Tag Archives: career advice

  • Mapping Out Your Career ‘Finish Line’

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    A long time ago, when I worked as a comedian, other comics would tell me their goals. One guy wanted to perform on David Letterman; he worked toward nothing else. When he finally landed on the show, he had no idea what to do next: He hadn’t mapped out a more comprehensive future.

    Likewise, too many people who get into tech are aiming only for that next job, and not envisioning the larger picture—their career picture. What most people call a goal is really a milestone; they’re not mapping out a “finish line” or endgame. While it’s difficult to predict the future, it’s more important than ever in these evolving times to plan for multiple outcomes, and to hold a top-level view of where you want your career to actually go in the end.

    Vanessa Corchado, associate director of career services at Plaza College in New York, agrees with that sentiment: “Everything changes… New developments are upgraded all the time, so I believe backup plans are always needed.”

    Whether or not you intend to stick with the same job your whole career—which is a long shot, given the rapidly evolving nature of tech—or plan on job-hopping until you end up at your dream company, you need to consider the skills and tactics you’ll need along the way.

    Donna Shannon, career coach and author of Get a Job Without Going Crazy, suggested that developing non-technical skills can prove immensely beneficial in preparing for your career arc. “Planning for later stages of your career goes beyond just developing your technical skills,” she said. “Far too many IT professionals get wrapped up into obtaining the latest certification or learning the latest systems that they may forget to work on their soft skills.”

    The first real milestone in a career is your degree or certifications; the next is to secure a job that puts you on a desired career path. As you progress, you learn new technology skills and take on new challenges. But if you’re not learning, your jumps will only be half as “high” as they need to be; you might land in good places, but you can jump higher and further with the right long-term planning. (I had been planning a transition from desktop applications to information security for years.)

    Not Just for the Young

    Students sometimes confuse their first job in tech with a profession in tech. Your first job in tech will look nothing like your last job in tech, and you need to proactively prepare along the way. If you’re at the start of your career, keep your mind open to all the possibilities the technology field has to offer.

    Never Stop Planning

    Bestselling author Charlene Li once said that the best advice she received while attending a career-management course at Harvard was to evaluate her career status every 18 months, because it takes about that long to master a job. For those of us in tech, however, active career management should be baked into everything we do; because our world changes so fast, 18 months may be too long to wait for a self-evaluation. I would suggest every three months; put it on your calendar to evaluate yourself and adjust your plan.

    How do you actually plan for that next step? Here are some pointers:

    • Perform a Self-Assessment: To start, you may want to use your company’s employee evaluation form. (Doing this regularly will also allow you to provide a more complete assessment during year-end evaluations with your supervisor.)
    • Consider Career Planning Strategies: Look at the skills and qualifications required for jobs you covet, and learn accordingly. Add a Dice JobAlert Search and Google Alert to your desired jobs, so you can get a sense of what’s going on in the industry as a whole.
    • Develop Your Personal Network: The best time to network is when you don’t need something. Build that network by helping people with information, assistance, or contacts. This will all pay off later.
    • Market Yourself: Social tools are out there for you to deliver and receive specific expertise in your field. Use them.

    You can also employ a professional career counselor. The better ones are members of the National Career Development Association (NCDA). It can make all the difference.

    Whether you spend the extra money for a career counselor, or plot out your career on your own, make sure you spend the effort to delineate your career arc.

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  • From Hacker to Obama’s CTO

    Harper Reed

    Harper Reed is most famous for his role as CTO of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, but he’s served other prominent roles over the past several years, including CTO of Threadless (the t-shirt company) and CEO of e-commerce startup Modest.

    In order to operate effectively in such high-profile roles, you can’t just be a great developer—you need to have people skills, including the ability to wrangle some strong personalities. How did Reed develop those skills?

    Through a bit of trial and error, according to a new Medium posting where he describes his formative years. Reed got into computers early, becoming obsessed with not only hardware and software but also Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), the ancestors of today’s social networks. At first, Reed didn’t exactly use his newfound know-how for good; in one early hack, he made his school’s computers display profanities, a stunt that cost him school computer privileges for the rest of the year.

    After a local kid used instructions Reed found on a website to build a bomb, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms came calling. “Thankfully, I didn’t get kicked off the computers again — because I had already parlayed my experience into running IT for the high school,” Reed wrote, “and thus knew more about the school’s computers than any of my teachers. They needed me.”

