that I am means I speak from at least some small amount of authority.

    Across my desk have flowed hundreds of examples of poor people not being able to escape debt despite monumental effort and doing everything right, and rich people who escape the debt trap despite barely even noticing as they piss money down the drain chasing dying markets, merely because investments I’ve practically forced them to make at gunpoint have saved their asses before they hit the bottom.

  3. jacl

  4. Henry


    “rich people have a buffer that the poor don’t”

    Could it be true that the buffer is a result of them planning for things before they need them, which is Ramit’s point?

    “merely because investments I’ve practically forced them to make at gunpoint have saved their asses”

    So in a way they did plan for things, even though it was largely due to their personal financial manager’s (you) wise counsel?

  5. sudhanshoo

    A post or story can be more interesting and readable if XXXs are replaced by fictitious names.

  6. Amiteshwar

    Build skills before you need them – this is a great idea and I am going to work on it – starting RIGHT NOW.
    Thank you for this great article. 🙂

  7. grunties

    @Henry: “Could it be true that the buffer is a result of them planning for things before they need them, which is Ramit’s point?”

    It could, and indeed it is… but only in the vast minority of cases. The point, however, is that no amount of planning will help if you’re poor, unless you have luck to go with it. (Please, nobody start the “make your own luck” chant)

    “So in a way they did plan for things…”

    Given the amount of cajoling it usually takes, I’d say it was incredibly generous to call it planning in any shape or form. Even coming to someone in my profession in the first place barely qualifies as planning – If you plotted the balance between hopes-of-gain and fear-of-loss against the income of my clients, you’d have the most perfectly straight line you’ve ever seen.

    PS: Before anyone suggests the obvious:Yes, I know, I’m changing career as we speak.

  8. Bob

    Ramit, I think your book has gone to your head and the smugness is starting to show. Instead of wasting my time crying about how his emails are too long, how about you provide some valuable insight or just ignore his email altogether? Lines like “HOLY SHIT STILL WAY TOO LONG” are unprofessional and rude. Further, it shows that you don’t value your time at all since you spent the effort read this seemingly burdensome email exchange.

  9. Snowballer

    Give this guy some credit. He saved a whole year’s worth of expenses. He made a pretty strong effort to solve his problem. He is trying to provide lots of information.

    Normally I actually like Ramit’s drill sergeant/sarcastic style because when you’re trying to get your crap together you don’t need to be molly coddled but this is one time I don’t think it’s constructive to carry it quite that far. I could remove two lines from the post and improve its quality 100% while emphasizing an important message.

    Namely get rid of:



    “If your emails to a random blogger are really, really long, your resume and cover letter are probably equally verbose and almost certainly play a role in recruiters ignoring you”

  10. SaveBuyLive

    The economy is terrible at the movement so his chances of finding a job are going to be really hard. Focusing on improving skills and networking at this point is probably not the best plan. I’d focus more on aggressively finding a job before my savings ran out.

    But the good news is that he has experience in his field. I would focus on doing the following things.

    1. Stop relying on recruiters and start applying for jobs. If you’re unemployed you’ve got 8 hours a day that you can send out resumes to companies. I’ll admit going through the traditional job application process is tedious and often unfruitful, but I’ve had more luck with it than I’ve had with recruiters.

    2. Consider doing freelance work. There are plenty of software/coding/it freelance websites out there to help you. It won’t be a steady income but it will help offset some of your expenses.

    3. Consider moving slightly outside your field. You’ve got computer skills so maybe you could set up/troubleshoot computers for people in your local community. Again, just as a way to help bring in some more income.

    I hope that helped.

  11. hm2k

    “I usually find a one-line answer to long” what? English, do you speak it?

  12. Lori

    “I usually find a one-line answer to long, rambling emails”

    Not as in too long. Yep, it’s English!

  13. Lori

    Ramit, I have been reading your archives, and I don’t understand why the comments have deteriorated into a game of gotcha. It’s not useful at all to other readers.

  14. Drew Baye

    In addition to building skills related to your chosen field, it also helps to have a diverse skill set which will allow you to find work elsewhere if your industry is doing poorly. For the majority of the past 15 years I have worked as a personal trainer, however I also sought out opportunities to work in related areas to learn other marketable skills (machinist and welder for an exercise equipment company, doing web design and writing for a fitness organization and personal training franchise). Although personal training has remained profitable for me despite the current economy, it is comforting to know I have the ability to do a variety of things if I should ever have to.

  15. the weakonomist

    Ramit, I don’t think you’re in a position to be giving out employment advice. Don’t get me wrong you’re a smart guy with good ideas, but what experience do you have in actively trying to find employment in a down market. You’re not the much older than I am, and from the looks of things have never really had to try to find a working stiff job. This doesn’t qualify you to give employment advice. Stick with the money stuff, you’re good at that.

