HIT News

  • Cloud Architects: More Popular Than Ever

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    “Cloud architect” isn’t exactly a new role within most companies, but that hasn’t slackened employer interest in hiring for the position.

    According to Dice’s data, the number of job postings for cloud architects has more than doubled over the past two years. While it hasn’t been a steady climb—in mid-2014 and early 2015, the number of postings dipped before regaining momentum—the overall trend is clear.

    It’s easy to see why there’s so much employer interest in hiring cloud architects. The past few years have seen more and more companies shifting from on-premises datacenters and servers to cloud-based services, generating a need for tech pros who can effectively deploy and maintain next-generation architecture.

    Firms that have embraced a hybrid approach—combining on-premises servers and datacenters with the cloud—can face incredible complexity in ensuring that everything runs smoothly, which is where the cloud architect comes in.

    Tech pros who want to get into cloud architecting need to not only know the latest cloud (and hybridized) platforms, but also the software that will make their jobs easier. For example, usage of configuration-management tools such as Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and SaltStack are on the rise, as pros look for ways to automate system configuration and software deployment.

    Cloud architects also need good soft skills in order to talk and negotiate with stakeholders throughout an organization. Because cloud deployments touch so many points within your average company, an architect ends up interacting with quite a few people. There’s also a proactive element here: By working with others to tailor a company’s internal processes and culture to the cloud, the architect’s job becomes much more streamlined (although not necessarily easier, given the complexities involved in the role).

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  • Should You Pursue a Tech Job Outside of Tech?

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    Ask most tech professionals, and they’ll tell you that working for a big tech company is preferable to taking a tech-related job within some other industry. The perception is that tech companies are especially innovative, and pay very well. While that might be true (at least with some tech companies), a tech pro looking for a job should expand his or her search to industries far beyond tech; software engineers, application programmers, data analysts, and project managers have a vital role to play at any company.

    Making a Decision

    Jeff Remis, branch manager of an IT practice at staffing-services firm Addison Group, suggested that the decision to work at a technology company, as opposed to a technology department in a different industry, ultimately comes down to preference.

    Programmers and database analysts can be found in both [tech- and non-tech companies],” he said, “so the decision of which one to work for comes down to work-life balance and management-style preferences.”

    Tech companies have a reputation for long hours and an ultracompetitive atmosphere, which can dissuade some potential employees who want to maintain that good work-life balance. But no two organizations are the same: You can find lucrative paychecks and punishing hours in the financial-services industry, for example, and challenging technology issues in pretty much any sector that deals in large amounts of data. In recent years, some tech companies have also embraced reasonable hours and flexible benefits as competitive differentiators, opening themselves to candidates who seek more balance.

    Selecting the Best

    When you work for a technology company, you’re developing software or hardware that helps people do their jobs in other industries; technology is the focal point of all employee efforts. When you work in the technology department of another industry, you’re usually modifying or maintaining the hardware and software that helps your colleagues do their jobs; technology is seen as a means to an end.

    Those differing missions and viewpoints can significantly impact your working environment. Whether applying for a job in a tech or non-tech industry, advised Sean McLoughlin, tech practice director for executive search firm HireMinds, it’s smart to ask which technologies are in use, and how often they’re updated: “Ask about the team in place and what they do day-to-day, and try to meet them if you can.”

    Outside of the tech world, he added, focus your job-hunting efforts on companies that see their technology department as a resource, rather than a cost center: “They’ll take the time and invest in their people.”

    At companies outside the tech sector, tech pros are expected to act as a bridge between the technology department and the operational side of things. Consequently, you must be good at translating and breaking down difficult ideas to laypersons, as well as justifying any outlay on key technology.

    For job candidates, it’s smart to see which employers prioritize tech investment. Some of the world’s largest companies outside of the tech industry are also the largest IT spenders. According to research firm IDC, Wal-Mart was the largest IT spender worldwide in 2014. Bank of America placed second, followed by Citigroup, AT&T, and JPMorgan Chase.

    Follow the Money

    With the economy on more solid footing than it’s been in years, the competition for talent is heating up. Many of the larger companies outside of the tech world are vying for the same professionals as tech companies, and they’re paying more in order to compete. But with some groups of tech pros, that might not be enough.

