A short deviation from the technical content of this blog, as I complete my first week at the new job. (Shameless promotion of my new employer here.) There are a lot of people out of work right now, and many of them are my friends and colleagues. So, I want to spend a bit of time explaining what worked, what didn’t work, and post a few thoughts on finding employment during the current unpleasantness.
- Your resume is your marketing brochure, so get some help if you can. When I was terminated from IBM, I was provided with a generous package from Right Management. I am particularly indebted to the folks at Right Management’s Denver, CO office for their professionalism and dedication to the success of their clients. My software development resume can be viewed here. I also have one tailored for IT Management. You probably can get enough free information from the web to avoid paying for a resume service – there are a lot of scams out there, I’m afraid.
- If you’re a techie, you need an online presence. You are expected to have at least a LinkedIn account. I also recommend Twitter, but only use it for technical/professional snippets. A web site and a blog is a lot of work, but it’s a big marketing advantage. Go to Google, and type in your full name – make sure you’re not being confused with a serial killer or something equally bogus. Employers are doing online checks of candidates.
- The job boards are saturated, so don’t depend on them to land a job. Spend 20% of your time on job boards, and 80% of your time on networking. See the next bullet. Yes, it’s much harder than pushing buttons on a web site. I hated it too. Get over it.
- Get off the job boards, get on the phone. Networking will be the key to being employed in this market. A personal referral to an employer is a huge factor in landing you an interview, so don’t hesitate to ask when appropriate.
- Get a name, get a number. If you can bypass the job boards and get to a hiring manager (or at least an HR person or a recruiter), do it. An e-mail address, or a name with a phone number can sometimes help put your resume at the top of the pile.
- Customize your resume for the job, and write a killer cover letter. This is also true for the job boards. If they give you a text box for a cover letter, use it. Yes, it’s a lot of work, so you have to apply only for those positions that you really want and for which you are actually qualified.
- Over forty? De-emphasize your age, cultivate a younger image. Any work experience older than 15 – 20 years is probably not relevant, so leave it off the resume. Remove the graduation dates from your degrees if they are way in the past. Avoid age-related words like “seasoned”, “mature”, etc. For your online persona, use an avatar rather than an actual picture.
- Timing and luck is a factor. There’s nothing quite like being in the right place at the right time, with the right skills. You can create luck by networking, but I think a lot of it is also just good karma.
A big mental change for me was the realization that I will need to be in constant job-search mode from here on out. Fifteen years at one company isn’t going to happen any more. It’s not your father’s job market, and never will be again.