  16. Leah

    It’s hard losing a job. I’m sure the email was so long because he wanted to vent a little. I hope that’s not the reason he lost the job.

  17. topseekrit

    I don’t think that whole ‘buffer’ line was necessary. The guy has a whole yr, well now 6 months of savings.

    He simply needs to figure out a way to make those skills transferrable in other industries; the ‘soft-skills’ are worth more than he probably thinks. I would advise him to probably visit a college career center to get his resume and interview skills revamped so that it’s more marketable. Do something differently if you’re getting the same old results.

    He could also look for short-term contract jobs using his current skills or freelance projects that allows him to network, possibly get a full-time job, and preserve his savings.

    I echo what everyone else is saying, let go of the recruiter – finding a good one is like a needle in a haystack.

  18. Marisa

    Wow, this was really harsh. More than harsh, it was mean.

  19. Yuppee

    While I agree, this guy is definitely doing it wrong, it thing you might consider being less condescendent.

  20. Ramit Sethi

    Hey guys, thanks for the comments. I think I came off too harsh in the post above, particularly since Ryan is looking for a job and trying hard. The reason I put this up was a valuable lesson in what to do and what not to do, but I could have been much more thoughtful in the tone.

    I’ve added a sentence at the end highlighting that Ryan actually was thinking ahead by putting aside a huge emergency fund. That allows him the flexibility of figuring this out now.

    A lot of private emails also mentioned that I should review his resume instead of making a lesson out of it. So I think I’m going to do a live webcast where I review resumes on the fly and give feedback from a hiring perspective. If you’d be interested, just let me know in the comments.

  21. WindyCityEagle

    I concur with Ramit’s point that the style of this person’s emails leads me to believe his cover letter and resume are way too long. If I had a nickel for evert three page cover letter and nine page resume(not CV) that I’ve received, I could retire. For reasons I don’t understand, they’re usually from Indian people. Maybe its part of the culture in India to have the biggest resume possible, but in America, a nine page resume gets thrown out almost instantly.

  22. B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom

    Ramit-You are dead on in that he needs to stop relying on recruiters and talk to companies directly. Recruiters are great to have in your network but they are best utilized when you are currently employed. Right now he isn’t terribly attractive as a candidate.

    I wrote several articles that are directly applicable. Here are a couple:
    11 Steps to the Job of Your Dreams
    Network Your Way to Job Security.

    @grunties-Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. The rich merely set themselves up for success. They consistently make decisions that are better than the average Joe, including building a buffer fund. Class warfare comments are counterproductive. It is far better to focus our time and energy on improving ourselves than blaming or tearing down those who are already there.

  23. Dan

    You programmers think you have the world on a plate. Well guess what, you’re subject to market demand just like everyone else. The good times are so good for you spoiled brats that your expectations become over inflated. They tell you wonderful stories in school about how rosy your future will be, and blogs like this convince you that you are minutes away from being billionaires just because you deserve it. Welcome to the real world, get in line.

  24. Keith

    I don’t think this guys problem is his resume (although it could be), or how long his emails are. I think his problem is his attitude about the issue he is having. Now, I’ll give you that after 5 months out of work, I would be pretty negative on myself and my prospects as well, but he keeps talking about his problems and not about his solutions.

    He’s worried about his resume, he’s worried about his rent, he’s worried about blah-blah-blah. Ok, great, but if he’s got technical skills, why hasn’t he been picking up one-off jobs from one of the 5 billion freelance programming services out there to make some extra cash? Or seriously contributing to an open source project that will add some ‘bling’ to his resume. Or hell, just move to DC where practically nobody is out of work!

    Really, I feel for this guy losing his job, but he needs to get over it and do something productive with himself.

  25. Semi

    This guy CAN find a job. He just can’t find one he likes… thats another difference between the rich and the poor. The (genuinely) poor understand that when you don’t have money, you don’t fuss about what you do for a living, you just get a job and knock out those bills. Maybe if he starts running lower on savings his “luck” will change… 🙂

    Great that he planned ahead, but what if he had lost his job before accruing those savings?

    Incidentally this is part of why there is a divide between rich and poor to start with (other than the obvious – jealousy)… rich people moan about things that poor people don’t have the /luxury/ of experiencing to begin with. Maintaining “the style to which you are accustomed to living” with a fat paycheck is a luxury… “living” is a necessity.

  26. Chris

    Sure the guy was writing you long emails, but he was probably pretty damn frustrated. I feel for the guy! When I graduated university we were just coming out of the last recession and finding a job as a completely inexperienced new grad was more difficult–for every position there was someone with experience ready to take the job and they were a better bet than I was. I eventually landed on my feet in an area of the industry I wasn’t too keen on getting into in the first place but I’ve made a fairly successful career out of it so far. The month I found the job was the last month I had rent money for, so lucky me!

