For nine years, I was an IT manager for three different Internet companies. At one time, I had as many as 65 people working for me, managed three data centers and juggled three different OS's (Windows, Sun Solaris and Linux).
During my tenure in IT management, I filled a number of technical positions, from telephone/help desk to senior database and system administrators.
I survived a few layoffs and managed to move between several companies and industries successfully.
Because of my experience, I learned quite a bit about working and finding work in the U.S. IT market. Much of what I learned, however, is generally new to many IT workers seeking employment.
I consider this to be my "To Do List" for prospective information technology employees.
1. Network - Nope, not an IP based, but people based. Maintain a network of former and current coworkers, employers, and customers. Include college classmates, technical training classmates, fellow attendees of conferences and user meetings.
Your network is the most critical tool you can build. Maintain contact with members of your network through regular emails, phone calls and lunches.
Don't dig a well when you are thirsty! Start communicating with your network now, not when you are suddenly out of work.
2. Use networking websites - not MySpace, but professional sites like LinkedIn and Ryze. Make sure your profile includes that you are open to new opportunities and projects.
These sites are generally full of business contacts, so good technical people really stand out.
3. Build and maintain a professional blog.
a) Your blog should be about technical and professional aspects of your life only - save your personal politics and thoughts on Warcraft for a personal venue.
b) Write and feature reviews on new products, software, applications and languages based upon your own experience. Edit often and invite others to read and critique your work. Make sure you list your blog on your resume and in your online networking profile (see above).
c) Focus on the content, not your layout prowess or snarky comments. Make your blog (and everything you write) easy to read.
d) A successful blog (i.e. you create it and maintain it) means you are published. Very important in some job openings.
4. Unless you have guaranteed employment for life, a generous trust fund or have won the lottery, always maintain a professional appearance and the accessories which go with it.
a) Proper dress clothes for interviews and meetings - you can wear your ThinkGeek togs on days off or on the overnight shift.
b) Proper hygiene - Bathed; Hair, nails and facial hair groomed.
5. Learn to communicate effectively. For instance, do you use the terms "like" and "you know" when making explanations - i.e. "The server is, like, you know, is not working"?
6. Meet with customers.
This is difficult for the technical person who consider avoiding customers an art form and attaining hermit-hood a desired social status position.
Look, customers pay your salary indirectly when they buy your company's products or services.
If your customer meets you and are impressed, they may offer you a large sum to come work for them directly. It has happened to me and some of the best people I have worked with. Meet with customers soon and often.
7. If your company does not provide you with a business card, have your own made at any printer.
Make sure your card includes your name and contact information. Include a technical title such as "Senior Systems Administrator" or "Senior Oracle Consultant". Hand your cards out freely, especially to business contacts.
8. Maintain your resume.
Not on Monster or Dice but in real time. Keep it on your home and work PC (if possible), your PDA/Phone and on a personal website or two.
Never, ever, ever, hand out a URL when asked for your resume. Have a properly formatted and suitable resume available at all times.
9. Stay current.
On current technology. What your boss will ask you about at your next meeting. What business runs on. I cannot stress how important this is. You will be judged upon the technical buzzwords and jargon the CIO or CEO have picked up and quiz you about. Be ready.
10. You are not Kevin Rose or Philip J. Kaplan and until you are, you don't get to be an eccentric or curmudgeon.
10.5. A final thought.
Online job searches are fine and dandy. As I have written before, it makes you feel like working when you are clicking on those job descriptions and blindly submitting your resume.
The reality is every time you email your resume in response to an online want ad you are devaluing your personal worth. Further, online job applications rarely work.
Personal networking always works.
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