    Reed believes those early experiences gave him the attitude necessary to run the tech side of Obama’s re-election campaign. “Somehow knew I could do the job,” he wrote. “I attribute that confidence to my experience as a hacker and the subsequent willingness to take risks. If you never break through that wall of doubt, you will never see what might’ve been possible.”

    Obama’s campaign deployed dozens of data scientists, developers, and engineers to analyze and work with huge mountains of data gathered from Facebook and other online sources. The data-analytics initiatives included Project Narwhal, which made voter information accessible to campaign workers across the country. It was the sort of job capable of intimidating even the most experienced tech executive, but Reed was evidently well-equipped to handle it, thanks to a hefty dose of hacker attitude.

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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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  • 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.

    Check out the latest security jobs.

    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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  • Why Haven’t You Started Your Job Search?

    shutterstock_Paul Schlemmer

    The economy is improving and the unemployment rate in IT remains dramatically low—2.6 percent during 2014′s third quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Developers, engineers and security specialists are in high demand. For tech professionals, it would seem like an ideal time to look for a new job.

    So why do some hesitate?

    The reasons vary, recruiters suggest. Of course, some people are happy where they are; but others who’ve kept their skills current, worked on cutting-edge projects and had a real business impact will sometimes stay in place, foregoing the opportunity to increase their salary and experience. No matter how favorable conditions seem, they can never quite get themselves to send out their resume or even put out the word to their network.

    To find developer jobs, click here.

    In some cases, people trip themselves up in a quest for perfection, said Ben Hicks, a partner at search firm WinterWyman in Waltham, Mass. “Some people want everything perfect: the exact right company, location, pay, benefits, people on the team.” In other cases, they’re forever revising their resumes, believing that one more draft will get that document to some optimal point. In still others, they’re waiting for the perfect time to make a move—after their next bonus comes through, or as soon as their current project is completed, or…

    The risks of falling into such patterns are evident. The most obvious is you’ll remain at your current job, possibly long past the time when it would have been right to leave. And while the economy is gaining strength now, at some point fortunes will change and the candidate-driven job market will revert to one where employers have the advantage.

    This quasi-job search—where you’re perpetually thinking of moving, but not actively looking—can be distracting, Hicks points out. When people end up in a long, frustrating process, they can neglect things that are important in the here and now, such as their work, company and health.

    What to Do

    Does any of the above sound familiar? If you want to make a move but seem to be stalled in your efforts…

    • Take a step back. Sometimes you need to pause and take an honest, self-reflective look at your situation. If you’re convinced it’s time for a move, but your resume never seems quite right or no position looks like a good fit, ask yourself whether your expectations are realistic. Try to identify what parts of a job are the most important to you, and consider where you’d be comfortable compromising.
    • Think about your long-term goals. Are you clear about the type of position you’re looking for and the kind of company you’d like to join? For example, if your heart’s in the startup world and you’re only looking at jobs with brand-name companies, that could explain why nothing’s getting you excited. Be sure that you’re matching your job search to the career path you want to pursue.
    • Talk to someone. Maybe there’s a colleague with whom you can sit down, or a career coach, or a recruiter you like. Whoever it is, sometimes it helps to have a conversation about where you want your career to go, as well as your near-term goals. Hicks believes this is another way to help you identify areas where you’re comfortable compromising.

    Job searches don’t always have a clear start. “Most people don’t wake up one day and decide they’re going to look for a new position,” Hicks noted. “They dip a toe in the water.” As a result, many job seekers don’t think through their objectives and compromises—even though they need to do just that.

    As Hicks points out, sometimes having that conversation with yourself can lead to the realization that you shouldn’t change jobs: “Coming to the realization more quickly is better.” Doing so will save you from wasting time on a job search when you don’t really want to make a move.

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  • 4 Tips for Surviving a Rapid Firing

    shutterstock_Jorge Salcedo

    You’re called in for what you think will be a typical meeting, only to be told, “We’re downsizing” or “You’re fired.”

    How should you react?

    The first step is to hold it together and not react. While it might be tempting to pull the office equivalent of that Jet Blue flight attendant who decided to quit his job by grabbing a beer and sliding down his plane’s emergency inflatable slide, remaining reserved is the preferable alternative: You don’t need more issues with this particular employer, and it’s important to walk away appearing strong and moving forward.

    To find IT management jobs, click here.

    “Being fired versus being downsized are two very different beasts,” said Janine Davis, principal of Fetch Recruiting. “The latter technically is slightly less painful and significantly more forgiven. However, the steps to take when it happens to you are not significantly different.”

    Gather Information

    Davis strongly recommends getting as much information as possible about why you were fired or laid off. There’s no need to be combative when asking; it’s to make sure you know the company’s viewpoint with regard to why you were let go.

