December 26, 2013

This Does Not Work for Everyone

I can only say that my philosophy has worked for me and I cannot promise that it will do anything for you. Without a guarantee, most people say something polite and leave it at that. Others say something nasty before leaving. So be it.

But in the rare instances where people take these words to heart, the transformation can be spectacular, the process enjoyable, and the results rewarding.

In summer of 2004, I moved my family to Europe to have some fun. However, in order to make new friends and learn new things, I made it a habit of popping in on computing centers around the continent that use technology similar to my own.

In Nuremberg, I stumbled upon Kai Jaeger, who was in his early 50s at the time. He was referred by a mutual friend as superbly competent, but he had been unemployed for two years and was becoming desperate.

My wife and I took him to dinner. Every reason he gave for his unemployment sounded like an excuse to me, and I let him know it.

"The economy is terrible." So, are you just going to wait for it to improve? "The government is incompetent." Are you going to run for office and fix it? "I've only had two interviews and they both ended abruptly when they learned my age." People are prejudiced. Do you have a plan for how you are going to change them, or are you going to take a different approach?

"I don't have a college degree." That hasn't stopped you for 30 years. "Nobody cares." There is a whole community of programmers just like you. Are you going to continue ignoring them or are you going to start caring about them and see if they care back? "There are no jobs in Germany." You're in the EU now so you can go where there are jobs. "My English isn't good enough." Sure it is; I understand you perfectly. If you don't understand me it is not because of your language skills, it is because of how you are thinking.

My wife kept kicking me under the table. She whispered, "He just wants your sympathy."

"Perhaps," I said, "but it isn't what he needs."

Don't Take My Word for It

Eventually Kai changed his tune, developed a website for a local business, landed work in Copenhagen, and got involved with a community of programmers. Now he lives in England where he has become a British citizen. If anything, his only problem now is that he has too much work. Go to Stories from Germany, and scroll down to read what Kai has to tell you about how to find work.

Your Choice

Our age discrimination laws do not make sense to my old addled brain. It is illegal to disadvantage someone who is over 40 because of their age, but younger people get no such protection? Isn't that discriminating on the basis of age?

You can choose to be a victim of your circumstances. If you do, so shall it be.

Or you can choose to be a wise problem solver, and if you do that, you shall become that instead.

After all, you become what you work on becoming.

Brooke's website is

Brooke Allen is a 30-year industry veteran who most recently founded a quantitative trading desk now celebrating its 17th year in continuous operation. For years he wrote a monthly piece ...