Let headhunter Kevin Rosenberg help you set your career compass. Kevin is managing director and partner of BridgeGate LLC, a CA-based search firm, who specializes in IT management searches. He shares tips on a host of career issues in this biweekly Q & A format.

Q.I have an MBA and over 10 years of experience in manufacturing. I am looking to move into IT, specifically with an ERP provider (to leverage my experience). While I do have some working knowledge of MS Access and Visual Basic, what other skills should I have before sending my resume out? Would I be considered a “good candidate” now with my remedial skills? JK in MI

Rosenberg:JK, remedial is a harsh word. Certainly in your 10 years of manufacturing you have been party to an implementation of at least one MRP or ERP systems implementation. That perspective, as the end user, is becoming increasingly sought after. True, the ERP market took a nosedive in the wake of the Y2K hysteria; however the “pending project” lists in U.S. IT shops are riddled with systems implementation and systems integration projects. Because the implementations of an Oracle, SAP, or Baan are as much about business processes as they are about technology, the demand for functional expertise is very attractive to a company anticipating an ERP project.

Some immediate investment in yourself in anticipation of a job change would be very appropriate. First, polish up your resume. Pay particular attention to the IT aspects of your current job. Next, get involved at your current company wherever possible in an IT project where you, as the end user, can shepherd the process. This will help build your resume. Finally, build your pedigree with education. Take some classes at a university extension program or community college where you can learn systems analysis, business analysis, or other IT classes that may be offered.

Q. I am a new graduate of New Mexico State University. I have applied to several different firms to get a job, but all have been in vain. They all require at least two years of job experience. I have done an MBA [and] have majors in business and computer systems. I know that there are opportunities in this field, but where can I get the experience? I am very confused and hope you can help me out. ZC in NM

Rosenberg: ZC, yes, you are right. There are opportunities. With unemployment numbers continually being reported as the lowest in history, the market couldn’t be better for you. So what is impeding your entrance into the job market? Perhaps you should take a closer look at how you are executing your search. Are you only applying for jobs that are beyond your level of professional expertise, hoping for a foot in the door? Are your skills purely academic, lacking any practical experience? Are you expecting too much of your first job? These things often plague the entry-level job seeker.

Take a step back and reassess your search. First, if you have not already done so, visit the career center at NMSU and enlist their assistance in finding a company that has expressed interest in entry-level applicants. Every month, large companies who have partnered with local universities and colleges post their internship and entry-level positions with career centers. Similarly, they participate regularly in career fairs on those campuses.

Also important is having a realistic expectation of your first job. Many students who are very bright are misguided to believe that their first job can be their dream job. It certainly can, but more likely it will lead to one. It’s better to join a larger, more conservative firm that will invest in you than expect to joint the next Yahoo.com or Amazon.com. Finally, sharpen your interview skills. Your career center and local library are great sources of information on the job interview process. Invest some time becoming a great interviewee.

As part of my involvement on the curriculum advisory board for a major university here in CA, I am personally aware of the national demand for new graduates. Keep focused and enthusiastic about your search. In the job-hunting game, attitude and confidence can make or break your prospects.
If you’ve had difficulty breaking into the IT market, please post a comment below to share your experience. Send your career questions to Kevin . He’ll try to answer them in upcoming columns.