Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Jobs with Expiration Dates

How fun is that? You go to work day after day, do your job well and they suddenly, one fine day your job is over....and you knew it was coming the whole time, in fact you knew from the day you got it.

And so you leave, and file for unemployment while searching for a new job....but wait! 100 magical days later, you could start the same job all over again...

Well, that's the fun of contract employment at Microsoft...well to be fair, its almost anywhere, not just Microsoft.

Here is how we got in this mess: Back in 1992, Microsoft had what people called "permatemps. temporary employees who worked long term contracts, as in years long term. But since they were paid through a staffing agency, no benefits, no stock options, no stock purchase plan. So a bunch of these people who felt they were being taken advantage of sued. Jump to 2000, and Microsoft settles the lawsuit and changes the rules. Now, among other changes, all Temporary contracts have to be 1 year or less in duration, with a 100 day break in between.

So why is this an issue? Since I left Boeing in 1999 (layoff) I have worked solidly in the computer industry. I have worked in 6 positions. Of the six, 5 were in vender or contractor positions. Of the six, 5 were at or for Microsoft.

Now I don't blame the industry for using the temp system. It makes financial sense, and they do have stockholders to answer to. The system offers them a quicker and easier way to respond to changing needs. It even offers them a kind of safety net to screen potential new hires without actually hiring them.

Its the way it is up here. While MS is certainly not the only show in town, they are without a doubt the biggest dog in town. When I started my IT roller coaster, most companies were hiring through staffing agencies, including hospitals, financial organizations and of course, MS and the other software/Dot Com companies.

The "100 days out" is a universally accepted fact. Even at my one non MS position at the University of Washington Medical Center, I was on contract facing either a 100 day out or the end of the contract.

In a few weeks I start what I hope is my last contract position, a 90 temp to hire position with a small company i