Tech & Work

Tips on getting back into the marketplace

As one IT professional is learning, today's job hunt is quite different from just a year or two ago. To help others, he's put together tips, best practices, and advice for landing your next IT position.


After I shut down my consultancy, my next task was revving up to head back into the corporate workforce to find a job in executive-level IT. During this most recent career effort, I discovered a few best practices for job hunting in today’s market and will share those lessons, as well as insight from fellow TechRepublic members on how they’ve landed new roles.

Reach out and tell someone
Once I had my resume and cover letters updated—the first items on the job hunt to-do list—I began networking, calling IT friends, coworkers, family members, old coworkers, business partners, or anyone who might know people or organizations in my area of IT expertise. Over my career, I have received many offers this way, much more than with any other method.

Sometimes the part-time position you take during the professional job hunt can offer up job leads. A friend working at a local home improvement business discovered that several colleagues were also job-hunting IT professionals. I networked with them, and found some good contacts who knew people of influence in the market. You never know when this may pay off.

Bohagee Dutta, a TechRepublic member who works as an IT business development manager, found her job by networking at conferences. The important element, she advised, is following up on the initial contact.

“An important aspect is to continue the relationship beyond the event. Once you have their business card, take the time to find an article or press mention about the person or the company, and send it to them with a note mentioning how nice it was to meet them and talk at the event,” she recommended. This strengthens the level of contact beyond a single meeting and leads to other subjects. This approach helped her to find her management role.

Tips for tapping job boards
Though many career experts dismiss the value of Internet job sites and boards for various reasons, I decided to include them as one of my job hunt tools because they’re easy and free.

The big key, from my perspective, is not just dumping your resume on the board and leaving it there. You need to constantly refreshyour resume, even if you just delete a word and then resubmit it. This refreshing action gives your resume a new posting date. A resume with a more current date is likely to get more attention; recruiters and HR managers are more inclined to check out new resumes than ones posted for months. Your resume will get more hits, and I believe more hits increases the chance of a call or interview request.

Also, I don’t post the same resume I send out to companies on job boards. With large, broad-scale job boards, employers search on keywords that will best identify the new hire, and your hard copy resume might not have them. Consequently, your online resume here should contain all of your accomplishments, and all of the associated IT buzzwords, to maximize your hit rate. This is markedly different from the resume you would send for a specific opportunity. The goal of the job board resume is to quickly grab attention so companies will contact you for that other resume version.

I’ve found the job board search agents to be a very valuable feature; I’ve gotten almost as many job lead results there as from my networking efforts. I’ve found CIO and Executives Only useful, and have talked to recruiters to verify that they often look there.

In an e-mail about successful job searches, TechRepublic member David Brown related that he found his current IT role in a public school system using the CareerBuilder site.

If you want to target specific companies or organizations, it’s definitely worth taking the time to check their Web sites on a daily basis; jobs are often listed there that aren’t posted anywhere else. I like to accomplish this by creating a special folder in my browser Favorites file. It is a quick and efficient way to make sure I check each site each day.

Relocation not a welcomed scenario
The main issue with online job boards is that the geographic reach is long and many jobs posted are likely not in the region you want to work in. Also, unlike just a few years ago, companies are striving to hire locally. If I apply for a position out of my local area, I’ve found that I'm automatically pushed off to the side. This is a new phenomenon, and occurs more for the middle IT players vs. higher-level professionals, but everyone I talk to is seeing this trend.

My recruiter contacts indicate that it’s so tough out there that companies feel they can get good/great-quality applicants strictly from their local areas and doing so minimizes the bottom line. There are no recruitment costs and no relocation costs if the job offer is accepted.

So, for middle-level players, I recommend targeting the local area first and non-local positions later since they offer the weakest payback for your efforts.

You could also try listing your e-mail address but not your street address or phone on your resume. However, this could backfire once the recruiter knows you’re not local, and if you were contacted for an interview, you would have to be able to afford travel expenses on your own.

I remember getting an interview halfway across the country and being told for the first time that I’d have to pick up all of the costs—flights, car rentals, hotel, meals. It took a while getting used to this.

Always follow up
The moment you begin networking, setting up personalized search agents on job boards, and sending out resumes, start keeping a log and a tracking method. You must follow up for best results. I can’t emphasize this enough.

I like to send follow-up e-mails about a week after I apply for a position if I haven’t received a personal response (this does not include automated pre-programmed organizational responses).

I’ll never forget one position that I thought was a great fit. I found the position through a job board, added it to my favorites list, and sent in my targeted resume and cover letter. I heard nothing back. I sent a brief follow-up e-mail a week later that included my resume and cover letter. The recruiter responded and said this was the first time she had seen my great qualifications and would pass them on to appropriate staff for review. Another week passed. I contacted her again with a brief e-mail, and she said that she had never heard of me, and asked me to please send my resume (I cannot print what I said to myself at this point).

I resent my resume and cover letter, and was asked to interview a few days later. Unbelievable! I was even offered the position, but after careful and painful consideration, decided to turn it down for personal reasons. The moral of the story is: Follow up! Recruiters and decision makers often don’t remember you unless you follow up to get their attention. The goal is not to become obnoxious or unreasonable but do follow up at least once or twice until you get a personal response. You never know; that may make the difference.

Try your own site
Another quick job search effort is establishing a career Web site. It doesn’t take a great deal of time or money, and can be a easy way to let recruiters, hiring managers, and networking contacts have quick access to you resume and experience.

If you try some of these best practices, I’m sure you’ll optimize your chances for success and eventually get a good job, or maybe a great one.

Please share with me if you have other good job-search ideas, methods, or approaches that have proven successful for you or your cohorts. Many of us could benefit from this wisdom. Best wishes to those who are looking!

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