    “In the case of a firing,” she said, “if you have any documentation to counter the stated reasons, gather them, e.g., if you were fired for poor attendance, but you have a recent employment review which rates you as ‘exemplary’ for attendance, make sure you have a copy of that review.”

    Collect Letters

    Ask select colleagues to write a supportive email or note. “Secure at least one person who will provide you with a positive reference,” Davis said. “A supervisor is obviously ideal, but if not, another executive, a peer or even a subordinate is better than nothing.”

    Reframe the Narrative

    Update your resume and online profiles as soon as possible. Alert your network that you’re on the market. Most importantly, understand that part of this process includes explaining why you’re no longer at your old job. Brevity and clarity should be the goal. Deliver your story professionally, without emotion or badmouthing your former employer.

    For example, one of Davis’s clients found himself the victim of standard-issue corporate shuffling: “A new manager was brought in over their group. He fired all of his direct reports and brought in people that reported to him at his previous company.” That’s the sort of simple, impersonal explanation that no future employer will challenge.

    Susan Wise Miller, career counselor and vocational expert at California Career Services, had a senior-level client who wasn’t getting along with her work partner and was unceremoniously fired. From the beginning of her time with the company, her employer had excluded her from any important decision-making. Fortunately, her earlier work references gave her the credibility and leverage to explain to future employers that a change in management style had impacted her ability to do her job.

    Process Your Feelings

    Getting over the shock of being let go is an individual process. Some people need to mourn the abrupt loss, while others prefer to jump quickly into the search process.

    For those who need time, grieving for a short period can help you get to a positive place—but keep it short. Whatever your process, Davis said, “The key is to ensure you are ready to tackle the job search with the necessary attitude to succeed.”

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  • Should You Take an IT Job in a Small City?

    shutterstock  Michael Shake

    If you’re tired of living in a hectic metropolis, you’re in luck. Small cities such as Helena, Mont. (pop. 25,596) and Cheyenne, Wyo. (pop. 62,448) have managed to attract a handful of high-tech firms. Now their recruiters are actively seeking IT professionals who would rather live and work in a modest-sized town.

    For more IT jobs, click here.

    While the idea of a 10-minute commute may be tempting, accepting a job in a small city could have long-term consequences on your personal life and career. Here are seven questions you should ask yourself before pulling up stakes.

    Will Taking This Job Hurt or Help Your Career?

    Working with cutting-edge technology may benefit your career in the short-term—but will you be able to reach the next career milestone, and the one after that, in a place with relatively few tech companies?

    “If you live in a major city it’s easy to change jobs every three years,” said Alexandra Levit, a workplace expert and blogger based near Chicago. “You have fewer options in a small city. Ask about career progression before you commit, because you should plan on working at the company for at least five years.”

    Are there local meetup groups, boot camps, mentors or training classes to help you expand your skills? Can you envision yourself learning and advancing your career in that new city? Use scenario-planning to estimate the impact on your marketability and goals over the next five years.

    Upload Your ResumeEmployers want candidates like you. Upload your resume. Show them you’re awesome.

    Is the Company Committed and Secure?

    Job security is fleeting, no matter where you live. But will you be able to find employment in the local area should you lose your job? And what’s your backup plan if you don’t like the company? Is the management team committed to your happiness and success? If you’re not sure, offer to start out on a contract basis before you make a permanent move.

    “The company should support your decision making process by providing information on schools, housing, social activities and even take you on a tour,” said Debbie Maupin, president of Relocation Services for Grabel, an employee relocation company based in Aurora, Colorado. “If they are committed to a successful transition, they will go out of their way to give you a preview of the company and the community.”

    What Am I Leaving Behind?

    Are you an extravert? Do you make friends easily? Leaving behind family, friends, co-workers and your favorite hangouts can be emotionally trying. On the other hand, it could be invigorating if you crave change and adventure.

    “It’s harder to make friends as an adult,” Levit said. “Ask the IT professionals at the company about their lifestyle and how they built connections when they arrived in town. Otherwise, you may end up with a great job but no life.”

    Does the Move ‘Pencil Out’?

    You might think that a small city has a lower cost of living than a major city, but some things could cost more… and salaries are lower, too. For instance, you could end up paying more for airline tickets and groceries, and a local employment boom may escalate real estate prices.

