Roberta Chinsky Matuson, President of Human Resource Solutions, says, “Here are three of the most essential skills IT and technical people must possess or develop”:
Dr. Deb Brown is “a business coach and licensed psychologist with a Ph.D., an MBA, DDI certification as a facilitator, award-winning leadership skills, and years of experience partnering with leaders at all organizational levels.” She says:
This is a good bit of advice to mull over. But if you take in some or most of it, you will see new opportunities open up for you sooner or later.]]>
Another Forbes article worth reading is titled Hire For Attitude. The article isn’t saying you need a particular kind of attitude as much as that your attitude — which you could just as easily call “style” in this context — needs to match the attitude (or style) of your employer’s corporate culture. One scary note is that nearly half of all new hires fail within 18 months, and that the vast majority of failed hires are because of attitude, not a problem with the employee’s skills.
Although the “Attitude” article is written from an employer’s perspective, you need to think hard about how well you fit into a prospective employer’s corporate culture before you join it, especially if you’re moving to take the job. I’ve had friends who moved to take jobs that didn’t work out, and they were miserable.
Pick the Right Bachelor’s Curriculum
What if you don’t have a degree? Or only an ASEE? If you’re considering more education, a Bachelor’s is probably your next step unless you’re looking at specialized certification programs.
TheBestDegrees-dot-org has rankings of the top 51 degrees to have for getting a job and making money. Their #1 pick is an MBA in Technology Management, but four out of their top 10 are computer-related BS degrees.
Payscale-dot-com ranks undergrad degree prospects by salary. Petroleum Engineering is at the top of the list, but Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science are all in their top 10, with Child and Family Studies all the way at the bottom. Look both at starting salaries and at their “mid-career” estimates, which may be more important than starting salaries if you know what you want to do for the rest of your life.
I’ve already written about how adding business skills to your resume can make you more valuable. And don’t forget: accounting and bookkeeping are valuable skills to have if you decide to go into business for yourself.
But I say again: money is not everything. Do you truly love researching medieval tapestries or playing the euphonium? Are you good at what you love? If your answer to both questions is “yes,” perhaps you shouldn’t be thinking about work in terms of money.
Or perhaps you can strike a balance between earning and doing what you love. Matt Heusser, right here on IT Knowledge Exchange, has been writing about free spirits who earn money (but not necessarily a lot) programming or whatever while they travel and learn.
One great thing about computer-oriented work is that people who do it tend to tolerate oddness more than people who work in fields like accounting. This doesn’t mean you should dye your mustache green and wear a floppy hat to work every day. But it means that if you’re really, really good at what you do, you can travel here and there and find work when you need it or at least work on short-term projects with enough time in between them to built a series of authentic Shaker chairs or whatever else turns you on.
The problem with career advice is that, as a friend used to say, “we are all unique snowflakes, just like all the other snowflakes.” And so we are, each with our own needs, wants, tastes, and desires. This is why, no matter what I tell you, or anyone else tells you, only you can make up your mind about what kind of education you should have, what kind of work you should do, and how and where you should live your life.]]>
“Work at home” scams are legion. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has an informative page about avoiding work-at-home schemes. A common factor among many such ripoffs is that they require you to send them money before you start making oodles of dough taking phone reservations, stuffing envelopes, assembling crafts or whatever.
Funny: the whole “send us money and in return we’ll set you up to take in Big Buck$ is the essence of the Nigerian 419 scam. And this type of scam didn’t start on the Internet. It is as old as the hills, if not older.
Some people, including federal regulators, consider many for-profit colleges to be scams. Forbes has an infographic about the difference between non-profit and for-profit educational institutions. And in case you didn’t know it, almost every skills-training course offered by blah-blah tech in their TV ads is available at your local community college or other government-sponsored voc ed institution for a tiny fraction of what they cost at a for-profit college or trade school.
However, not all pay-them-for-training offers are scams. H&R Block has been offering tax preparation courses for many decades. The cost seems to vary by location, with a range of $150 – $300 being mentioned in some online forums. My father took the H&R Block course in the early 1960s, and earned significant side money during tax season for the rest of his life.
But that was a long time ago. Today, you might also want to check Liberty Tax Service. Their courses may not be as good as Block’s, but they’re free (aside from charges for books and materials.) In between is Jackson Hewitt. I was quoted $99 for their course in my area (Bradenton, FL), but the person who gave me that quote wasn’t sure if that was a nationwide price.
Why do I talk so much about tax prep? For one thing, it’s an industry where “you pay to learn, then maybe we’ll hire you,” has been an accepted practice for a long time. And since the courses aren’t expensive, even if they don’t hire you the knowledge you gain will help you with your own taxes, and you can probably make back the course cost (plus a bunch more) doing taxes for family and friends.
I also consider tax prep the ideal side job for engineers and IT people. You already know more math than 99% of the world’s CPAs. And (duh) you know how to use computers.
So fine. Maybe it’s worth your time and money to take a tax prep course. They’re usually held in the summer or fall, so that grads are ready to go in January, when tax season starts ramping up.
