Overcoming Roadblocks to Job Search Success

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You might hear news that the job market for IT professionals is strong. Depending on your professional background, however, the reality might seem different. For instance, you might have many years of experience in the IT field, but the majority of job postings you’ve come across are suitable for only junior-level applicants. Or perhaps you have broad technical skills, but firms in your area seek specialized expertise. How can you overcome roadblocks such as these and find a job?

The good news is that employment conditions nationwide are continuing to shift in your favor. The “Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report” has shown steady hiring activity the past two years, and staffing plans are expected to remain positive through the end of the year. The key to capitalizing on these trends is knowing how to position your qualifications effectively. Here are some strategies that can help.

Change Your Perspective
For starters, make sure you’re turning any aspects of your background that could be perceived as weaknesses into strengths. For example, if you possess more experience than is required for a position, highlight how your years in the workforce can be an asset to a potential employer. In your cover letter, you might point out that you’re a self-starter and can make a more immediate contribution to the team than someone with less experience because of your past performance, extensive knowledge and training.

If there is something in your professional background that you perceive as unflattering — such as having been fired or having a record of job-hopping earlier in your career — focus on what you learned from the situation. Maybe you launched your own consulting firm but had to close after only six months because business was slow. You might have discovered marketing wasn’t your strong suit and that you do your best work when you are employed by someone else and can concentrate solely on technology. Showing how you have grown from negative experiences can make you a contender for openings.

Also make sure your own attitude isn’t the source of a career roadblock. If you are convinced no one will hire you because you lack a specific skill set, for example, your pessimistic view might be apparent to potential employers. Adopting an upbeat, enthusiastic mindset during a job search will help you stand out with hiring managers for the right reasons.

Focus on the Big Picture
Keep in mind, too, that sometimes you can offset less marketable aspects of your background by concentrating on your full range of abilities. For instance, you might fall short on the number of requested years of experience in network security, but excellent communication skills could tip the scales in your favor.

Today’s employers seek IT professionals who are well-rounded. While technical expertise remains an important criterion when evaluating candidates, firms also look for individuals with strong nontechnical skills such as the ability to work well with diverse audiences or lead complex projects. In a recent survey by Robert Half Technology, 41 percent of chief information officers polled said they place greater emphasis today than they did five years ago on job candidates’ knowledge of business fundamentals such as accounting, finance and general operations. Make sure you provide clear examples on your resume that demonstrate the full value you can bring to a prospective employer.

Take Action
Finally, change what you can. Do companies repeatedly seek knowledge of an application with which you have minimal experience? Sign up for classes or seminars that will enhance your proficiency. Even if you haven’t completed relevant courses, it’s worth noting your enrollment, so companies know you’re being proactive in building your skills. If you want to work in a particular industry but have no experience in that sector, consider contract work as a way to gain the necessary experience and get your foot in the door.

Most job search roadblocks are not insurmountable, and you don’t necessarily need to be a “Goldilocks” candidate who fits the job description precisely to land your desired job. Employers are looking for applicants who will be able to succeed in the position and thrive in the company’s corporate culture. If you can demonstrate both, you will remain in the running.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at klee@certmag.com.

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