    According to Meredith Whalen, a senior vice president at IDC, “attracting Millennials” has become a harder task for non-tech firms. Millennials want to work for innovative employers, and sometimes perceive large companies outside the tech world as terminally behind the times. That could open up opportunities for older workers who have the necessary tech skills, and are willing to cast a wider net when it comes to prospective employers.

    What Hiring Managers Think

    Lest you think that hiring managers at tech companies will look askance at your experience outside of a tech company, think again: The types of firms on your resume matter less than the actual skills and experience you earned in those previous positions.

    Whatever employer they target, Remis noted, job candidates should focus on highlighting relevant experience, especially if they lack in industry-specific work: “It’s less about who you’ve worked for, as much as who can produce results. For example, there are many transferable skills, like HTML5 and C#, that can ensure an IT candidate is best positioned to shift between roles, companies, or industries.”

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  • Negotiating (or Not) When on the Job

    Once you’re on the job, it can be difficult to break out of the company’s standard process for increasing your compensation. But at some point, you may well feel that you’ve earned a raise. How can you act on this feeling, while minimizing the risk of harming your relationship with your boss or giving your coworkers the impression that you are greedy? Here are five steps for earning and negotiating a raise, in the short or medium term:

    Step 1. Deserve a Raise

    covercareerplaybookIf you want a raise, the most important thing you can do is deserve one. Companies are under relentless pressure to satisfy the demands of their stakeholders, and this means they must strive to achieve increased profitability, quarter after quarter—and employees’ salaries go directly to that bottom line.

    Most people think they themselves are performing well at work, but the obvious fact is that some contribute more to the organization’s success. So do your best to make yourself essential to the enterprise. It is incumbent upon you to know exactly how your work fits into the company’s strategy for creating and capturing value. If you don’t know, find out—and if you discover that your project is on the periphery, find a way to get involved in something more central to the company’s efforts.

    Once you’re sure you’re working on and excelling in the right kinds of projects, follow the advice from the chapters in my new book, The Career Playbook: Getting off to the Right Start in a New Job and 4 Guaranteed Success Strategies. If you work hard, are a strong team player, maintain a positive attitude, and take the right amount of initiative, you will be well-positioned to negotiate for a raise.

    Step 2. Get the Facts

    It’s your responsibility to know your market value and understand how your compensation compares to that of people in comparable roles. To find this, talk to your organization’s human resources department to understand the pay scales in your company, as well as the companies they compare themselves to when setting pay for your position. If your HR department won’t share that information with you, speak to friends, mentors, your college’s career services center, and people working in similar jobs in other organizations.

    You can also take advantage of information available publicly on the Internet. At no point in history has so much salary information been as easy to get as it is today. Be cautious, however, using the data coming back from Internet searches. Different companies, industries, cities and regions have their own unique compensation structures, so take the time to make distinctions based on industry, organization size, job function, geography, and required level of education and training. Find databases that are trustworthy and used widely.

    Step 3. Talk to Your Boss

    Now you’re ready to initiate that delicate conversation with your boss. As I stressed above, it’s important to be sensitive when discussing your compensation. It’s well-known that managers are anxious when giving performance reviews, and they find compensation discussions to be just as stressful. So make sure to approach this talk in a constructive manner. Put the conversation into a broader context by assessing your performance in a way that shows how it fits into your department’s strategy. Solicit feedback. Share your findings from step 2, and ask what your boss thinks your expectations for compensation should be. Don’t be pushy, and don’t ask directly for more money, but be clear that compensation is an important part of the overall equation for you.

    In addition to your compensation, communicate the other facets of your job that you value, such as being able to contribute to the company’s strategy, working with people you respect and enjoy, and being provided with chances to learn and grow. Your boss will almost certainly respond better when compensation is one of the items on a broader, more holistic list.

    Step 4. Offer to Take on a Special Project

    If your compensation is locked in for the year, or if your boss says his or her hands are tied by budgetary constraints, another approach is to suggest that you lead a special project for the company. Assuming that you fully understand how your job and contributions fit into your department’s strategy, you should be able to devise a viable effort that would be well received. Examples include offering to help lead college recruiting for your organization, hosting a training seminar for other early-career employees, doing a special intellectual capital project to market your company’s services, or performing a competitive or market study. Suggest to your boss that you lead this special project and that, if it’s successful, you receive a special performance bonus for your work.