    I agree, stay away from recruiters and use your personal contacts and have friends review your resume. This reminds me to log in to linked in for the first time in over a year and review all those friend requests…

  27. Carlton

    I have to agree. This blog post is kind of terrible. You took what you (perhaps rightfully) characterize as too much information and went to the opposite extreme. You’re two main points were ‘plan for things before you need them’ and ‘don’t waste my time with long emails.’ While I know arrogance is kind of your niche, I put up with it because you typically give good substantive advice. That was not the case with this post.

    I sometimes wonder if personal finance bloggers have just run out of things to say. Maybe all of the good personal finance info is already out there (at least the kind of info you can get for free). Hopefully when you’re done with your book tour you’ll reign in your ego a bit and get back to writing helpful posts.

  28. Chris

    @Dan Kinda mean and totally unhelpful. “You programmers” spend four years or more and quite a bit of scratch getting an education in a truly valuable field. That doesn’t necessarily entitle you to a job, but lots of educated professionals are suffering these days, it doesn’t mean that they have some crazy sense of entitlement when they’re upset about not being able to pay their rent.

  29. Ryan

    Hi guys, I’m the author of those long-winded, hastily written e-mails.

    Semi, you’re right. I am in a position to find a job that I won’t hate, and I am extremely fortunate to be in that position. It’s a total first world problem, blah blah, etc., etc.

    That said, I have earned good money up to this point working jobs that I haven’t liked. I did this because I like living where I live and I like living near my family. But now even that’s not so much an option. Those jobs have left town and probably aren’t coming back.

    I am totally at peace with the idea that I will have to move and am starting to leverage some resources around the country that I forgot I even had before the other day.

  30. laura

    one vote for the email being too long, and ramit being in the right to point it out. i worked for an art agency for a number of years and all you need really is a good portfolio. that didn’t stop the pages and pages of cover letters, artist statements, resumes, essays, and one girl’s treatise on the universe that involved giant space onions and confetti.
    brevity is the soul of good communicado.

  31. Jeff Lee

    I think you hit the nail on the head. It does sounds like he could probably get a job rather easily, just not the one he wants. I see this all the time with my peers who are leaving the Navy. The problem is that these folks usually have a great skill set that applies to engineering and nuclear power jobs (which are in great demand), but their interests lie in business and project management (lower demand). One has to either take the job he can get, or deplete savings to search for the one he wants. You’re right, It is a luxury. And sometimes the right thing to do.

  32. Ryan

    BTW, I appreciate some of the constructive comments in this thread, as opposed to people who are commenting AT people rather than attempting to have a conversation.

    This misunderstanding is probably my fault: The issue is not that I can’t get in for interviews, the issue is that there aren’t interviews to get in for. I interview very well, but the difference between now and a year ago is that in the odd event that there is an opening, I’m up against 49 other people, many of whom have 20 more years experience than me.

    SaveBuyLive kind of understands where I’m coming from.

  33. Satvik

    Okay, seriously? Brevity is essential in a job search. Ramit’s short responses are the best way to get that into someone’s head. Many “compassionate” people would be tempted to give long, detailed advice that would be accurate, but not actually as helpful. Give Ramit some credit.

  34. Zak

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog. Great post!

    Thank you

  35. JT

    First of all, I don’t think its reasonable to “plan” to lose your job during the worst economic crisis of our lifetime and I think that’s what Ryan is saying – there are just too few jobs and too many applicants.

    Having said that, hindsight is 20/20 but – I think that waiting 6 months before deciding to expand your job search out of your geography is too long. That’s a luxury that you can have during normal times – in this economy I think you should have made that decision MUCH faster, if not immediately. You can always move back later on…but think of how many opportunities may have slipped by in the past few months.

    I also agree on not focusing on the recruiters…I read that only ~ 10% of jobs are filled that way anyway. Network, try and find some quick ways to improve/brush up on your skills (you mentioned UNIX…can you sign up for a class, volunteer somewhere where you can brush up on your skills, or take a temp assignment in an area you want to improve in…)

  36. Ryan

    You hit the nail on the head, JT.

    Like I said in an earlier comment, the reason I waited so long to expand my search was because I like living here and I like living close to my family. If those two factors weren’t involved I would have had my resume in other parts of the country after the first week. Instead, I waited a long time (probably too long) to avoid having to pick up my life and move it if it was avoidable.

  37. Xentac

    I think the thing that everyone is missing in this whole article is that Ramit has an iPhone! I mean, with minimum payments, data plan, and 3 year contract, that thing will cost him at least a quintillion dollars! Not exactly a good way to get rich there Ramit!


  38. M

    I normally agree with you, but I think you came off as pretty rude and inconsiderate in helping people in this guy’s post. I’d rather not get a response than get a one-line question, asking me something I already told you in my previous e-mail. Also, he told you that he doesn’t want to move – I would ask what kind of part-time or contract work he could get with the skills he has, rather than telling him to pick up and move (an extremely expensive proposition with no guaranteed job at the end).

