Kevin Donlin owns and runs Guaranteed Resumes, a resume and cover letter writing service that also provides job search assistance. He fields questions from TechRepublic members and offers advice based on his experience and expertise.

I’m a senior software development project manager with more than 14 years of IT industry experience. I am currently working as a consultant for a major firm, and I’m preparing for my next career move. I have two questions:

  1. I’ve heard that going through executive recruiters is the way to go; others say that it’s not in my best interest to do so. Is there a right answer?
  2. To continue to move forward, my next move will have to be out of state to a larger metropolitan area. I’m searching for the best way(s) to improve my opportunities. I have the right mix of education and experience for the next level. Unfortunately, my personal contacts outside of my current job are limited. How should I proceed?

You’ll find job search advice to be contradictory if you rely on just one method at the exclusion of everything else. Make room in your search for many tools—technical recruiters included. Start by recognizing that finding a new job is a job in itself—you should be ready to dedicate a good deal of time and energy to this task.

For more input, I talked to Evan Scott, president of Evan Scott Group International, an executive search firm located in Plymouth Meeting, PA.

“You are responsible for marketing yourself. There is no one way to do this,” said Scott. “When you are looking to make a career change, look at yourself as a product. What are your features and benefits? Who will the buyer of your service likely be?”

Finding your ideal IT contract—whether you decide to stay put or move to another location—is also a numbers game, requiring a bit of luck and timing to get the interview in this job market. The more hiring managers you can get your resume in front of, the better your chances become.

“Use every means at your disposal and do not rely on any one of them,” said Steven Rothberg, president of He suggests seeking out contacts in other IT areas and finding executive recruiters. Also, respond to positions that are posted to Internet job boards, advertised in newspapers, and listed on corporate Web sites. Post your own resume to job boards as well.

“Executive recruiters find great jobs for huge numbers of people, but they are also unable to find jobs for an even larger number of people. Using an executive recruiter—even several of them—does not and should not preclude you from conducting your own job search,” Rothberg said.

Also be prepared to follow up on any initial contact you make with an employer. Don’t be shy about such low-tech methods as follow-up phone calls and faxes, either—e-mail alone will rarely suffice. “Faxes are something of a novelty again after the invention of e-mail,” Scott said.

How do you make a transition from a department that doesn’t recognize your talents when your manager marks you as “least effective” in a performance review? I have contrary evidence and know of people across many departments who are willing to step forward and deny this “least effective” label.

To pave the way for a transfer, you must get your current boss to be at least neutral about you. If he thinks you’re an undesirable, word will get around, and your transfer will become more difficult.

“A heart-to-heart talk with your manager, in which you ‘agree to disagree’ or acknowledge that you could be more effective in another setting, would go a long way to making you successful in another department,” said Steve Kobs, HR Director for Hanley-Wood Integrated Marketing, a Minneapolis-based communications firm.

The more documentation you can assemble to prove your claims, the better. You mentioned that you have “contrary evidence” and people willing to back you up. Terrific. Start building your case by collecting e-mails from satisfied clients and coworkers, for example, to help demonstrate you’ve been doing your job well.

If you’ve been meeting or exceeding your production numbers, whatever they may be, put together some kind of a chart to clearly show your performance.

Throughout all of this, be sure to take the high road. Never engage in gripe sessions with coworkers about the manager in question, no matter how right you may be. If asked what you think about this manager, you should literally say: “I don’t have anything to say,” and leave it at that.

Believe that word will get out about any harsh comments you make. And nobody wants a complainer. Your future manager may think: “If you bad-mouth your current manager, you may bad-mouth me after I hire you.” Not good.

This is a tricky situation. Keep in mind that most people giving advice are thinking about what is right for them, but this is about you. Someone who knows you and who knows the job is in the best position to suggest a path for you. That’s where your networking skills can come to the rescue, by putting you in touch with people inside your company (the HR department, the department you want to move to, etc.) to champion your cause.

On a final note, if you feel you have nothing to lose and that your career is at a standstill in your current company, consider going to your HR department or to your manager’s superior to state your case. Bring any documents or written testimonials from clients that prove you’re doing a good job, despite the negative review you received. Be prepared and calm and stick to the facts.

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