    Step 5. If All Else Fails

    If you’ve followed all these steps and still find yourself up against a brick wall, it may be time to make a change. If your salary is non-negotiable, if there are no opportunities for performance bonuses, and if your market intelligence tells you that you’re under- compensated, it may be time to consider looking outside the organization for a new job.

    Hopefully, there won’t be too many times in your career when you feel the need to negotiate for better compensation. Ideally, you will be in a position where your performance speaks for itself—where you’re adding so much value that your organization decides to do the hard work of figuring out how to reward you and make you happy. If you are truly fortunate, others will be prepared to lobby on your behalf. But sometimes, of course, you need to make things happen yourself. Just make sure you approach those situations with care.

    James M. Citrin leads Spencer Stewart’s CEO Practice and serves on the firm’s worldwide board of directors. This excerpt is reprinted from his new book, The Career Playbook: Essential Advice for Today’s Aspiring Young Professional, copyright © 2015 by Esaress International S.A.R.L. Published by Crown Publishers, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. 

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  • The White House’s New Plan for Hiring Tech Pros

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    If you’re a tech pro—or aspire to become one—President Obama wants to find you a job.

    The White House has announced the “TechHire initiative,” which will supposedly fill jobs in everything from software development and network administration to cybersecurity. In order to fill those jobs, the initiative will offer a combination of investment and job placement, with a focus on underserved communities. Here’s the proposal:

    $100 Million in ‘Federal Investments’

    That money will go to training and recruiting workers for in-demand technology fields. “The Administration will launch a $100 million H-1B grant competition by the Department of Labor,” read the White House’s press release, “to support innovative approaches to training and successfully employing low-skill individuals.” That training will include work-based learning programs and registered apprenticeships.

    Community Collaboration

    Some 21 regions across the country will work with one another to recruit and place applicants in some 120,000 open technology jobs, in conjunction with “300 employer partners.” Those regions include:

    Louisville
    New York City
    Philadelphia
    Delaware
    City of Kearney and Buffalo County, Neb.
    Colorado
    St. Louis
    Salt Lake City
    San Antonio
    Los Angeles
    Minneapolis
    Kansas City
    Memphis
    Rural Eastern Kentucky
    Nashville
    Rochester
    Detroit
    San Francisco
    Albuquerque
    Chattanooga
    Portland

    Each region will supposedly use sophisticated data analytics to determine the most in-demand skills among local employers, and work with those employers to hire from “both traditional and nontraditional training programs.” These programs will rely on coding boot camps and online courses to accelerate training, and encourage interactions between employers and candidates via meetups and co-working spaces. In New York City, for example, companies such as Google and Facebook will work to connect students from the City University of New York (CUNY) with internships at local companies.

    Private Sector

    Under the terms of the announced plan, private companies will provide free online training and coding boot camps for low-income and “underserved Americans.” The White House claims that national organizations “are committing to work with interested cities to share job and skills information, job-matching tools, and other resources.” For example, Dev Bootcamp, Hack Reactor, Microsoft, Treehouse Island, and Udacity are all offering free or discounted training for underserved communities.

    However the White House’s initiative pans out, one thing is clear: For those tech pros with the necessary skills, the salaries can be very good indeed. Check out the latest technology jobs.

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  • Six Tips for Acing Your Panel Interview

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    The panel interview, at some companies, is the last stop in a multi-step search process. Other firms see it in a more informal light, as a way for people within a division to learn a bit more about a candidate. Whatever the approach, a panel is often an intimidating experience for job seekers—but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    It’s important to remember that the panel is not an interrogation chamber: You wouldn’t be in the seat if you didn’t already meet significant criteria. For employers, it’s a time-efficient way to bring all the parties involved together for a conversation about what you can bring to the table.

    Here are six tried-and-true steps to making the most of your panel experience:

    Research and Practice

    If possible, prepare by researching each of the people with whom you’ll meet; check LinkedIn and other social networks for profiles and comments that can give you necessary background information. This is an incredibly valuable step: The intelligence you gather will make you better able to anticipate the mood of the interview and inform your approach.

    “Your search may uncover some interesting information, e.g., that they have only been at the company for a short while, which can be a red flag; or that you share people, interests and/or experiences in common,” said Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “If you happen to know people at the company, reach out and ask them if they would be willing to offer insight on any of the individuals.”

    Cohen, noting the sometimes-complicated dynamic of a panel, strongly advised practice and focus prior to going in: “You’re juggling the attention of a number of stakeholders… Be prepared to explain the obvious; why you are there and what you have to offer.” Many candidates neglect to think such things through.