  39. JT

    Um, I think we’ve established that the writing tone was a little harsh, and Ramit’s acknowledged that. I don’t think its necessary to beat a dead horse…can we just move on and try and offer some feedback to help Ryan…

  40. Dean J

    I’m a software developer. I have seven years experience, and my job title is Software Engineer III. I don’t make six-digits for salary, and I work for a major bank. Checking, expecting to make six digits here with three years of experience?

    That could be why the recruiters can’t place you, I’d guess.

    Meanwhile, stop being unemployed. Take any job you can, even if it’s paying much less than your expenses. Minimum wage is half of your living expenses, and would have stretched your savings from one year to two. If it’s a choice of a ton of shit jobs, either pick something you think would be fun, or pick something that will let you network back into being where you want to be.

  41. Ryan

    Dean, I was contract, not full time, at a major bank. There’s a completely different pay scale. There were a few months in a row where I was working 80 to 90 hours a week. It sucked at the time and I never want to do it again, but it’s the only reason I still have money right now.

    Next time, try not to be a huge dick and make assumptions about other people’s careers, lives or geographies before commenting.

    Recruiters can’t place me because the market for Java developers where I live has gone from flourishing to non-existent, not because I am looking for too much money or something else having to do with my resume (which you have not seen).

    I am extremely flexible in my job hunt (and salary) and am not limiting myself to contracts or permanent gigs. There just aren’t any here.

  42. Ryan

    I’d be happy to show you my W2s if you want to turn this into a dick wagging contest, but I was actually looking for constructive advice, not snark. Congratulations on having a roman numeral three after your job title.

  43. Keff

    A 6 months without job, but with savings was probably best chance of his life to start a startup in whathewer field he really liked! Such a time wasted, what a shame, on the other side, kudos for having a year long savings buffer.

  44. Ryan

    Keff, I totally agree with you that I wasted the last six months from an entrepreneurial standpoint. You are dead on about that.

    What I don’t regret, though, is all the time I’ve been able to spend with my girlfriend in the meantime.

  45. laura

    agreed. unemployment has been great for cuddling and my Saints Row 2 skillz.

  46. rkt88edmo

    hmmm…hang tight and don’t give up.

    I’m not sure I would classify talking to recruiters as networking – of course they are going to take your call and enter you in their db – that is their job. Networking is getting in touch with your personal contacts – people who will vouch for you – who your potential employers will trust and listen to when they say, “Ryan is a smart and capable guy who works hard and I think he would fit in at you company”.

    Contrast that with the recruiters desperate to get a placement in this tight market and earn their next commission. Which network will get better results?

    You said you had a year’s worth of expenses, but from Dec to now you are five months max. Not to pick nits, but do you need to take a look at your burn rate?

    Hang in there, don’t be afraid to look outside of Java and programming. If that sector is overflowing with candidates with more experience you need to get more skills or find a niche/market with less of a surplus.

    And from everyone surprised at Ramit’s attitude, what blog have you been reading?

  47. grumpy

    Don’t assume a concise resume is always better than a long one. A friend followed up on a rejection letter, and was told that the organisation expected to see approximately one page of material in response to *each* of the criteria set out in the job description.

    So if you sent a one-page letter and a one or two-page resume, you went straight on the rejection pile.

    This is probably an extreme case, but it shows that detail is sometimes more important than brevity.

    Oh, and there was no mention of that expectation when my friend discussed the position with the organisation prior to applying.

  48. Jermaine Holmes

    Ryan–What are your programming skill sets? Meaning, do you know more than Java? Hope your geting “fluent” in other languages as well.

    I’m hoping to use the recession to get/learn stuff cheaper that’ll help me in the long run–I’m definitely gonna get the hell out of a job I hate and get into anything different when this economy comes back around or sooner.

    Ramit–good advice! Period.

  49. Ask a Manager

    As a hiring manager, I 100% agree with Ramit about the length and the rambling. Concise is good.

  50. Kishore

    I’m a Java developer and I lost my job too in December, however I got a couple of offers in less than 2 weeks and I’m currently employed. I don’t think the market for Java developers is that bad. However, I live in the Southern Cali area, so unless you’re somewhere in a low population area, you should have been able to find a job?

  51. Ryan

    Yeah, I live in a dying city in flyover country.

  52. will

    So did you bother to tell him that you thought he might be a rambler which in turn might be turning off recruiters/employers or did you just mock him behind his back?

    Why does it seem like your blog posts are so full of smugness these days?

  53. AMY

    As someone who was on the receiving end of resumes for many yrs in my career I completely support Ramit’s comments. Make sure your resume is clear and to the point, same goes for cover letters. Most importantly when interviewing, listen carefully to the question asked, and then make sure your answer is answering the question without too many bunny trails. Interviewers get tired of keeping you on track.

