Tech & Work

Job seekers beware: These five myths may derail your search efforts

In the current market, you can easily grow weary of looking for work. Don't waste all that effort by letting these five misconceptions keep you from landing your next job.

If you're not having much success in your job search, the anemic economy and frigid hiring practices may not be the only reasons. Several popular myths could be standing between you and the right position. These myths may keep you from assertively seeking a job or from accepting a position that looks rough on the outside but that shines up pretty with opportunities for a person with the insight to look beyond titles, starting salaries, and office spaces.

Here are five common fallacies that could be impeding your search—and the truths that will get you back on the right course.

Myth one: The Internet is a Mecca for finding jobs
Today, the Internet is no longer an anomaly; it's just another Sunday newspaper with a jobs section. You must target your search, apply for jobs that fit your qualifications, and take steps to identify the contents of e-mailed submissions. Internet job boards can become a Delta Triangle for resumes to disappear into, leaving you without further knowledge of who sees the information or how they use your personal data.

Debbie Harper, a veteran executive IT recruiter at Harper Hewes, Inc., likened posting your resume online to posting it on a sandwich board that reads "I need a job" and walking up and down Fifth Avenue with it hoisted over your shoulder.

"Once your background is out there on a board, you are no longer special or unique; you become commoditized because anybody can look at it, but not necessarily the right people are looking at it in the right context," Harper said. "Oftentimes, database firms compiling information for their clients advertise job board listings. Employers also post job ads they have no intentions of filling; perhaps they want to create a pool of future choices, or perhaps they are monitoring the job scene to see if any of their own employees are searching for new positions.

Alternative to job boards
Instead of using job boards, Harper suggests scouring the Web sites of prospective employers you have researched and that you know have jobs of interest you qualify for. Check out the job listings posted on prospective employers' Web sites, or if you want to be considered for future openings before they become available, get the name of the hiring manager and send a customized presentation package that promotes your employment background, accomplishments, and capabilities for effectively handling the desired position.

Myth two: If I have the technical skills, I can always find work
The truth is, it's not good enough to just "be good" anymore, said Carol Limperos, founder and vice president of strategy and marketing at Houston-based Allindin, a coaching and consulting employment firm.

"There are a lot of exceptionally good people out there without jobs," she said.

Limperos advises her clients not to wait for prospective employers to be impressed by the technical abilities or tenured experience itemized on resumes. Instead, she suggests finding the right prospects and then promoting yourself so that they can't help but see you.

Some suggestions include joining professional groups that hiring managers frequent and working on high-profile committees or projects to draw attention to your abilities or writing articles in industry journals read by your prospects to highlight your authority and knowledge.

Harris N. Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), suggests using your downtime to fine-tune your management, team, and communication skills, as well as IT and industry knowledge. He said people often mistakenly believe that technical skills are enough when, in fact, soft skills—like communication—are also important.

"Correctly or incorrectly, the image [of the IT professional] was that you could be misanthropic," Miller said. "It was all right if you could not talk to anybody at work. As long as you had the technical skills, you were fine. But more and more, hiring managers are saying that doesn't cut it."

Myth three: Offshore companies have ruined the IT job market
Many people mistakenly blame offshore IT companies for the less-than-stellar state of the U.S. job market. The truth is that no more than two percent of the IT market has moved offshore. Further, many of the technical jobs being handled by foreign companies are low-end ones that don't require creativity or sophistication, according to Miller.

However, he believes that offshore competitors will eventually pursue greater shares of the IT industry. American workers can help their employers keep jobs on U.S. soil by retooling their skills and being more receptive to salaries reflective of current economic conditions.

"Clearly, the issue comes down to price in this global competition," Miller said. "So the U.S. worker has to be more skillful, more well-rounded, more productive, and have more knowledge of the industry in which he or she is working."

Myth four: Great salaries, benefits, and bonuses still exist
The job market is tight, but many people still believe that they'll find an employer who will "pay me what I'm worth." The truth is that only a small, select group of IT workers with security clearance and highly specific skills sets still enjoy abundant salaries, benefits, and bonuses.

If you don't fit this mold exactly, be prepared for modest salaries below the late-nineties norm. Your best bet for finding the right opportunity is to be flexible about salary. By accepting a lesser job or a decrease in pay, you might get your foot in the door at a great company.

Job seekers might also want to identify non-IT companies in need of IT pros. An ITAA survey showed that employees working in technology fields were sometimes more at risk for layoffs or decreases in salaries or benefits than those workers employed at nontechnology companies.

Myth five: A headhunter alone can get you a job
Headhunters are great for getting the inside scoop on available jobs, but the truth is that no one method—including job boards, newspaper ads, networking, or use of recruiters—works alone.

"Headhunters are hired by companies to find qualified candidates for open positions," said Maria Schafer, program director for META Group, an IT research and consulting firm.

Schafer warns job seekers not to entrust someone else to single-handedly perform and oversee a search that they themselves should handle.

"You've got to sell yourself," Schafer said. "Be your own advocate; and it will be through persistence and hard work that you land the job."

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