    The Introduction

    “Make eye contact with everyone, and if it makes sense and you can easily reach everyone, shake hands,” recommended Miriam Salpeter, social media mentor, consultant and principal at Keppie Careers. “Don’t rank the people in order of importance based on job title or the org chart pecking order. Consider everyone on the panel important enough to impress.”

    If you’re lucky, someone will introduce you to everyone; but if not, ask for introductions before you start.

    Active Listening

    There is a lot going on at once in the room, so it’s critical you be an active listener and take moment before you respond. “When you show that you are a skilled listener,” Cohen said, “you also demonstrate that you have the potential to be an effective team member.”

    Since multiple people are observing you at the same time, even if only one person is speaking, it’s important to remain aware and mindful of your reactions. “Don’t bounce eye contact all around the room,” Salpeter added, “but work to connect with each person on the panel.” While you may be tempted to focus on those interviewers offering positive feedback, “don’t forget the stone-faced manager who may be the one with all the influence.”

    Mindful Speaking

    A measured response can go a long way. While there’s a right time in an interview for debate, discussion and opinion, candidates need to wait for the most appropriate moment. “You may forget the fact that an interview is essentially a conversation… not a debate and definitely not one-sided. Be patient,” Cohen advised. “Never speak over, or interrupt your interviewers, no matter how excited you may be, or if you disagree, or if they interrupt each other.”

    Always be prepared for your interviewers to drill down, he added: “Your interviewers are carefully listening, too, and while one may be interacting easily, another may be ready to pounce on any inconsistency you present.” While pushback may be inevitable, it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker if you’re ready and responsive.

    Body Language

    Body language heavily influences how people perceive you. “Don’t let your body language indicate you’re tired or bored with the questioning,” Salpeter said. “Also, avoid slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, remaining expressionless or frowning.”

    Follow Up

    Whether it’s three or 13 people in the room, you must follow up with all of them. If possible, ask the point person who arranged your interview to provide email contacts for each of the interviewers. If it’s a large group, it’s permissible to send a group email. If it’s a handful of people, write individual thank-you notes.

    The follow-up should illustrate that you listened to their needs, challenges and concerns. Reiterate your unique qualifications and how you can meet their wants and needs. “If you don’t follow up to demonstrate your interest,” stressed Cohen, “another, and perhaps, less qualified candidate will.  That is how you level the playing field and beat out the competition.”

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  • Can Boot Camps Really Boost Tech Employment?

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    Earlier this week, the White House unveiled an ambitious plan to train and employ millions of tech pros in 21 regions across the United States.

    Carrying out the plan—dubbed “TechHire”—will depend heavily on coding boot camps and accelerated training programs, which (at least in theory) will make candidates technically proficient in weeks or months rather than years. In addition, a number of big-name tech companies such as Facebook have pledged to take on certain candidates as interns, for on-the-job training.

    Check out the latest technology jobs.

    But can boot camps and online courses transform cities such as Louisville and Minneapolis into burgeoning tech hubs on the level of, say, New York or San Francisco? Regions with robust tech scenes (and equally strong tech-pro hiring) benefit from a number of factors, including close proximity to universities and incubators, low-cost spaces for startups, investment in IT infrastructure such as broadband, and affordable housing.

    There is a growing need for skilled tech talent nationwide, and multiple boot camps have sprung up in order to help meet that demand. Switchup, an organization that collects data on boot camps and programming schools across the nation, recently issued a list of its top 32 coding boot camps. In ranking those institutions, it took into account everything from alumni reviews and instructor quality to location and job support.

    Not everybody believes, however, that boot camps and accelerated courses can quickly fulfill the need for tech talent. “Two months doesn’t prepare you for identifying serious problems and overcoming them,” Jason Polancich, CEO of SurfWatch Labs, told the Wall Street Journal in February.

    Indeed, it can take years of experiences to learn all the quirks, tricks, and procedures that define working within many technology verticals. Some of the tech skills that pay the most—including Hadoop, MapReduce, Platform-as-a-Service software, and Cassandra—are highly specialized, and take quite some time to master.

    So while the administrators behind TechHire may be right in assuming that tech workers don’t necessarily need a four-year degree (or higher) to compete in the space, they should probably realize that growing the country’s reservoir of tech pros isn’t something that can be accomplished in a few months.