  54. Vinnie The Fish

    Unfortunately Ryan in this case did not have to live through the Dot-com era like many of us close to 5-10 years older than him.

    My one line response to him:

    “Take whatever job you can find.”

    As an IT Consultant I’ve taken smaller jobs, projects, contracts on my own and built them into long term relationships or even full time positions during the worst economic conditions to his the Silicon Valley. If you have down time in your career get some additional certifications to round out your skill set. Take out a student loan, contact a boot-camp style school like CED Solutions, Unitek, etc and gain some additional knowledge to make you more desirable in the workplace.

    Be glad you received feedback in your last position as to why they passed on you. Now go out and get a Unix or Linux certification and take some scripting classes once completed. When the question comes up in the interview you’ll be better suited for the next position now that you have a more in depth knowledge of the topics that you’re lacking. Reading a book at home on your own time is not going to cut it in the interview (as someone on the other side of the table). If you don’t have relevant work experience with the technology at a paying job for at least 1 full year, then you need to have a certification that shows you’re at least competent on the subject.

  55. Sara

    I think first you should find a part-time job (doing anything) to slow the rate at which you are burning through your savings. Working 20 hours a week will still give you time to take classes or continue your job search.

    Then I think you need to do whatever to find out what you really WANT to do. You sound unsure of your goals in your emails and comments, so it’s no wonder you’ve spent 6 months without much progress. Sit down and make pro/con lists, think about what will make you happiest, etc so you can prioritize. If you really want to stay in your current location more than anything, for example, you know you need to either change careers (probably involving going back to school), or start a business. If you want to stay in your field and don’t think you have the commitment to launch a startup (not a casual undertaking), then you need to look at other places to live and relaunch your job search, maybe go ahead and move, take classes to round our your skill set, etc. If you really do want to work for yourself and launch a startup, then that’s a whole different set of priorities altogether, and might still include moving to be closer to funding, partners, etc. You need this stuff figured out before you can move forward.

  56. Suzyn

    I totally agree with you on the “too long email” comments. In fact, I’m having that very issue with someone who reports to me. My first thought? You have way too much time on your hands… (which, admittedly, this guy does.)

  57. Rick Francis

    My suggestions for Ryan are:

    #1 Get whatever training you really need – but be sure it is really required.
    #2 Find companies in your area that you could contract with.
    a> Visit those companies personally
    b> Talk with someone that has the power to hire you.
    c> Make them an offer they can’t refuse:
    “I’m so sure that I can provide value to your company that I will work for a few weeks for free to prove it to you before we finanlize our contract.”

    d> DELIVER! Your work will speak far louder than any resume.

    Even if this doesn’t pan out you get a chance to make new contacts, and if you do a good job the manager will certainly keep you in mind for the future.

    -Rick Francis

  58. imelda

    Ramit’s advice to stop depending on recruiters is absolutely right. This guy needs to read a book or two on job-hunting (What Color is Your Parachute, anyone?); if all he’s doing is calling recruiters, what is he spending the rest of his time on?

    However, Ramit, as you have acknowledged, you were way harsh in this entry–insultingly harsh, actually. I also want to say that “go where the jobs are” is terrible advice. Unless he’s living in a 1- or 2-employer town, there are jobs there. He said that he loves where he lives, and that’s more important than getting a job quickly. Giving that advice when you know that he’s barely done any job-hunting aside from talking to recruiters is particularly misguided. It’s a terrible job market out there, but companies are still hiring! Look harder, and look smarter.

  59. chin

    * Build skills before you need them
    * Networking is not a dirty word — make personal relationships before you need them

    Maybe Ramit’s business will go belly up and we will see him eating those very words.

    I work in one of the largest IT consulting firm out there and I can assure you that there are barely enough roles out there in the current climate to fulfill the internal employees.

    We are all subject to forces outside our control. There will be time where things are easy and smooth sailing, and there will be time where you can try your hardest and still fail. You can only prepare and hope for the best. When its your turn to fail Ramit, I hope you believe that you deserved it.

  60. chin

    I have been reading this blog for awhile. As good as some of the advices are, somewhere along the way though, you turned into an asshole Ramit.

  61. Amy

    Your comments about this poor guy’s “rambling emails” are completely unwarranted and very obnoxious/conceited. He is writing about his life, and nothing he wrote was excessive or indulgent. How cruel and insensitive of you.

  62. Amy

    Ramit, how old are you? Because you’re beginning to sound like every other overly confident 20-something year old that has struck it rich and thinks he’s God’s gift to helping the wayward. I completely agree with Chin and the other numerous comments about you. You’ve let your fame trash any speck of decency you may have had.

