Q. I am an SAP professional with five years of implementation experience working for one of the Big 5 consulting firms. I have been on a job search and am working with numerous search professionals for nearly four months. I have very strict, but I think very realistic, parameters for my search. I want to join a southern-California-based, pre-public Internet company and I would like to retain my current cash compensation. The recruiters I meet with are very enthusiastic and eager to work with me, but they offer me jobs that meet none of my criteria. The remaining recruiters seldom call me to discuss opportunities. They obviously don’t get it. Where can I find a recruiter who is willing to show me the jobs I want to look at?

AC, Redondo Beach, CA.

Rosenberg: AC, In prior Career Compass columns we have addressed the overwhelming desire of the general IT populous to join a dot-com. You are clearly not alone in your quest. You may have unrealistic expectations as well as a lack of understanding of the dot-com market, however. Also, you may not be clear about what a good recruiter does, and for whom a good recruiter works.

First, your list of demands not only lacks originality, it is overtly one-sided. You basically have indicated that you want all the excitement, challenge, and financial potential a dot-com has to offer, but are personally unwilling to make any financial sacrifice or investment to join one. The world of a startup is built on the foundation of sweat equity. Oftentimes, the leaders of the organization take double-digit pay cuts in order to reduce cash burn. However, what they give up in base salary is more than replaced with equity if in fact the company makes it (which few do). So, for starters, you should be prepared to give up some cash flow to join an early phase startup.

You claim you are realistic in your request. However, though I have not seen your resume (feel free to send it through my Tech Republic e-mail), I trust you are not an Internet veteran. So the question that needs to be answered is: What value do you bring to a dot-com? Well, probably not much…today. But lucky for you and many others, the Web companies are beginning to mature and the need for real IT (ERP systems, etc.) is creeping onto the priority project list. Increasingly, I am experiencing client demand for business systems expertise at mature Web companies. However, when a company in the Web space reaches this stage, they are most often past the public offering, so you may feel you have missed the boat.

Now, let’s address the recruiters. It may be your career move that the recruiter is facilitating, but don’t forget who the recruiter works for. Our client companies pay our fees. Though the better of my brethren balance client commitment with candidate loyalty with the greatest of finesse, our clients only pay us to find square pegs for square holes (pardon the simplified explanation). You may be the smartest SAP implementer at your company, but if our client doesn’t want someone with your skills, all we can do is hope to call you when the right job comes around.

Q. Kevin, prosperity abounds nationally and IT jobs are going unfilled everywhere, or so the papers say. I am a 54-year-old IT project manager and I can’t seem to find a job. Apparently, I do not have the right skills. I have been approached by a service that claims it will assist me in my job search and apparently has had great results. I am concerned though about paying them a fee for this service. Would this be money well spent?

ZG, Rapid City, SD

Rosenberg: ZG, in prior Career Compass columns I have said that I personally do not believe paying a fee to find a job is a good idea. However, I have heard some success stories. Unfortunately, I have also heard of many disasters. Rather than advise you either way, I will encourage you to do extensive research on both the company you are considering a relationship with and its segment of the employment industry. Though this portion of the industry has been the target of many exposes and journal articles, there are also many reputable firms. Look before you leap.

In addition to your research, consider this: Your job search should be a full-time job. The passive job seeker who sits idle waiting for the phone to ring may have a long wait, even if his or her skills are very marketable. Contrarily, the job seeker who makes the job search a ten-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week project often gets exemplary results without any help.

Look at it this way: a career development or placement agency that requires you to pay a fee, oftentimes does little more for you than you can do for yourself. All of the company lists and research materials they would use are available online and at any well-stocked library. Resume-writing seminars and books on cover letters; interviewing techniques and managing job searches are as plentiful as weeds in the springtime. Similarly, your neighborhood post office can handle all the mass resume mailings your heart desires. And the Internet, wow, don’t get me started on the Internet. While I am not confident in the Internet for many aspects of employment, for someone in your situation, what a great tool! My advice is, save the money, use it to finance your search, and start hitting the streets
Send your career questions to Kevin. He’ll try to answer them in upcoming columns.