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  • To free up IT staff, hospital looks to the cloud

    With an eye toward improving the agility of its workforce management programs – and enabling its IT department to spend time on other projects – Saint Mary’s Hospital is is migrating to a cloud-based platform.

    [See also: Cloud choice no longer 'pie in the sky']

    Workflow

    To free up IT staff, hospital looks to the cloud

    With an eye toward improving the agility of its workforce management programs – and enabling its IT department to spend time on other projects – Saint Mary’s Hospital is is migrating to a cloud-based platform.

    Healthcare IT News

    news/free-it-staff-hospital-looks-cloud

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  • Good Economy Equals Tech Pros Jumping Jobs

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    IT professionals seem to feel more comfortable about their economic security these days, and a lot of them are looking around for new jobs, increasing competition among employers for tech pros.

    According to a new survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Randstad Technology, some 41 percent of U.S. IT workers said they’re likely to seek new employment opportunities over the next 12 months, while 52 percent said they were confident in their ability to find a new job.

    Check out the latest technology jobs.

    At the same time, however, the poll found that 57.4 percent of IT employees were confident in the health of the overall economy, a slight dip from a record high noted in the third quarter of 2014. Forty-one percent of IT workers thought the economy was getting stronger, and 32 percent thought there were more jobs available. (Some 44 percent thought there were fewer jobs.)

    Bob Dickey, group president of technology and engineering at Randstad, suggested that employee confidence stems from their skills and what part of the country they live in. “Overall, IT employee confidence remains pretty high,” he said. “For that reason, a lot more needs to go into attracting the right IT talent.”

    Dickey noted that the cost of living in the region, training opportunities, and the culture of the organization all play a major role in attracting IT talent. But he also conceded that consolidation of data centers in the age of the cloud, along with increased IT automation, could affect the demand for certain types of IT jobs, as well as their location.

    In addition to datacenter consolidation, many lower-level IT administrative functions are being automated. The end result is more demand for IT people with higher-level skill sets. “We’re constantly getting poached,” said Steve Hellmuth, executive vice president of operations and technology at NBA Entertainment in New York. “Investment banks are where a lot of our people wind up going, so we’re always recruiting at the college level.”

    Factoring in that rate of turnover is now part of the organization’s basic business plan, Hellmuth added.

    Like it or not, the days when a soft economy gave employers leverage over IT staff are pretty much over. Some organizations may be trying to lower their costs by moving IT jobs to different locations. But for every IT professional who might be attracted by the lower cost of living in a particular region, there will always be another that can’t get enough of the bright lights of a major city.

    Given that need for talent, tech companies are focusing their recruiting efforts in areas outside of Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley. Louisiana announced that, as part of a 10-year deal involving IBM and CenturyLink, it will spend $4.5 million to expand computer science programs at the University of Louisiana, Louisiana Tech and Grambling State. As part of that arrangement, IBM committed to creating 400 jobs in Monroe, La., where it will open a service center to develop security, data analytics and mobile applications. Meanwhile, CenturyLink will transfer 350 employees to IBM, where they will become full-time employees employed in the new Monroe facility.

    With IT professionals fairly confident in their ability to find new jobs, expect more tech companies to make similar moves in order to increase their pools of IT talent.

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  • Will Your Next Employer Advance Your Career?

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    A lack of career progression is the No. 1 reason why people quit their jobs, according to a list of deal-breakers compiled last year by BambooHR. Poor work-life balance came in second, with pay dissatisfaction the third-leading cause of worker defections.

    If these complaints sound familiar, you may already be seeking greener pastures. But how can you tell if your advancement and earning potential will be any better at another company? Here are four ways to investigate your chances of boosting your career (and your paycheck) at your next potential employer.

    Check the Forecast

    Business conditions play a significant role in creating a favorable climate to advance. A company that’s grown at a pretty fast clip (which is relatively common in tech, especially among startups) may be forced to pump the brakes if it runs short of cash.

    Check out the latest IT management jobs.

    “A company that’s struggling financially is going to limit raises and bonuses and delay promotions,” noted Scott Kukowski, a former IT manager and systems administrator who now works as a technology career coach for Wolfgang Career Coaching in Austin, Texas.

    In other words, you want to see what industry analysts and executives have to say about the company’s near-term business prospects and technology plans. Kukowski recommends AtoZdatabases and ReferenceUSA because they provide a wealth of information on public and private companies; job seekers can access the databases for free through public libraries.