  63. Amy

    A commenter wrote: “Really, I feel for this guy losing his job, but he needs to get over it and do something productive with himself.” Making contact with 30 recruiters and doing what it takes to maintain that contact is not being productive? Do you have any idea how tough it is looking for work, especially when your hard-earned skill set has become a dime a dozen? And Ramit, you’re going to start reviewing resumes? That photo of you in the Roman robe? You’re taking that a bit too seriously. Your website and book have really enlightened me and made a difference in my life, but I don’t know . . . something’s amiss here.

    My apologies for the string of comments. Usually I quietly lurk in the background, but today I just reached my limit with your growing smugness and what comes across as being conceit. :o(

  64. F

    Let’s stick to giving advice, guys. I think the important points have all been made, except perhaps one: have a plan B. So you’re counting on getting a job thru recruiters. What if it doesn’t work out within x weeks? Within y weeks? What’s your next step? If you can’t work harder or smarter to finding that job, you’re left with 2 options: work in another field or move to where the jobs are (I’d choose the latter).

  65. xmasy


    Sometimes you sound like Ricky Lake. You seem to offer advice everything under the sky

  66. xmasy

    One more thing, you maybe wrong about recruiters. My job search improved tremendously after using recruiters. Why? Because they have a direct link with the hiring manager. When you apply for a job at a company, I hate it when you have to upload ur resume to their job bank and u get this standard email saying ur now being considered. And a week later, a denial email. Through recruiters, I almost always get at least a face to face interview.

  67. Disappointed

    I’ve been a reader of this site for a while now. I remember the old Ramit. I remember your old posts. You and your site have changed a lot, and unfortunately, the change is bad!

    I’m disappointed with the what the site has become and how your attitude is seemingly very smug and arrogant, and perhaps the book deal got to your head. [Making] money isn’t everything. I really do hope that you do take in some of the comments of the readers and give useful posts again. I’m sorry to say, I don’t have the time or energy to stick around to read your not-so-useful posts anymore. Good luck.

  68. Disappointed

    And Ryan, hang in there. Thankfully, I don’t know how hard it must be to find a job after you’ve been laid off, but I do know how hard it is to find a job in this economy. My neighbor has been laid-off for about a month now, and he even though he’s been very dedicated to job searching and optimistic, he’s starting to get depressed.

    You WILL find a job that you want, and you WILL find it soon. It will take a LOT of perseverance and probably a lot of self cheering-up when job searches feel fruitless, but in the end, you’ll be alright. Just hang in there. You’ve got a lot of readers who have really useful, positive ideas to help you find a job. Best of luck to you!

  69. Matt

    I don’t think you came off as too smug or harsh. It’s a tough world. Sometimes hitting somebody with a club works better than a pillow. I mean, do you think the guy cried himself to sleep over this?

  70. chin

    Hi Matt,

    Maybe I was too harsh but I found Ramit’s post to be insulting because he spent the majority of the post making inappropriate and disrespectful comment, and to finish it off, ended with poor advice.

    First of all, Ramit has put himself up his role here in “I will teach you how to be Rich” as an approachable advisor. Dave is obviously desperate and in need of someone to help him. Instead, Ramit make assumption about how his CV and interview skills are obviously horrible because his personal and informal letter (in Ramit’s opinion) was too long. Instead of helping him, he goes on to highlight Dave’s comments in an attempt to humiliate him. I am not a stickler for formal behavior, but it was in poor taste.

    Secondly Dave considered other trainings to broaden his skills set. Ramit’s highlighted that like “it was such an obvious thing to do”. Terrible advice.

    In case you guys haven’t realize, the world and our lives are very inefficient. It takes a long time before bad things come to light (ala state of the economy). Software engineers spent 3/4+ years for the undergrad, more if they pursue a postgrad. In the matter of training for specialist skills set, it can be expensive and require non-trivial amount of investment. I have been to IT training which cost more than 800 dollars a day (paid by the company), and there’s no guarantee that you would ever get to utilize these skills. Even in a global company like mine, matching roles to skills set is very difficult, it all depend on unpredictable demand. Ramit have obviously ignored the fact that David said that other people are being chosen over him because they have the right experience. So even if David were to do training now. He would still be chosen over because they have more experience in that regards. And he would have wasted time and money.

    I have many building architects friends who spent over 6 years pursuing their degree, but the oversupply resulted in many unable to find a job, or a low paying architecture role. What are you going to tell them? Plan ahead? There is no choice but to continue despite the sunk cost.

    Its very naive to act like someone deserve a bad circumstances due to their own actions alone (yes they could have played their part in it). Ramit acted like its obviously all Dave’s fault. Remember, back in the ’97 Asian financial crisis even MBA are considered useless. Essentially don’t assume you are deserving for all that happens to you (glory or failure). So think twice the next time you kick a man when he’s down, it might just come back to haunt you.

  71. Dee

    i think what you wrote is pretty darn accurate. ramit has a keen eye and is helping lots of people, but he missed the mark on this one.

