How to Search for IT Jobs
As the job market picks up again, you want to make sure you’re ready to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Sometimes that means making the opportunities yourself. That takes a strategy, some planning and some resources to help you be more effective. It also means having your resume in order and sharpening your interviewing skills. Most people forget the strategy part. They skip right to the doing part without really thinking things through—what type of IT job truly fits their interests and skills, what type of company fits with their lifestyle and values and what succession of jobs will lead to their ultimate career goals. In this month’s column we’ll walk you through creating a strategy and a plan for searching for your next IT job.
Learning About Different IT Jobs
Have you ever heard of the saying “You should dress not for the job you have today, but for the job you want”? You should always be thinking ahead to your next two jobs down the line. In order to do so, it is important to understand possible IT career paths. There are hundreds of different IT jobs, so it’s hard to stay on top of them all. That’s where the CompTIA Technical Career Compass (tcc.comptia.org) comes in. It is an encyclopedia of IT jobs complete with detailed job descriptions, critical job functions, skills categories by job level and alternate job titles. In addition, the site also offers a series of assessments to help newcomers (and veterans) match their interests and aptitudes to IT jobs that provide a good match with your results. The assessments include a career interest inventory assessment, an interest quiz and a multiple intelligence quiz. The Technical Career Compass also provides plenty of information on certification, training and other career resources. The site was developed in partnership with Bellevue Community College. Its site, www.cybercareers.org, provides students with lots of career preparation for entering IT.
For some great print resources check out:
- “Get Your IT Career in Gear!” by Leslie Jay Goff
- “The Computer Job Survival Guide” by Janet Ruhl
Creating an IT Career Strategy
Most people never take the time to plan out their career strategy beyond their next job. Setting a career strategy also includes identifying your strengths and playing to them, understanding what motivates you, discovering the work environment that’s right for you and targeting the industry that brings you the most fulfillment. All of these are important components, so let’s elaborate a bit.
We often spend a lot of time trying to make up for our shortcomings. It happens in our personal lives, as well as on the job. A better approach to job satisfaction and accomplishment is to focus on your strengths. What do you consider your top five strengths? What would your manager say are your top five strengths? By focusing on areas you’re good at, you have a better chance of putting yourself in an environment where you can excel and be recognized.
Another important area of self-discovery is having an understanding of what motivates you. Some folks are motivated by recognition, while others may be motivated by financial rewards. By letting your manager know what motivates you, you can open up the lines of communication and help her be a better manager.
Other areas that you should consider planning out include identifying the type of company and the industry that you prefer to work for. These are tightly coupled. For example, if you don’t like a fast-paced environment, you probably shouldn’t consider a Wall Street firm. Some folks find themselves continuously frustrated, yet they stick to companies within the industry that they know. Before your next job, make sure you understand what you like and dislike about that industry.
Organizing the Job Search
Now that you’ve figured out what type of job, what industry and what type of company might fit your career profile, it’s time to organize your job search. Before you go any further you need to build your support team. Your support team will help keep you motivated and enthusiastic throughout the job search. Your support team should include friends and family who naturally want to cheer you on, two to three references from previous jobs and at least one colleague who may be a bit higher up on the career ladder. They can provide coaching on interviewing and objective feedback on resumes and job-hunting approaches. They may also help you network and introduce you to a few of their own colleagues.
Once you’ve built your support team, it’s time to create a system for the job search. Some things to consider as a part of your system include:
- Have you customized your resume for the industry you are applying in?
- Have you created cover-letter templates that you can easily tailor for responding to an opportunity?
- How much time each day do you want to dedicate to the job search?
- From where do you want to conduct your search?
- At what phone number and e-mail address can employers contact you?
Research, Research, Research
What’s important to remember when you’re researching opportunities is to stay focused. It’s very easy to get distracted by Internet searches. There are several strategies that might help you stay focused.
- Identify your sources for company and industry information (chamber of commerce, Business Journal, Book of Lists).
- Compile a list of companies from each of these sources. (There will probably be a bit of overlap.)
- Break down your list by industry and company size.
- Identify IT job sites servicing your geographic area.
- Create favorites or bookmarks for the job sites you’ve identified.
- Identify all the variations of the job title for the position you’re seeking.
- Create agents on each of the job sites to automate your search.
With the power of the Internet behind you, researching jobs in other cities can be just as easy as researching them in your own back yard. Here are some tips for landing a job in a new city:
- Obviously, search online job sites for jobs in those cities.
- Visit the city chamber of commerce Web site to identify local resources like newspapers, largest employers, local job directories, community colleges and real estate agents.
- Pick a real estate agent and contact them for relocation information and recommendations on local job-hunting resources.
The proven most effective way of finding a job is by networking with friends and family. The reason networking works is because employers want ready-made new hires. When you recommend a friend, your endorsement speaks volumes. After all, if you can live with your friend as a teammate, most likely so can your manager.
The trick to networking is to keep at it and to not get discouraged. Don’t be ashamed of asking friends and family for ideas on new opportunities. You will undoubtedly run down wild-goose chases, but you’ll probably get a few good leads as well. While you’re at it, it’s also a good idea to re-ignite communication with former colleagues who have moved on. You never know when their employers may be looking for fresh faces.
Finding Jobs Online
The de facto standard for finding an IT job is by searching online through the many job sites out there. The following is the short list of sites to check out:
In addition, there are several other sites that offer additional opportunities that most people never bother to check:
- America’s Job Bank: <A