IT Career JumpStart


March 25, 2009  3:44 PM

Whole lotta nothin’ goin’ on…



Posted by: Ed Tittel
coping with job loss, IT career planning, IT careers, job search, job search skills, soft skills

My last blog (“It’s COLD Out There/Here“) not only elicited a couple of comments on the boards, it also stimulated numerous e-mails from other readers who pick the blog up via newsfeeds (for example on LinkedIn or FaceBook). If you like universal consensus, you should be happy because that’s what I got from everybody —namely, that now is not a good time to go looking for a new job unless you have absolutely no choice in the matter at all.

It’s one thing to read that the job market is tough, and that people are having difficulty finding work, even in IT. It’s another thing altogether to experience this first-hand for yourself, as I have in the past three weeks or so. It’s even more of a wake-up call to hear these same experiences and sentiments echoed by a great many people you know, and whose opinions and perspectives you trust, as well as from acquaintances who chime in to validate this outlook.

Batten down the hatches, and be prepared to stay put wherever you might be right now, if you’ve got any kind of job. As I said in my reply to the previous blog’s commenters “What’s the point in going out looking, when the only thing you’re certain to find is trouble?” And while jobs may be scarce, or even non-existent, in some situations, trouble is one thing that never experiences shortages. With an ample supply already available to you in your current situation and life, why add to that stock right now?

I’m going to keep poking and prodding myself, because getting into trouble lets me learn about it, document it, understand it, and hopefully grope toward solutions that can inform if not actually benefit all of us. I’m going to keep pushing the envelope, and see what’s in there! Stay tuned…

March 23, 2009  3:42 PM

It’s COLD Out Here/There…



Posted by: Ed Tittel
coping with job loss, IT career planning, IT careers, IT job search, job seeking skills, job skills development

In a classic exercise known as “eat your own dogfood” — by which I mean practicing what I’m preaching about hunting for contract and full-time employment by signing up at resume and job-hunting sites — I’ve been taking a pretty serious shellacking at the hands of recruiters and hiring managers lately. “It’s OK,” I console myself by saying, “I really don’t want those jobs anyway,” but man it really hurts to see one’s market value decline along with the rest of the economy. Let me explain…

I’ve signed up directly at various job shopping/resume sites, and also through my memberships at Facebook and LinkedIn, to see what the job market is like on a personal basis these days. So far, I’ve found perhaps a dozen positions for which my qualifications match sufficiently for employers to be at least theoretically interested in talking to me, if not actually interested in doing so. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve experienced so far from these twelve positions:

  • So far, no reponse at all for 8 of the online applications has occurred, for intervals between one and three weeks since my indication of e-interest. I’ve been careful to provide cover letters and current resumes in all cases, and have also received electronic tokens of receipt for these applications, so it’s clear they’re not simply floating in the ether never having been received.
  • I’ve gotten calls from two recruiters, both of whom have offered half (or slightly less) of the minimum hourly or salary rate that I carefully included in each of my applications. It’s very much a first for me to be approached when such a profound mismatch exists between my stated hourly or salary needs and the rates the hiring or contracting company is willing to pay.
  • I’ve gotten electronic messages from two employers, both indicating that my application is under review, and they’ll get back to me if and when they decide my qualifications and their requirements warrant further discussion or conversation. Other than that, nada!

I’m guessing this is typical for the current market. Conventional wisdom holds that it takes one month for every $10,000 in annual salary that a person wishes to earn to conclude a successful job search. At my preferred level of compensation that means it should take me at least a year to find a job. So far, all indications are that the time horizon is further stretched than that, if anything.

The most telling evidence of the state of the market is that recruiters are calling when they know they’re low-balling contract or salary demands. The one contract job I was offered came with an hourly rate that I exceeded (based on converting salary to hourly by dividing yearly earnings by 2,000, a not atypical conversion approach, though 1,000 makes more sense with what benefits cost when you cover them yourself these days) in 1984! Needless to say, I simply informed the recruiter that I wasn’t interested in the work at that rate of pay, and left it at that. The salaried position I was offered got me into the early 1990s given the 2,000 conversion value, but was still about 1/3 lower than I would be willing to start commuting for, were I  to accept such a position.

That’s the way it goes in the 2009 economy. Please share your war stories, too, and I’ll chime in again from time to time with status on this situation. It’s interesting, depressing, and potentially terrifying, depending on what other income streams you have at your disposal. In my case, I’m still staying busy enough as a full-time freelancer to keep the wolf from the door, but for others…well, you tell me: how’s it going out there?


March 19, 2009  7:38 PM

ITKE Contest Lets Experts Play on Their Knowledge



Posted by: Ed Tittel
ITKE, ITKE contest, win an Xbox 360

Between March 18 (yesterday) and April 30th (the end of next month) IT Knowledge Exchange (ITKE) members who rack up the most Knowledge Points and ask five IT related questions can win one of three different Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming rigs (an Elite model goes to the top ranked player, a regular Xbox 360 for second place, and an Xbox 360 Arcade to the third-ranked expert). To repeat: the people with the highest Knowledge Points scores who have also asked at least 5 IT questions in the period from 3/18-4/30/2009 will win Xbox 360 gaming systems.

As usual, some further restrictions apply to these rules:

  • Only players from the following countries are eligible: USA, Canada, UK, and Western Europe (I’m guessing this means countries in the European Union or its geographical confines, though residents of Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, and so forth may want to request clarification before going all out for a top slot).
  • Previous Xbox contest winners at ITKE are not eligible for this contest.
  • All answers, discussions, and questions will be reviewed for validity.

So start answering lots of questions (see the index of topics on the contest announcement blog) and visit the Ask a Question page to start building up credit for your 5 obligatory inquiries as well.

Good luck to one and all. Hope to see you on the podium at the end of April!

–Ed–


March 18, 2009  5:22 PM

Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization



Posted by: Ed Tittel
coping with job loss, IT careers, IT employment, underemployment, unemployment

How do you measure unemployment? Well, that depends. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks no fewer than six such measures, though it reports only on one of them as “the official unemployment rate.” These measures are known as U1 through U6, where U3 corrresponds to official unemployment. Here’s how those measures are defined at the BLS:

  • U-1, persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-2, job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (this is the definition used for the official unemployment rate);
  • U-4, total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
  • U-5, total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; and
  • U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

As the explanations should verify, these measures increase monotonically as the U-number goes up, so that U1 < U2 < … < U6. For me because U6 is the comprehensive and sweeping measure, it’s also the most interesting and (for me at least) the most likely to indicate how many people consider themselves to be unemployed or underemployed.

If you take a look at the 2008 annual averages you’ll see some pretty sobering numbers by state and territory as well (including the District of Columbia, but not the outlying US territories nor Puerto Rico). Michigan tops the list with a truly scary 15.1% but 26 out of 51 entries come in at 10.1% or higher. No wonder a key priority in restarting our economy has to be putting people back to work: with at least one in 10 who could be in the workforce not all the way into the workforce, that could provide a big infusion of income at the macro level, and make millions of un- and underemployed Americans real wage earners once again.


March 13, 2009  4:33 PM

Nearly Everbody Is a Winner! Cisco Flashcards & Simulator



Posted by: Ed Tittel
640-460, 640-553, 640-822, adult education, CCENT, CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, Cisco certification, continuing education, IT career planning, IT careers, IT certification

Cisco Press gave me 5 licenses for each item for the contest, so I’m able to give the first 5 posters a license for the 640-533 CCNA Security exam. That means the following posters should contact me to obtain their license keys–namely:

  • Rob M, Provo, UT
  • Kathy B, Twin Cities, MN
  • Yasir I, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
  • Reggie G, Chicago, IL
  • Juan L, Austin, TX

You’ll need to visit my Web page at www dot edtittel dot com and check the contact info to send me an e-mail with your contact information and phone number (except for Yasir I). I’ll call all the others and confirm your identity, then e-mail you your pickup link and license key. Congratulations to all of you, and condolences to Brett P from Central Wisconsin whose 6th place request exceeded my supply (if you want a license for the CCENT simulator, do let me know because I’ve got a couple of extra licenses to give away).

All of the CCENT Network Simulator requests will be granted, and should follow the same instructions for the 640-533 crowd (e-mail me a phone number so I can verify your identity, yada yada). These lucky people are:

  • Carl W, San Jose, CA
  • Kobi O, Brooklyn, NY
  • Kelly K, Springville, UT

I’ve also got 5 licenses for the 640-460 CCNA Voice flashcards to hand out as well, so please let your friends and colleagues know that if they post a comment requesting same to this or any other thread where it’s mentioned they can pick one of those up for themselves as well, as long as they’re in the first 5 postings requesting one.

Thanks very much to all those who participated. This was fun! If any readers have requests for other cert study material give-aways like this one, let me know and I’ll contact the publishers involved to see if they want to help out. Consider it our small contribution to stimulating the economy!


March 11, 2009  4:13 PM

In Today’s Job Market, Prospective Employers Want It All



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, advanced degrees, certification ladder, college degrees, continuing education, IT career planning, IT careers, IT certification, job experience, job seeking skills, soft skills

I was just musing on the state of the current job market, where it’s not unfair to say that there are a lot more people chasing jobs than there are jobs chasing people. Once again, I find myself pondering the “Big Three’ ingredients that all employers consider when selecting among multiple applicants for any IT position, as must surely be the case with so many IT professionals pursuing (or trying to remain in) a shrinking pool of jobs:

  • Education: In today’s market a bachelor’s is no longer a “nice-to-have” credential. As a gifted but undegreed colleague and occasional co-worker of mine has learned several times to his loss in the last 6 months, a degree of some kind is often required just to be considered for any kind of IT position nowadays. Add points for an MA, more points for an MBA, Masters in Science and Engineering, and still more for any kind of PhD. Going back to school, and adding degrees nearly always results in a payoff, says everybody from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to compensation specialists like David Foote of Foote and Associates.
  • Technical qualifications/Certifications: Though not all technical qualifications result in certification, certs are probably the best-recognized example of this type of “tangible technical training and achievement” category. But in this case, perceived (high) value and distinctness are also important. An MCP, CCNA, any CompTIA cert, and other entry level credentials have become must-have checkbox items for many IT positions. It’s the harder-to-earn and scarcer credentials like CCIE, CISSP, and SAP certs that open eyes–and doors to new positions. Increasingly this means earning entry level certs aggressively, and treating them like the stepping stones they’ve become, then stepping up to higher rungs in cert ladders to earn recognition, increased opportunities, and better pay.
  • Experience: This is still the king of the IT job qualification hill. Direct, documented, and substantial experience with the tools and technologies that companies use, need, or wish to invest in still trumps the other two items when employers look for differentiation among otherwise similar candidates.

But the problem with a buyer’s market is that an abundance of candidates to choose from means that employers can become extremely selective about whom they’ll bring on board to fill open positions. Hence my point for this blog (and its title): given the situation, employers want real stars who’ve got depth in all three areas. That means advanced degrees, serious certifications, and lots of direct relevant experience are what it takes to get through the door and on board these days. That means we all have to be looking for ways to address these concerns and to convince prospective employers we’ve got the chops to do the job, whether or not we can claim to max out in all three categories!


March 9, 2009  7:54 PM

MS Keeps Up Its Training Blitz



Posted by: Ed Tittel
IT career planning, IT careers, IT certification, Microsoft Career Assist, Microsoft certifications, Microsoft Skills Week

About the same time my MS Partner Program “Learning Curve Newsletter” hit my inbox this morning, I also got some e-mail from MS PR with reference to their latest salvo in the training and certification arena. Get ready: this week–that is, the week of March 9-lucky 13, 2009–is “Microsoft Skills Week,” wherein Microsoft will orchestrate nearly 200 partner-led events in the US and Canada. This latest effort is supposed to help IT pros and software developers improve upon and validate their skills, and allow them to mingle with industry leaders, and make progress toward MS certification. This week’s activies are to kick off a whole series of events that will ultimately reach their conclusion in May at Microsoft’s annual Tech•Ed shindig (in LA this year, breaking with long standing residence in Orlando). In fact, there’s a whole Web site for this initiative, from which I shamelessly snip the front-page logo here:

Micrososft Skills Week Branding/Logo

Micrososft Skills Week Branding/Logo

Here’s what’s going on during Skills Week this week:

  • Access to Career Assist: I won’t go into this any further here, since I’ve already blogged about it on February 6 when details of this program were first leaked.
  • On-site study sessions called “Exam Crams” (hey! That’s a very familiar phrase to me…) where exam candidates can bone up for immanent exams.
  • Live Meetings (by which I presume MS means online, Web-based audio/video encounters) with MS technology specialists  and trainers who will demonstrate training assist technologies (yawn) and answer questions to help them prepare (hooray).
  • Exam Discounts: Take exams on-site at events, and save 40% off the usual price (use discount code NAM40UP to qualify).

Out of not-so-idle curiosity I clicked on the “Find an event near you!” button on the Skills Week web page (whose URL is www.certificationweek.com, and hints of more stuff to come between now and Tech•Ed) and compiled these factoids:

  • There will be 10 Web-based events (“Live Meetings?”) this week from numerous national training companies, of which New Horizons is the most active participant on subjects ranging from general certifcation hoo-rah to coverage of exams 70-642, .NET 3.5 MCPD stuff, 70-643, 70-620, and 70-647.
  • 1 Event in the Austin Metro area (within 50 miles of my ZIP), which also corresponds to all events in Texas this week (c’mon MS: what about Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, the three largest cities in TX?).
  • No events featuring a Microsoft Across America Truck anywhere in the US or Canada (why mention it until something is ready?)
  • A total of 80 events that will take place this week are currently visible on the Events Page as I write this blog, including study sessions, overview/introduction sessions, Live Meetings, and more. Looks to me like about half are marketing oriented, the other half include technical substance.

For those who need to take exams soon, looking into onsite activities is worthwhile because of the $60 savings it means on MS exams. It’s possible that some of this content might be worthwhile as well (I’ll check out the New Horizons Vista stuff on Thursday at 11:30 AM Central because I can gather info for this blog and my Vista blog at the same time). A note of warning/info: if you want to attend a Web session, better sign up soon because it’s by registration and I’m guessing total available slots will be capped.

But so far, there’s a lot of infrastructure here for  relatively small set of content offerings. Makes me think more must be coming soon or MS wouldn’t have proffered so much hoopla and such a serious media blitz.


March 6, 2009  7:47 PM

Lots of Buzz, and Another Cisco Press Item to Ponder



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, Cisco CCENT, Cisco CCNA Security, Cisco CCNA Voice, Cisco exam 640-460, Cisco exam 640-553, Cisco exam 640-822, continuing education, IT career development, IT career planning, IT careers, IT certification, IT certification study materials

We’ve gotten such a great response to my last posting, that I’m going to extend the contest for the Flashcards and Network Simulator through Friday, March 13 (duh! duh! DUH!!!). Cisco Press also kindly volunteered another item for giveaway–namely Flashcards for the CCNA Voice 640-460 exam.

Chris Olsen is the author of this Flashcard deck

Chris Olsen is the author of this Flashcard deck

As before, anyone who posts a comment to this blog that provides the following information will be eligible to win:

  • First name, last initial, and approximate location (for example: “Ed T, Central TX” in my case).
  • Exam of interest (that means either 640-460, 640-822, or 640-553; limit: 1 per poster)
  • When you plan to take the exam by month and year (for example “April, 2009″)
  • What other study materials you’re using (for example “Exam Cram, practice tests, and CCCure.org“)
  • Employment status (for example “working at a small private company doing IT,” “unemployed,” or “full-time student”)
  • A brief statement as to why you think you should get this award (for example “nearly ready to take the exam, and could benefit from some additional review materials”)

Next Friday, March 13, I’ll post three finalists for each item, and ask them to contact me by e-mail to get their winnings. So far, I’ve gotten 7 genuine responses to the original posting. Let’s go for more this weekend. Thanks to those who’ve already posted comments. To those who haven’t yet done so: Remember the old adage of the Texas Lottery “You have to play to win!”

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

–Ed–


March 4, 2009  2:24 PM

Cisco Press Supplies the Prizes, I Decide Who Gets Them!



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, Cisco CCENT, Cisco CCNA Security, Cisco CCNA Voice, Cisco exam 640-460, Cisco exam 640-553, Cisco exam 640-822, continuing education, IT career development, IT career planning, IT careers, IT certification, IT certification study materials

[Updated 3/11/2009: see update info at end of post!!!]

On February 9, I blogged about Pearson/Cisco Press’s CertFlashCardsOnline offerings. One of their publicists contacted me to let me know they’d seen the post, and offered me a pair of free licenses to a couple of different products:

CCNA Security flashcards

CCNA Security flashcards

Network simulator for CCENT exam

Network simulator for CCENT exam

Though the publisher is ponying up the licenses I get to decide who earns them. I’m hereby declaring a competition to earn these items, and will award them one week from today on March 11. In the meantime, anyone who posts a comment to this blog that provides the following information will be eligible to win:

  • First name, last initial, and approximate location (for example: “Ed T, Central TX” in my case).
  • Exam of interest (that means either 640-822 or 640-553, but not both, please)
  • When you plan to take the exam by month and year (for example “April, 2009″)
  • What other study materials you’re using (for example “Exam Cram, practice tests, and CCCure.org”)
  • Employment status (for example “working at a small private company doing IT,” “unemployed,” or “full-time student”)
  • A brief statement as to why you think you should get this award (for example “nearly ready to take the exam, and could benefit from some additional review materials”)

Next Wednesday, I’ll post three finalists for each item, and ask them to contact me by e-mail to get their winnings. Stay tuned! I’m curious to see what kind of response this will provoke.

–Ed–

[Update 3/11/2009]: While the contest was supposed to end today, thanks to Cisco Press’ generous addition of Flashcards for exam 640-460 CCNA Security, I extended it until this Friday, March 13. Please check back that morning to see if you’ve won, and also see my blog for March 6 for more information about that addition. You still have two more days to post to any of these blogs to enter yourself for consideration. I’ll be giving at least three copies of each item away, so don’t be bashful!!!


March 2, 2009  4:54 PM

When Job Fairs Aren’t Completely Fair Affairs



Posted by: Ed Tittel
Career planning, coping with job loss, Interpersonal skills, IT career planning, IT careers, IT employment, IT job search, job fairs, job seeking skills, soft skills

I heard a very interesting news story on NPR this morning about job fairs in the Midwest. As you might expect, attendance at such soirees among employers is down for the time being, while attendance among those seeking work is way up, especially for unemployed people. Check out the story by Adam Hochberg online: it’s entitled “Job Seekers Find Long Lines, Little Payoff At Fairs

What suprised me was hearing that many companies currently attending job fairs may actually not have any positions open. Here’s the quote that caught me off-guard lifted straight from the tail-end of the aforementioned story:

And some of the firms accepting applications didn’t really have any openings. Rather, they were trying to improve the quality of their work force — by searching for people who might do a better job than the employees they already have.

Wow! Talk about a chilling signal of a buyer’s market for employment. Presumably this means that if some candidate were to present him- or herself at a job fair, and be significantly better qualified than a person currently occupying some particular position, then the current job-holder might be laid off or let go to create a space for that person to fill. The very notion sends chills racing up and down my spine.

I got one of my best-ever corporate jobs at a job fair, working for a company called Excelan as a networking consultant from 1987 to 1989, at which time the outfit was acquired by Novell, for whom I continued to work until 1994. I’m pretty sure that nobody was let go to make room for me during that downturn in the economy (we were coming out of a recession back then), but you never know. Kind of makes me rethink the whole politics of attending such events, but then, those who do attend them usually do so because they feel they must, rather than really wanting to go.


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