    Chart Your Individual Path

    An IT manager or recruiter may communicate his or her company’s broad commitment to promoting from within, but does that commitment apply to technical promotions or just managerial roles? And when might such opportunities arise?  If you’re a midlevel programmer, for example, it may take several years to advance if the company just hired two senior-level programmers.

    “Don’t settle for vague generalities or broad statements,” Kukowski said. “Ask the hiring manager to describe the career path and estimated timeline for the specific role or position you want to pursue.” 

    “Ask to see an org chart,” recommended Ada James, a career and life coach based in Mountain View, Calif. “Companies can’t just create positions out of thin air, an org chart can help you visualize potential opportunities. If a hiring manager denies your request, it’s a red flag.”

    Consult Future Teammates

    If the hiring process doesn’t include a meet-and-greet with your prospective teammates, ask for one. You can’t come right out and ask someone what they’re making, but you can certainly ask general questions about performance reviews and raises, the rate of internal promotions, culture and turnover. It’s also okay to ask a prospective teammate about his or her career path and the company’s track record on promotions.

    “Tech people are pretty transparent and truthful,” Kukowski noted. “So if the company is in the habit of making promises it can’t keep, cutting pay or filling promotional spots with external hires, you’ll probably hear about it.”

    Review Compensation Data and Philosophy

    Tangible factors such as turnover, supply and demand, and profit margins shape a company’s compensation program, as well as intangible features including philosophy and market positioning. If you really want to earn more at your next stop, you need to consider salary data as well as the company’s transparency and viewpoint on rewards.

    “Once you receive an offer, it’s totally fair to ask HR about salary increases, including percentages, timing and the compensation range for higher level roles,” James said. “If they balk or decide to hire someone else, you may have dodged a bullet.”

    Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Discussing compensation and the opportunity to advance during the hiring process conveys what’s important to you,” she added. “If the manager gives short shrift to your needs, that company is probably not the best place to advance your career.”

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  • Why You Should Run Your Career Like a Startup

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    Times are good in today’s technology job market. The IT unemployment rate is hovering below 3 percent and employers are scrambling to find developers and engineers. But that doesn’t mean a successful career is a foregone conclusion. Even in heady times, corporate needs evolve, the skills in demand change and some industries lose favor among consumers while new ones gain prominence. Business moves fast, and employer loyalty has all but vanished.

    “In today’s job market, nobody’s going to take care of you,” observed Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch, a career coach in Needham, Mass. “Companies are always changing and reorganizing, and you have to run your career as if you’re running your own business. If you’re always seeking advice, networking and seeing what’s in the market, you’re going to be a more marketable worker.”

    Check out the latest technology jobs.

    Successful entrepreneurs have a plan for product development, marketing and finances. They build relationships across their industries and recruit a board of advisors to provide them with guidance and a sense of accountability. They track their progress closely, change approaches when they have to, and have an exit plan. It’s an approach that allows them to manage contingencies and leverage one success into another. You may not like thinking of yourself as a “product,” but taking an entrepreneur’s approach is a good model for effective career management.

    To start, organize your efforts along these lines:

    Define Your Product

    Yes, that’s you. The first step is to take a look at what you can offer employers. “This is about really understanding where you fit in the market,” Bloch said.

    Besides having a handle on your skills and how they stack up against your competition, you should have a sense of what you enjoy doing and where your long-term goals lie. There’s a difference between wanting to be an individual contributor and someone who seeks to move into management, for example. Both types of people offer real value, but they often solve different problems for the employer.

    Research the Market

    Don’t wait until you need a job to figure out who’s hiring or what’s happening in your industry, Bloch advised: “People work hard to get a job, but once they get it, they don’t keep their development going. It should be an ongoing process.”

    Keeping yourself up to date means you’ll always be ready to take advantage of new opportunities or make a move if circumstances change at your current job. In addition to following industry news and trends, use social media to keep an eye on where people are going—or leaving—and pay particular attention to organizations for which you’d like to work.

    Know Your Finances

    It goes without saying that you should know what kind of salary you need to pay your bills. You’ll negotiate better compensation for yourself if you follow the trends relating to pay, bonuses and benefits for people who have your level of skills and experience. Not only should you have a clear idea of what you want to make, you should know how your numbers compare to others in your industry and region.