But other pay-to-learn-and-maybe-we’ll-hire-you deals? Be very careful. Check them out through the Better Business Bureau and other groups that check businesses for fraud tendencies. And there’s always the modern way to check any business: Type “[business name] sucks” into Google, and if it’s a big business you’re likely to find at least a few people who say that business is a baddie. Naturally, if it’s a business that serves millions, the chances are nearly 100% that at least some customers, employees or trainees are unhappy with it, but you’re a grownup with good judgment, so you can probably spot the scam businesses and sort them from the decent ones with a few minutes of research.
But be skeptical whenever anyone wants an advance fee to help you find a job. Whether it’s an employment agency, a school or any other job-finding service that wants to charge you for anything beyond resume-writing help, be wary, and do not give them money before you check them out.]]>
As in-house positions dwindle (or at least don’t get created as fast as in the past), IT positions with cloud vendors, managed service providers, and consulting firms are growing at a fine clip.
Foote regurgitates federal statistics, but also has a group of 2257 employers they “closely track” in their “own proprietary IT labor research,” and their closely-tracked employers are saying “this shift has given them greater flexibility and faster response times for capitalizing on business opportunities.”
Foote continues, “The fact is that often what is required to enable new revenue producing products and services are people with unusual combinations of skills, knowledge and experience. It can takes months to assemble teams of these workers but only days or weeks to bring then online using a number of staffing augmentation alternatives.”
But, Foote says, “while jobs were expanding in the Technical Services industries, they have been declining in the two other tech segments, Telecommunications and Data Processing, Hosting and Related Services, which together recorded net job losses of 41,800 and 24,300 in the last twelve and six months respectively.”
December was better than previous months for most workers
The official national unemployment rate has declined to 8.5 %, and 200,000 new jobs have opened up. 100,000 or more new openings have been filled in five of the last six months, which is great news for Americans who need jobs — or who have jobs but need or want better ones. And, overall, despite potential problems that could come up if the Euro tanks or Congress doesn’t extend the (2%) payroll tax cut, smart IT people should find significant opportunities in 2012. We’ll let Foote Partners say why:
“Though the economy is moderately expanding overall and employment statistics are improving, given all of this uncertainly it’s a little hard to imagine the government’s monthly labor reports improving substantially in the foreseeable future. It’s going to be tough going for a lot of people in 2012, but we’re confident that hybrid IT-business professionals will continue to be a bright spot in a tepid employment market, as well as people who possess a number of technical specializations that address specific areas of perceived business risk and reward.
“Unemployed and underemployed IT professionals need to take this information as a very positive opportunity as they contemplate their career plans. They really need to study the employment market closely to spot opportunities that may be available to them right now or perhaps with some additional skills acquisition. For example, there are plenty of jobs out there right now that employers are having trouble filling because that can’t find suitable candidates.
The Foote report concludes, “Sometimes this requires a change in ones mindset that divides your world between what has been your career path up to now and what’s possible in the future given your current skill sets, your age and interests, your industry and geographical preferences, and where the employment opportunities are opening up. It’s a little like shooting clay pigeons: you have to judge the latitude and longitude just right before you pull the trigger. Plus you have to have the right ammunition.”
Link to the (pdf) Foote Partners news release quoted above]]>
(I am assuming, throughout this post, that you are already working and want to find a better job. If you are not currently working, please go here and scroll through my other posts. Many of them were written for first-time job seekers or people who are currently out of work.)
One thing that might make 2012 a good year to find a better job is that many companies are starting to rethink outsourcing to China. If a sizable number of jobs are brought back to America, this will obviously help manufacturing workers. It will create more need for IT people, too, since modern factories and warehouses are heavily automated and need an ever-growing number of techies to run.
Meanwhile, there is this question: Does Government Create Uncertainty and Prolong the Recession? I am not paid to look into a crystal ball and utter incomprehensible predictions about our financial futures, and how government policies affect it, so I won’t make any. All I will say is that we have an election in November, 2012, which may or may not give us a new president and a bunch new faces in Congress, and if that isn’t uncertainty I don’t know what is.
In the end, looking at macroeconomics isn’t going to be of much use in making your employment decisions. You personal situation matters much more. What if you are offered a job that pays 20% more than the job you have now, but to take it you’ll need to move? And walk away from your underwater mortgage? This is a calculation that is not going to be affected by the upcoming election. Neither Ron Paul, Barack Obama or anyone else is going to immediately stabilize our housing market. You need to weigh the risk of moving against how much you think you will like the new job and whether you will get enough of a raise from it to be worth the financial disruption it will cause in your life.
And how about this alternative: you find a high-paying job in New York or another high-cost area, but keep your house in Cheapville and leave your family there, while sharing a New York apartment with six other guys and going home once or twice a month? Migrant laborers from Mexico and many other countries have been doing this for decades. It’s hard on a family, but if it’s the only way to have a healthy financial situation, it might be what you decide you need to do — at least until you find a better job near your home or manage to work a short sale or other way to get out from under your mortgage and bring your family to where your new job is.
Suddenly, being (or staying) single looks easy, doesn’t it?
There is no free lunch, and no decision that doesn’t have a downside to it. You might decide to stick with your current job, at least for the next year (assuming the company looks stable enough that you probably won’t lose that job in 2012).
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
It’s a good thing it’s January, and that it’s a slow-hiring time of year, because that gives us an entire month to make up our minds. And we may need the whole month, given the many uncertainties of life in modern America.]]>