    Plus, it could take several months to recoup your relocation outlay if you have to foot the tab. According to the American Moving & Storage Association, the average cost of an intrastate move is $1,170, and the average move between states costs $5,630. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help at your fingertips. Use this list of online resources from the U.S. State Department to assess the cost of living in another city and how much you need to earn to break even or come out ahead.

    Do You Like the Community as Well as the Job?

    If you love hiking and skiing, moving to a resort area might be just what the doctor ordered. If you like to go club hopping on Saturday night or take in a pro basketball game, you’re probably better suited for big city life. Spend a couple of days driving around the city and sampling local eateries and activities to get a sense of what it would be like to live there.

    “IT professionals don’t have to move to a small city to find work,” Levit noted. “You really need to be enamored with the lifestyle, the weather and the community to move to a small city.”

    How Will the Move Impact Your Family?

    The decision to move is easier if you’re single and unattached. Uprooting a spouse and family can have emotional and financial consequences, and thus requires careful consideration.

    Research suggests that every move translates into a 2 percent decline in a spouse’s annual earnings in military families; frequent moves also increase the likelihood of spousal unemployment. (Although to be fair, other research shows that some families on the move experience an increase in resilience and cohesion.) Consider your family’s penchant for adventure and adaptability before deciding to take a job in a small city.

    Bottom Line: What Do You Have to Gain?

    List the plusses on one side of a ledger and the minuses on the other, along with their associated financial and emotional costs, to determine whether you should take an IT job in a small city. And remember: If it doesn’t work out, you can always move back. Being in demand is one of the perks of being an IT professional.

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    Image: Michael Shake/Shutterstock.com

    The post Should You Take an IT Job in a Small City? appeared first on Dice News.

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    Joe Roberts has had his pick of jobs. And with his experience in cloud computing, he still does. Roberts had several job offers when he moved in November from his former position as a senior IT lead/systems engineer working on a SaaS product to his current job as a senior DevOps engineer at Bit9 in Waltham, Mass. […]

  • Do Women Feel Isolated in Tech?

    Women comprise the minority of technology professionals – does that make them feel isolated? Not as much as some might think, according to several female developers that we talked to. Gender, they say, can be contributing factor to a sense of loneliness that is simply part of the job. At the same time, being one of a handful of women – if not the only one – in a technical organization can make some feel apart. Click here to find software development jobs. Industry Dynamics It’s the hectic and ever-changing nature of the work itself that contributes to the sense of isolation some women coders feel, says Susan Buck, co-founder of the online community the Women’s Coding Collective . “Keeping up is a challenge, and you compound that with being one of the few women, and it can be difficult,” she observes. In addition, notes another woman, a former Web developer at Yahoo who now works at a large healthcare IT company, developers often move from team to team, which can lead to a sense of isolation as they settle in. Indeed, this developer, who asked not to be named, saw age as a factor when it came to setting her apart. As her team members at Yahoo got younger, her sense of isolation grew. “Most of the younger guys were relatively inexperienced, not long out of college, and perhaps not used to knowing any women coders,” she says. Still, she observes that with relatively few women working in tech, the subtle prejudice against women is a factor to confront. And it can certainly influence how women perceive their job. Attitude Counts Given the solitary and ever-changing nature of the work, it takes a certain kind of attitude to pursue a programmer’s or developer’s career. But women face additional pressures to forge ahead and establish themselves as strong team members. “I’ve always been a woman who has been successful in what are typically considered male roles,” says the former Yahoo developer. “And I’d like to send girls the message that it doesn’t matter if you’re the only woman working with 100 men. Learn to get along with your coworkers, and they’ll likely be more motivated to get in touch with you.” If you are feeling isolated as a woman in tech, addressing that may take reaching outside of your company to establish a network of supportive peers, says Buck. Just because other women aren’t on your team doesn’t mean other women tech professionals aren’t nearby. “Locally, I’d start by looking on Meetup.com and seeing if there are any women-in-tech focused groups in your area,” she suggests. Eventbrite is another good place to look. If you happen to be in an area that doesn’t have an active group of women developers, reach out through online communities and social networks. For example, the Women’s Coding Collective has a general forum where you can virtually meet other women in tech. Buck also recommends checking out the Anita Borg Institute on social media . However you do it, “It’s important to seek out communities of women coders and developers who can serve as inspiration and a sounding board,” Buck says. Related Stories What Makes – or Breaks – Tech’s Top Women 5 Tips for Women to Get Ahead in Tech Women in IT Face Down Stereotypes and Bias Top 10 Tips for Retaining Women in Technology Image: Martin Novak/Shutterstock.com The post Do Women Feel Isolated in Tech? appeared first on Dice News .