    Create a Marketing Plan

    This is a good place to define the type of company you’d like to work for, including its size, industry focus and the type of culture it maintains. Identify specific organizations that seem like a good fit, research their business and operations, and plan the most effective ways to approach hiring managers on the inside.

    Undoubtedly, that will involve some networking. That’s a big part of job hunting, and it’s done more effectively when you have a plan. Think about which professional organizations you should join and your potential level of involvement in them. Look at your social media connections and create an approach to nurturing them so they’ll be more valuable. For some people, Bloch points out, this can be as simple as sharing an occasional article. For others, a date for coffee or lunch might make sense.

    Have a Development Plan

    Successful companies rarely survive long on a single product. They’re constantly updating and evolving to keep ahead of the market’s demands. The same is true of successful tech professionals.

    Each year, determine the skills you’ll need to refresh or learn, and don’t limit yourself to technical subjects. Soft skills are important, and if you need coaching in areas like writing or speaking, identify ways to get it, whether it’s through a coach, online course or community college. Once a quarter, step back to measure your progress.

    Form a Board of Advisors

    This needn’t be a group that meets formally, but rather a collection of people you can call on for advice and feedback several times a year. They’ll offer you different perspectives on challenges that arise at work or in your job hunt, and can help you spot opportunities or threats you might otherwise miss.

    Bloch recommends recruiting former bosses who have backgrounds similar to yours and are familiar with your work. In addition, consider asking a colleague who can help you read your company’s political tea leaves, or people from your network who hold positions like the ones you aspire to.

    Though many people find it difficult to actively plan and monitor their career beyond what’s involved in their day-to-day work, Bloch believes the dynamics of today’s job market make it important to do so. “We grow up trained to be externally driven, by grades, praise from our parents, ratings at work,” she said. “This whole approach means you have to be internally motivated. You’re doing it so you can be in charge of yourself.”

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  • How I Made the Leap to IT Security

    Fifteen years ago, the landscape of IT was so fluid you could almost pick your specialty and start working. The need for computer engineers was so great, that anyone with some ambition could go far reasonably fast.

    Document services specialists—who type for a living—were moving into application deployment. A night security guard who spent his time studying Novell became a certified Novell administrator. I worked in a copy center in a small law firm and became their network administrator literally just by asking.

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    Today, roles are far more static. An employee in a copy center could not reasonably expect to get a job working with computers just because he or she wants one. And someone who has studied Novell (or something more contemporary like Windows deployment) is less likely to find a job, thanks to competition with too many experienced people.

    But it’s also static in another way: The jobs are changing or disappearing altogether. What happens to the engineer whose primary responsibility is mounting servers when the server room moves to the cloud? Likewise, it’s nearly impossible for that highly qualified desktop applications engineer to get a job in the promising field of network security.

    As career coach Donna Shannon said: “A big mistake that candidates often make is thinking that ‘I can do this job, if only they would give me a chance!’ Companies are not thinking of your career goals; they are concerned about their needs. When you merge your desires with the company’s needs, that’s when the magic happens.”

    Thanks to exactly those reasons, I successfully moved from desktop applications to IT security. Here’s how.

    My company’s desktop manager retired, and they chose not to replace him. Our workload became greater, which of course is a good thing. But my concern was for the bigger picture: How long will the desktop be around? As demonstrated by the engineer mounting servers who loses his job to the cloud, the rate of change within the IT industry has increased rapidly over the past 15 years; I couldn’t reasonably count on the desktop existing for another 15 years, at least as we know it.

    So I wrote a letter to my new manager detailing my other experience and abilities. I had recently gone back to school to get a degree in project management. I am a blogger; I was even a comedian a long time ago. If he needed any help outside the desktop, I wrote, feel free to tap me.

    And he did. He gave me odd tasks that had nothing to do with the skill set on my resume. I happily took them and completed them quickly.

    As Ask The Headhunter’s Nick Corcodilos said last year, when I wrote the letter: “I think it’s key to wander around, ask for advice, offer to help ‘on the side,’ using some of your skills, and gradually work your way into a new team.” He refers to it as “JHBWA,” or “Job Hunting By Wandering Around.”

    Meanwhile our CIO was looking for someone to help with his workload, specifically the Security Awareness program. (This is a job in itself!) As with many CIOs right now, his workload had increased; there was no way for him to implement the program. So six months after I wrote the letter and helped with odd projects, the manager took me into his office and proposed the shift to security.