  72. xmasy

    DeanJ, its very common for contractors to make 6 figure salary. It merely means they only have to make $50/hour which is not impossible in IT. I have made anywhere between $50 to $105/hour. When i was in a fulltime job in the middle of nowhere, i was drawing $50K a year but as soon as i switched to contracting, I was between $100K to $200K.

    But u must understand that there are sometimes 1-3 months gap between employment.

  73. JimE

    Wow so many different tangents in this one. Rammit, I think you’re sitting on a goldmine post regarding the difference between contract work (and the considerations for payment) and being full time. For most people its their first step to their own company, but they completely fail to realize all the tax, time, and other implications with contract work vs salary work. I recommend 3 times typical hourly salary just to break even, people are blown away by that but it’s true.

  74. Pete


    Sorry to say, but you come off sounding kind of a jackass in this article. The guy is clearly pouring out his heart to you, and you make fun of his wordiness. GRANTED it was a long email, but you know what, that’s his style of writing.

  75. Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook

    My advice would be to keep networking. There’s no hard and fast rule about how to get a job. Keep looking, and be productive with the time you’re spending when you aren’t looking. Try to put your finger on what skills the employers are looking for that you don’t have and decide how to get those skills. Do freelance work if you can – it fills the gap in your resume, helps you with your cash flow and keeps you networking. Good luck, and hang in there. There are a lot of good people without jobs right now – you’ll bounce back.

    As for your specific question, when do I take a job that isn’t ideal for my career (or something in that regard), I think you’re at that point now, after being unemployed for 6 months. Again – best of luck.

  76. Are You Kidding Me?

    Any good ideas you might have, to me, are completely overshadowed by your arrogance. Sure, being frank is nice, but is it necessary to be an ass? You are like the Jerry Spring of personal finance.

    How about this:

    I Will Teach You How NOT to be an Asshole:
    (2 easy steps)

    Step 1. Read Ramit’s blog

    Step 2. Try your hardest never to treat people like Ramit does

    Mission Accomplished

  77. Grunties

    @B Smith: “@grunties-Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. The rich merely set themselves up for success. They consistently make decisions that are better than the average Joe, including building a buffer fund. Class warfare comments are counterproductive. It is far better to focus our time and energy on improving ourselves than blaming or tearing down those who are already there.”

    You’re right that class warfare comments are counter-productive, but you’re wrong in assigning them to me – I’m railing against the condescension offered in the original post. (Echoed in your post with textbook schmooze, I might add. A+, if I was looking for that kind of thing. Colour me unsurprised to find a link to a get-rich-quick blog in your sig.)

    Perhaps, if you’re convinced of your definition of luck, you could offer a quick example of the preparation required and the opportunities to look for in order for someone on the breadline to ‘make luck’? Shouldn’t be too tricky, if your blog has merit, should it?

  78. Erik

    I think you did exactly the right thing. If Ryan was looked at as someone who deserves a 6 figure job then he should know that nothing will just show up at his doorstep.

    I know I don’t about anyone else but I hate when people sugarcoat things for me.

    I’m glad you gave him the truth.

    Thanks Ramit

  79. The Simple Dollar » The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Shock Doctrine Edition

    […] Ramit’s Inbox: An email from a very confused guy who can’t find a job I like this quote (except for the use of the word “rich” – I think the more appropriate term is “financially sensible”) – “Rich people plan for things before they need them, while others are caught treading water when something bad happens.” (@ i will teach you to be rich) […]

  80. Chris Brightwell

    As a software geek, why not spend his time hacking out some low-cost software?

    The indie developers on the Mac platform make a killing with simple, basic apps. The iPhone can be a lucrative platform, as well. If nothing else, he can at least say “This is what I’ve been working on in my free time.”

  81. The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Shock Doctrine Edition | Rich Dad Poor Dad Blog

    […] Ramit’s Inbox: An email from a very confused guy who can’t find a job I like this quote (except for the use of the word “rich” – I think the more appropriate term is “financially sensible”) – “Rich people plan for things before they need them, while others are caught treading water when something bad happens.” (@ i will teach you to be rich) Take the Time to Play I often feel like there is too much to do. Reminders like this help keep me mentally in line. (@ productivity 501) Reverse Engineer the Best Time of Your Life Another great article from the always thought-provoking Philip Brewer. I find that when I do such a “reverse engineering,” I always find that the core of the moment was free – and that essence is something I can find again in my own life today. (@ wise bread) […]

  82. Julie

    My husband is a programmer analyst who was “restructured” out of a job in January. He’s been in the business for 30 years and is sort of a jack-of-all-trades with software. He found a job (through a recruiter) in February. His personal network didn’t prove to be much help. My point is that the tech job situation may not be as bad as Ryan thinks it is. Otherwise, why would an employer hire a guy who will be ready to retire in 10 years over someone who was fresh out of college?

