Standing out in the marketplace

Standing out in the marketplace

Constant corporate restructuring and expansion create excellent opportunities for professionals in the IT field, according to Anastasia Conlan, account manager for Contractors Network in Canada. Conlan, who spoke at an IT Career Transition meeting recently, offered a variety of tips and ideas on where to look for jobs, how to write a resume and how to conduct yourself during an interview.

"Corporations are evolving and expanding and these are economic indicators of change," she said. "When systems need to be integrated, people need to be shown how to use the new system. For example, the Internet was nothing six months ago and now suddenly we need people who can program HTML and create Web sites - it's a hot requirement. Windows 95 was also nothing before August 1995, and suddenly we have 10 to 15 requirements every month for someone who knows Windows 95. So as soon as a product is released, it has an impact on business."

Finding a job should be viewed as a sales effort, where people must market their abilities, said Conlan. It requires a person to "appeal to the human factor" and be extremely flexible.

"Anybody who you meet, the special interest groups you belong to, any functions you attend, any speaker you listen to, any companies you have contact with - these are all potential business for you," Conlan said. "Record data, pay attention to who you're meeting, what they do, anything you hear about their product, and anything you read in the paper, because these are potential opportunities."

When applying for an IT position, it is essential to use the resume and cover letter to capture a potential employer's interest. According to Conlan, the cover letter should include a one-paragraph introduction and statement of position sought. Follow that with a summary of skills, including those of interest to the potential employer, and a chronological list of experiences.

In terms of the actual resume, Conlan suggests starting with name, address and objective. Follow that with a skills category - summarising ability with software and hardware - and then IT related experiences, including company name and a brief description of its business, roles and responsibilities at the company, scope of projects handled, and software and hardware used on the particular project.

Education, relevant associations, affiliations, certifications, hobbies, interests and references (available upon request) should follow. "The resume can be between one and five pages but you should potentially have one resume for each type of role you're looking to market yourself into and highlight those skills," Conlan said. Once the resume gets its foot in the door, the next step is the interview. "Make the interview very client-oriented: focus on their needs and empathise with what they're saying," she said. "You want to show clients that you are the solution to their problem, so be very empathetic."

She also suggested asking: "does that answer your question, is that what you're looking for, can I expand on that further, can I provide you with more information?". Another idea, and a good negotiating tool, is never offer a number when they ask what salary is expected.

"Ask them what they think is fair," Conlan said. "Say to them, based on my experience, based on my background, based on your budget, what do you think is fair?"

"Leave the ball in their court and never suggest a number because they could be thinking $80k, you could be thinking $60k, they would pay $70 and you think you can sell yourself at $50 - always a no win situation."

It is very important in this changing field, Conlan stressed, to demonstrate the ability to adjust to meet an employer's needs. "As a general rule, recognise that the only constant in the industry is change; by doing so you're increasing your marketability and your flexibility with regards to obtaining opportunities that can take you where you want to go in your career," Conlan said.

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