IT job hunting advice

About a week ago, I had a guy approach me at a bar and ask for some job-hunting advice.  He told me he reads my blog, and he’s noticed I always manage to find much-better-than-average jobs in IT.  He is just breaking into the field, having graduated from college recently, and he wanted some tips.  I asked if I could think about it for a little while and get back to him.  I realized later that other people in IT might want to hear this too, so I’m using a blog post to respond.

1) Put a copy of your resume online. I don’t mean on Monster or CareerBuilder or any of those. I mean, create an HTML version of your resume, find a place to put it online (search for “free web hosting” if you don’t know where to go), upload it, and request that Google “spider” (index) it. This seems like really basic advice, but I’d bet 90% of your competition hasn’t done it. I get e-mails almost weekly from managers or recruiters that have seen my resume on the web. I used to program for the City Schools, and this is how that job found me.

A few notes on your online resume: Remove all your contact info except your e-mail address. You don’t want stalkers finding out your address or phone number. If a company wants to talk to you, they’ll e-mail. Also, don’t use your current work e-mail address as your contact address on your resume – this is a good way to get fired. If you don’t already have a personal e-mail address, go sign up for Gmail. Pick an account name that sounds professional (e.g. not something like skat3rd00d69).

2) Network. IT people tend to spend too much time studying for certifications, and not enough time out meeting people. I’d estimate that one hour connecting with people is worth 25 studying for certs, as far as long-term effect on how much money you’ll eventually make.

2a) Network within your field. If your field is IT, search for IT-related events around town. Go to them, mingle, and meet your peers. Be genuinely interested in other people and the projects they are working on, but don’t be shy about telling people who you are and what you’re looking for. You never know when you may be talking to someone who knows someone who can help you.

2b) Network within activities you enjoy. If you enjoy running, join a runners’ club and mingle with the other members; a certain percentage of them will be in IT, and even those that are not may have friends or relatives who are. If you enjoy reading, join a book club and a certain percentage of the people you meet will be in IT. Me personally, my hobby is going to bars and drinking. A certain percentage of people I meet in bars are in IT. Hanging out in bars has never led me directly to a job, but I’ve been able to hook up some of my drinking buddies with interviews for positions I knew about. (Note: If your hobby is the same as mine, be prepared to come up with a creative answer to “how did you learn about this position?”)

3) Get LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the professional version of MySpace or Facebook. You still sign up and fill out a profile, but the profile is more about past work and education, and the people you befriend tend to be professional contacts. Managers and recruiters browse their contacts’ contacts when looking to hire. This is how I found my current position.

For that matter, don’t totally dismiss MySpace and Facebook as job-hunting tools either. One of my best recruiter contacts found me on MySpace.

4) Make contacts with recruiters on your own. Even if you’re not actively looking, it’s good to have established relationships with them – maybe you can send someone their way and get a referral fee. Don’t be afraid to contact more than one recruiter – nothing wrong with that, although if one recruiter presents you for a particular position, you should not let other recruiters present you again for that same position. Locally, I like JD Resources (who found me my current job), Vaco Technologies, and TEKsystems.

5) Offer to do small consulting projects at bargain-basement prices to gain experience. Want to program in PHP but have never done it? Put the word out that you’ll do it for a ridiculously low rate (say, 10 bucks an hour) just to get experience and get your name out there. Don’t offer to do it for free, because you want to be able to claim it as professional experience – therefore, you need to get paid. You could also search for contract work on sites like to get experience.

6) Identify companies in the area for which you seem like a good fit, and start making contacts with people within those companies. Doesn’t even matter if they’re in IT.  They are people who can help you get your foot in the door, and they can also provide you with more information about the internal culture of the company.

7) Be picky. Part of finding a good job is recognizing that there are a lot of jobs out there that suck. I have no problem saying “thanks, but I don’t think this is going to work out” if I interview for a position, and come to find out that some of its requirements are utterly ridiculous. You have to come up with a definition of “utterly ridiculous” that works for you, but for me, “wearing a tie every day” would be right up there at the top of the list.

… And there you have it.  I hope this helps.

Finally feeling better after being sick all weekend.  And now it’s Monday.  Yay.

Coming soon (probably the lunchtime post):  My BFF of the Month decision.

Tonight: Pint Nite, of course.