  83. Lisa

    Your sarcastic attitude is a real turn off. Have you ever heard the saying,”People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care?” I live in Ohio and am 45 years old. The truth is even McDonald’s isn’t hiring & not even you can change that.I know people that have worked since they got out of high in 1978 and are now unemployed.The work just isn’t there. The schools are cutting all programs like art, music, sports, busing and even nurses are being cut from their jobs. Makes you want to go to the hospital , doesn’t it.I know that nursing homes are requiring their housekeepers to get certified as State tested Nurse Aides so, they can do away with the housekeeping jobs. They will be taking care of patients and cleaning their rooms too.I applied for a custodian job for a state park, but like all the other jobs way to many people applied for one job.Any other year they would have had trouble even finding the help to do it. My son and I applied to pick strawberries. They even have too many applicants. It’s been since the1950’s that farmers have that much choice of workers. It used to be just 5 years ago that farmers could offer pay of $10 an hour and even teenagers wouldn’t apply, too much work for them. The strawberry job was even a 45 minute drive one way job.The IT tech jobs are gone here too. I know men who have 6 degrees & were making 150,000-200,000 five years ago. Now downsized out of a job, went to work for $7.30 an hour and laid off from two or more minimum wage jobs now.Where are there jobs and I’ll tell some people I know to move there? Of course, you have to have money to move too. Lisa

  84. Jordan M

    Of course, we don’t fully have info about Ryan’s situation (maybe his cv is a mess, who knows?) but I’ve spent about the same amount of time Ryan has out of normal “office work” after returning to the US from traveling abroad 6 months prior (having quit my office job before someone could fire me). I think that Ryan probably has a lot better qualifications and experience than I do (a science degree vs my liberal arts degree, real focused job experience vs a mish-mash of hospitality and office work). With all those givens, why is his situation so bad?

    For one, bad luck. But millions of others are less qualified and have less future chances than he does in the US. Talking to recruiters is one avenue to employment but many others are doing the same. Why not create your own luck? You have technical skills, you must’ve gotten into software development for some reason, and probably have some neat ideas. Why not spend your time working on those? Currently, you have lots of unstructured time which (I know from experience) leads to lethargy and inertia. I had other obligations January – March but April virtually disappeared for me due to diddling around on the net, watching movies, etc until the last two weeks.

    So, for one, find something to keep you a) occupied and that will b) either teach you new skills or c) be good for you to point to when being recruited. You are your own brand and whenever you send in a resume, cover letter, go for an interview, etc you are marketing yourself.

    Given that you also have technical skills, these are portable. Instead of spending 2000/mo, why not get out of the country? I spent about $4000 traveling around SE Asia b/w June and Dec last year. You could live rather cheap over there and still work. I met plenty of folks who were doing the same and enjoying a good standard of living.

    The key here is to be creative. You have more options than people who are severely in debt, had industrial jobs, and a family to support. The billions of dollars the gov’t has floating around now is going somewhere – find out where (, or freelance (elance/oDesk), or volunteer (Geek Corps, UNOV) or create your own future.

    Good luck.

  85. Time to Save Money on Food | Dazzle Blog

    […] Ramit’s Inbox: An email from a very confused guy who can’t find a job I like this quote (except for the use of the word “rich” – I think the more appropriate term is “financially sensible”) – “Rich people plan for things before they need them, while others are caught treading water when something bad happens.” (@ i will teach you to be rich) […]

  86. Ouida Vincent

    Wow, this is totally amazing. Thank you Ryan for participating in this discussion. Here is a truism: You dig your well BEFORE you need it. Ryan, thankfully you have given yourself an amazing financial cushion allowing you time to figure things out. Your blog comments have been far more focussed than your e-mails. The truth is that most of us really don’t know how we come across in print and, therefore, Ramit comments about long, rambling e-mails being reflective of Ryan’s CV and thought processes are actually appropriate. Ryan as you come to greater peace about moving, I hope that you use the time you have to gain skills and network! Don’t stop networking even when you land your next job!

  87. Juan Olvera

    There are so many people that give advices about their own finances and economy (and everything about it),
    but we are the audience, and we should take everything that can be useful for us (each person is a world and one advice is not useful
    for everybody) It’s impossible the fact that so many people is asking about if Ramit’s right or if he is not. If you read it and you’re desagree
    just take the good things and done, some people will take this post as a jewel, some others will take this as trash.


    On the other hand, in my adolescence, I learned about web programation and a little bit of design, i read about marketing and publicity,
    now in my actual job, i’m doing the marketing, the advertisement, i’m building our website and I’m doing the publicity design too, this fact
    is making us save a lot of money, maybe this comment is out of place, i mean with the post, but i’ve the skills to do this, and i just learned it in the past, just before
    i had a real job. Greetings.