Q&A: Andy Lester
The author of Land the Tech Job You Love thinks the way most of us look for a job is ineffective.
You say that conventional job-hunting techniques don't work for programmers, systems administrators and the like. Why is that?
It's not that they don't work, but that they're not enough. Competition is tougher than ever in this economy, and just shotgunning résumés to every ad you see is a waste of time. When you're sending out 100 résumés that are all the same, you're not focusing on the one or two solid choices of jobs that are likely to be what you want and for which you're qualified. The other candidates for tech jobs are also going to be tech-savvy and well acquainted with using the Net for research. They'll know how to search on the Net for inside information about companies and the people who work at them. They will probably have extensive networks of contacts in LinkedIn. For nontech workers, this sort of know-how might be an advantage that wins the job, but for us in the computer world, it's standard.
What are good job-hunting skills to develop?
Serious researching is at the top of the list. The hiring manager is praying that the next résumé, the next interview, will be the ideal candidate that he can hire so he can get back to work. Most candidates send out generic résumés, or walk into the interview jaded and uninterested. The techie who has done enough work to create a résumé and cover letter that addresses the needs of the company is far more likely to get the job. To do that, the candidate must research. She has to use information sources, from Google to the local library and the chamber of commerce, to find out about the company. That level of preparation tells the company, "I'm here to do serious work, and I care about landing this job." The other skill isn't a skill but self-knowledge. When we get caught up in the activity of job hunting, it's easy to forget that we need to find a job we love, or at the very least that we don't hate. Life is too short, and our hours at work too long, to spend time in a job that you don't love.
You say that a lot of jobs never get posted on job boards. How does a person go about getting a job like that?
Job boards appeal to the geek. We're so used to finding everything we need with a few clicks in Google that we assume that all our job needs are on a few job boards. That's not the case. Don't get lulled into the idea that as soon as a company has a job opening, it's going to make a posting on Monster.com. Techies have to learn the value of social networking, and I don't mean Facebook and LinkedIn. It's important to make contacts with others so that when the time comes, the connections are in place. The hiring manager has his connections; he's working to have candidates referred to him, because all other things being equal, he's going to prefer hiring someone he knows or who is referred to him by someone he knows. The way to know about these jobs is by making the contacts, and making your skills and background known to them, before the job hunt starts.
-- Jamie Eckle
Why Can't We Be Friends?
Managers are reluctant to be friended on Facebook by their employers and by their own bosses.
How comfortable are you with being friended by someone you manage?
How comfortable are you with being friended by a superior?
|Not very comfortable||13%||15%|
|Not comfortable at all||29%||32%|
Source: OfficeTeam survey of 150 randomly selected senior executives at the 1,000 largest companies in the U.S., fall 2009
Training Is Trailing
Total training spending in the U.S. fell sharply last year.
* 2005: $51.1 billion
* 2006: $55.8 billion
* 2007: $58.5 billion
* 2008: $56.2 billion
* 2009: $48.2 billion
Source: Bersin & Associates, September 2009
Career Watch is compiled by Jamie Eckle.