    This was exactly what I wanted. I have some security background, having locked down the desktop with group policy, PrivilegeGuard, WSUS, Shavlik, and Symantec EP. But there’s more to security than the desktop, which made the new task a leap—a big leap.

    Or as Lisa Yanni, a technical recruiter at Career Management Associates in New York, put it: “I think it is common for people to transition roles in IT, but going from desktop applications to security engineer is a pretty big jump and I don’t think a jump this drastic is very common, at least not that I have witnessed.”

    So how do you do it?  Well, first you have to ask.

    “Any time we are trying to convince a company that they need a new role, we are actually pitching the job,” Shannon said. “This is very different than just applying to open positions, as you not only have to convince the company to hire (or move) you, but also that the job is necessary in the first place.”

    Yanni added: “Tailor your resume to reflect all relevant experience for the role you are applying to even if it seems beyond where you are now… Companies love ambition… Think of all the reasons why they could say ‘no’ and come up with reasons to say ‘yes.’”

    As for me, I’m sort of back to where I was 15 years ago… and cracking a whole new set of books.

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  • Banish Your Job Ghosts

    Laschon Maximilian Shutterstock

    While you can survive a toxic workplace, the emotional aftereffects can linger long after you leave. Your pent-up anger and guilt can affect your future job search. Don’t let that happen; the ghosts of bosses past shouldn’t influence how you look for work.

    Sort It Out

    No matter how long ago the lousy job, if the very thought of it still grinds you up, you haven’t processed it. Maggie Graham, a certified professional career coach, notes that you can’t just package up the time you spent there and move on to the next job without some recognition of how it affected you: “If you don’t sort through the muck of the past, it’ll come back to haunt you by showing up in interviews.”

    Recognize Your Loss… and Learn From It

    There’s grief in endings: You’re leaving behind people, a place and habits that made up your days. With that in mind, consider what you’ve left behind at your old job, and determine if any of it had value.

    “That terrible job may have been a very bad fit, but what did you learn from it?” asked Jacqueline Whitmore, a business etiquette expert and author. “I worked as a flight attendant for a year and if that doesn’t teach you about human behavior, I don’t know what would.”

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    Reframing the story is critical, she added: “You learn something from every job you have. A new job is not going to be like the job you hated. The people and place will be different.”

    You have the opportunity to build something new—but how do you begin exorcising yourself of the old? Graham suggested making checklists of your previous job’s benefits, as well as what you won’t miss about it, and measure those against your next job offer. “If you can’t recognize the qualitative variables that touched you,” she said, “you won’t be able to fully evaluate the next opportunity.”

    Find a Shoulder

    Here’s the thing: you never need to go back to your old, bad job. So move on. “You can’t sit in the negative,” Whitmore said. “No one wants to work with a complainer, even if they’re complaining about a very old job, that experience is not part of the present or future.”

    But that doesn’t mean you can’t commiserate with former colleagues and others in your industry. “It’s so helpful to know that you’re not alone and that others share the emotional aspect of your experience,” Graham said.

    Graham knows the power of a sympathetic shoulder. At one point, she ran a job-search group where the bulk of attendees came from one company that had laid off nearly 6,000 employees. “They sat together even if they didn’t know each other before they were laid off,” she said. “They called the first phase of their job searches the “[Company Name] Detox.” The attendees joked freely that they were going through deprogramming from a cult “because the intensity of [the old job’s] stressful culture consumed their whole lives.”

    When Graham met with clients from that company who chose not to attend the job search group, she found they struggled more than the group attendees to move on, and didn’t have as strong a success rate in converting phone interviews into in-person interviews.

    Once It’s Over, It’s Over

    Whitmore has been downsized four times in her career, but doesn’t feel angry about those particular events because it was “just business.” She believes her former employers were doing what they had to do to remain fiscally sound, and that kind of job loss simply isn’t personal… even if it feels that way.

    When the job itself was bad, Whitmore took what she could from it and moved on, because once something’s over, it doesn’t have to be repeated. “It’s true that not all jobs are a good fit,” she said. “If you find yourself back in another environment where what you’ve learned from past experiences makes it clear that it’s not working out, you can plan an exit. In this era, we all know it’s much more common not to stay in the same place for 25 years hoping you’ll get a gold watch.”

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