Alan Zeichick, to your question in the article: “What do you tell job-hunters in this economy?” The answer is simple… Move!

The answer sounds ridiculous. Why move without a job first? But when I say move, I don’t necessarily mean move physical locations (though the answer I propose below will eventually require a physical move). I mean move your job search to a different low-populous area of living.

For these last 10+ years, I’ve worked at the Center for the Application of Information Technologies, Western Illinois University. The Center is located in the rural town of Macomb Ill., past corn fields 70 miles from several major surrounding cities (Quad Cities, Peoria, Springfield, Quincy), and other mid-size cities. It’s also a four-hour drive south from Chicago.

One of the most challenging things our Center faces is finding, and wooing, potential employees. We are not able to attract and hire individuals that currently work in more populous areas for the following reasons, as has been told to us by actual candidates or inquirers:

1. “I don’t want to work for you because your review process took too long!” (The government requires a certain length of time to keep a search open, review candidates, and perform other requirements, and it takes longer than a corporate company that can close the search the moment they find the right candidate.)
2. “The government job does not pay as much as the corporate equivalent.” (Despite that other non-financial benefits are greater, and quality of life is higher.)
3. “I don’t want to work at a government job.”
4. “What?? You pay taxes out of your pay check! And you won’t pay me more to compensate for the paid taxes? Forget it.” (Person from Nevada; they are exempt from pay taxes there, and instead pay more in property tax)
5. “You need to offer me as much as I would get paid working the same job in Chicago.” (Despite the much lower cost of living in Macomb.)
6. “Macomb is too small of a town.” (The candidate preferred to work in a large suburb of Chicago where the commute is more than an hour away through jams every day, because the suburb provided more options over a small town.)
7. “How can your town not have a mall!?”

There are lots of jobs in small communities across the United States that require the expertise of people you described in your article. But many of these people confine their job searching to these types:

1. Jobs only located in their pre-expected preference area (which usually excludes small towns where the job-seeker never expected there would be a matching job).
2. Jobs only located in major cities.
3. Jobs advertised in only major media (Monster, major newspapers—both too expensive for small businesses and agencies).
4. Jobs that pay a predefined minimum salary. The job-seekers never consider the cost of living and quality of life of the area the job is located in. In such a job, the salary is lower, but their resulting savings are much, much higher because overall cost of living is lower.

The Center is a high-quality employer of tech jobs. The University we are located on is a high-quality employer of other employment areas too. But we are rarely considered by the majority of job-seekers for the reasons stated.

I would like to highlight a response to these areas, though, that job-seekers should add as value over the actual salary compensation. Some of these are general, others are specific to the Center as an employer:

1. Once you get a job by an employer like us, it is typically more secure than your corporate equivalent.
2. Government benefits are guaranteed by the state constitution, and will remain even if the employer agency is closed.
3. Being a government agency, employees have access to several non-taxed investment options.
4. The non-financial benefits are better than the corporate equivalent. For our University, a few of these are:
a. Six weeks paid paternity or maternity leave.
b. Holidays are mandatory vacations not subtracted from your benefits. This includes more than a week over the Christmas Holiday, and more.
c. You earn two vacation days a month, and 12 sick days a year.
d. You can save up to 48 vacation days, and you don’t have to wait to earn seniority first.
5. There will never be a corporate takeover or a merger.
6. The working time is 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., five days a week. The corporate equivalent typically requires more time per day, plus required overtime.
7. The typical one-way drive to work for an employee is five minutes.
8. Typically, we care more about family than the Fortune 100’s.
9. The local school system is above par and has a higher student-to-teacher ratio.
10. There is a highway from Macomb to two major cities, and two more highways are being built to two more additional major cities.
11. There is daycare on campus, and several other daycare center options within minutes of campus.
12. There is a preschool on campus, and several other preschool options within minutes of campus.
13. We have a food court on campus
14. The cost of living is more than 30% lower than the Chicago suburbs.
15. The quality of life is typically twice as high than the Chicago suburbs.

I can go on about the benefits of working at small business, government and higher-education jobs. But employers like us are routinely overlooked because job-seekers draw a line in the sand: The financial compensation and location must meet their expectations, or forget it. They never consider quality of life and cost of living in their factors, and they not always consider the non-financial compensation benefits.

So I say to job-seekers who cannot find a job: Get out of your comfort zone! Move your job-seeking to a low-population area, don’t limit your search to what is given on major advertising channels, and you will find a job. Consider our advantages in non-financial benefits, lower cost of living, higher quality of life, and usually higher job satisfaction. Search for government, higher education and small business jobs on alternate under-known channels. We are waiting for you to apply.

If you stay in a crowded area, you become a dime-a-dozen and can be over looked for opportunity. But in our less dense areas, you are the big fish we have been hoping to catch… and you have more room to continue growing in your field of work than you think.

Russell E Glaue
Western Illinois University

Where to get started with Python?
Your article in SD Times (“Gimme better tools”)about the lack of user-friendly and easy-to-use IDEs was spot on.

I’m a beginner and I’m looking for something as simple as the Python IDE, yet upgradeable with plug-ins like Eclipse or
NetBeans. Does such thing exist? Or am I searching for the Holy Grail?

Pablo Rivera

Andrew Binstock responds:

Thank you for your kind words. I am not a Python developer, so my knowledge is limited. However, I keep hearing good things about ActiveState’s Python IDE. They have an open-source version (with fewer features), and a for-pay version with a greater feature set. See: