2. What is your prior work experience? How many years of work, and what kind of work have you done? Any volunteer work? Part-time work in school or elsewhere? (You’d be surprised how much value employers give to those who show evidence of being able to hold a job, and how much credit they give to people willing to work for nothing as volunteers or part-time to get experience in their chosen fields.)
3. Where do you live? What is the job market like there? How much opportunity for entry-level people? mid-career people? senior people?
4. Are you interested in working in management, or would you prefer to stay on a technical track? Have you ever done any project management (and again, school, part-time, and volunteer experience all help)?
5. What kinds of certifications interest you? Please describe any certification held, currency status (if applicable), and when earned.
6. Do your long-term career goals include staying in your current position (or in the same field as the next position you’re seeking, if applicable)?
7. What kind of job are you doing now? What kind of job would you like to be doing? How important is salary to you? How important is job satisfaction? If you could have any job at all, what would that be?
With answers to these questions, I get to know something about the person as well as the various options they may be pondering. This helps me to provide answers that have a better chance of helping both in the short and long terms, and that can be tailored to their specific location, circumstances, needs, and goals.
I hope this makes sense, and that future advice seekers will understand why it’s very helpful to me, and ultimately to them, to provide this kind of data.
Best wishes in your planning, hopes, efforts and progress toward a fulfilling and meaningful career.
I take some heart from both sets of numbers. The first indicates that employers are seeing fewer reasons to trim staff than they have for quite some time. The second says that the number of jobs lost (both planned and unplanned) continues to wane. Together, these statistics tell us that things continue to improve somewhat, though we’re by no means out of losing territory (job losses and layoffs do continue, albeit at a slower pace) and onto winning ground (where, ideally not only the general jobs numbers would improve, but also where IT employment would increase as well).
I continue to repeat my incantation “Be calm. Stay put. Things will improve.” knowing that while we do indeed see a few small rays of sunshine, the overall forecast remains pretty grey and gloomy, all the way into 2011 and beyond. But for the first time in quite a while, I find myself looking forward to the February job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the same BLS I mention in my first paragraph here) rather than dreading what they might portend. Let’s hope that modest or faint improvements improve somewhat themselves in the months ahead, and that the trickle of good news turns into a torrent. We could all use some encouragement, to be sure!]]>
The team captain on my Thursday night nine-ball league is a great big strong guy, who’s often called “Big John” to distinguish him from the other player named John in our group (and to give you an idea of how big “Big” is, the lesser of the two weighs a good 230 and stands at least 6’2″ tall). Big John sometimes has a problem playing pool because he will occasionally get angry or frustrated. When that happens, he starts banging the balls very hard indeed. Though it does create an impressive display of kinetic motion and power transfer, his accuracy suffers when he does this and this often means that when he loses his cool, he also loses his match.
Last night I was keeping score when he was called upon to play for a second time at the very end of our five-game series (one of our other players is expecting a child and because the bar where we play is one of the few “smoking allowed” establishments left in Travis County, TX — believe it or not, pool halls are one of a very, very small number of places that serve alcohol where indoor smoking is still legal — she’s wisely decided to sit out the rest of the season to avoid further exposure to second hand smoke). Big John’s opponent made 8 out of 10 points on the first rack of balls, and I could see the smoke start to come out of his ears.
I told him that he could get mad if he wanted to, but if he wanted to win he needed to shrug off the score and concentrate on maximizing his opportunities to score when his turn came around. I observed that his opponent needed to score 38 points to win, whereas he, Big John, needed only 25. If he played his game correctly, he could easily attain his scoring goal before his opponent beat him.
I’m not sure if my words of advice made any difference, but Big John did indeed settle down and proceeded to inch his way up in the standings, while his opponent started blowing hot and cold on the table. Ultimately, Big John was able to win because he stayed cool, and scored points whenever he could. He attributed his win to having consumed sufficient malted beverages to let him remain philosophical even when he got behind. Perhaps that played a role, but I have to think his attitude of “do what you can, whenever you can” is what won him the game. In a statistically rare conclusion to the evening, we tied the other team 50-50, and everybody walked away with their dignity intact and a positive outcome for both sides.
On the way home to the house last night, I thought that our current economy is a lot like that pool game, and most of us IT workers have the tendency to react like Big John does when he starts getting behind. When things don’t go our way, we tend to get frustrated. If they keep going south long enough — as they sometimes will, and indeed as they have for anybody who works in IT for the last couple of years and a little bit more — we even start getting angry about our situation, and the gross unfairness of it all.
Alas, macroeconomics is even more indifferent to the fates and fortunes of IT workers than a poolplayer’s opponent is to his attitude about getting behind or losing. With the economy going up just a little lately, the temptation is there to get angry and frustrated about the slow pace, and even the “one step forward and two steps back” progress toward recovery. But if we can all just remain cool, and hunker down, we’ll be able to seize the inevitably opportunities that will come along when things begin to pick up in earnest…even if that means waiting until 2011, or 2012, or even longer than that. I repeat “Hang in there!”]]>
Given that IT represents about 5.35% of the total workforce, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 313,000 IT professionals out seeking work. As I’ve observed in other blogs, IT may be poised for an upturn later in 2010, but that turn is going to have to climb to significantly higher levels to reabsorb all of the IT professionals currently un- or under-employed. Then, too, we must also include the 1.3 million individuals who will earn a college degree of some kind in 2010, adding another 70,000 individuals likely to also seek employment in some kind of IT role or another (assuming the same proportion of IT degrees as there are IT workers in the general workforce).
What does all this mean? Although the economy may have turned a corner, and improvements are already in progress, it’s still going to be some time before employment in the US returns to anything like normal. And of course, what holds for the economy also holds for IT: most experts do anticipate some kind of uptick in IT hiring by the second half of 2010, but with over 300,000 people from the under- or unemployed contending for those positions, along with another 70,000 individuals who will be knocking at the door for entry-level positions, things could remain “interesting” for a long time.
There are those who believe that IT will never return to its former glory days and soak up all of the excess people who are ready to return to work, or who soon will be ready to join the IT work force. I happen to think that IT is increasingly an engine for growth and competitive advantage, and have to believe that a real recovery will mean that the excess gets soaked up and demand continues upward even from there. But only time will tell, and I can’t even say how soon will be soon enough to say if I’m dreaming or onto a genuine relationship between enabling technology—namely, IT—and real market growth.]]>
The good news is that this doesn’t mean it’s necessary to repeat the exams on a three-year schedule. Here’s what the press release says about renewal qualifications:
Among activities that will qualify for continuing education credits are passing a “bridge” exam or the most current exam for their CompTIA certification; teaching, lecturing or presenting on relevant industry topics; participating in non-degree courses or computer-based training; attending relevant industry conferences and events; participating in a CompTIA exam development workshop; publishing articles, whitepapers, blogs or books on relevant topics; obtaining other industry certifications; or completing industry-related college courses from degree-granting institutions.
Frankly, I say “hooray!” Given the ongoing change and ferment in PC technology (A+), networking and security (the other two), it’s entirely appropriate for these credentials to come with a timestamp so employers can tell how current the credential holder’s knowledge base might or might not be.
And of course, there’s a very good reason why CompTIA had to change its tune on renewal and recertification, too:
The renewal policy also is required for these three certifications to maintain their accreditation and compliance with internationally accepted standards for assessing personnel certification programs (ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024). CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications earned the ISO 17024 accreditation from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2008. ISO requires that individuals have a way to renew the currency of their certification on a regular basis. In CompTIA’s case, renewal will occur every three years.
If you want to play in the big, internationally standardized leagues you also have to play by their rules. Good for ISO, and good for CompTIA, too.]]>
In case the screencap is too low-res to read, the job roles that MS defines are:
Click on any given job role, and you jump to a page where you’ll find a basic job description, skills at the basic, intermediate and expert levles, typical experience requirements, and so on in the left hand column. On the right-hand column, you’ll get access to complete learning plans, recommended e-learning courses, relevant certification exams, Webcasts, and virtual labs, plus special free software offers for students registered at accredited colleges and universities.
If you’re in school, and interested in IT, this site is definitely worth a visit. If you’re thinking about going to school in IT, this may be just the impetus you need to push you into actual attendance. Check it out at the Microsoft Student Career Portal.]]>
Some basic numbers worth noting include:
It’s not time to break out the hats and noisemakers just yet, but a little more light is leaking into this end of a long, dark tunnel. You certainly shouldn’t let it blind you to the realities of our continuing situation, but it’s nice to have some signs of actual improvement, however faint they may be. At least, I don’t have to tell you that “things aren’t getting worse today as fast as they were yesterday,” though that remark still bears plenty of relevance to the way things look from where I sit.]]>
Members of the hiring/management team have had no problems agreeing that certifications in this area are not just welcome, but that they should be mandatory for the more senior members of that staff, and highly recommended even for Level 1 operator positions. In the face of a planned migration from Windows XP to 7 on the desktop, and Windows Server 2003 to 2008 R2 on their servers, older credentials like the MCSA and MCSE serve as a point of departure, while attainment of MCTS and MCITP credentials for the newer platforms will be required for more senior staff members *before* the migration actually gets underway.
I think you’ll see more and more of this sort of thing in the employment upswing that is predicted to occur later this year, if not into 2011 and 2012 as well. That makes the present moment an excellent time to start digging into, learning, and earning these certifications (and working with and becoming familiar with the positives and the pitfalls for the platforms involved). In fact, for those looking for more (or any) work in IT right now, this could be a great opportunity to tackle a curriculum to get trained up on the new Windows 7 desktop and related image-building and automated deployment technologies on the desktop side, and the refreshed Windows Server 2008 R2 platform, and important supporting tools such as SMS, MOM, Directory Server, and so forth on the server side as well. Be sure to check out local community college offerings, which are generally quite affordable, and may qualify for government (state or federal) support for those who are currently unemployed.]]>
To that end, high-profile infosec expert and author Daniel Castro provides some fascinating discussion and food for thought on this topic in a recent article for CertCities.com entitled “Analysis: Certifications Not a Security Cure-All.”
I don’t think he means this information as a ding on the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential, but here’s my favorite snippet of information from this story:
Nor has the increase in the number of certified security workers nationwide resulted in any noticeable decrease in the number of computer vulnerabilities, security incidents or losses from cyber crime. Between 2001 and 2005, although the number of Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSPs) in North America quadrupled, the number of vulnerabilities cataloged by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team more than doubled, the dollar loss of claims reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center increased more than tenfold, and the number of complaints the center referred to law enforcement increased more than twentyfold.
Alas, no increase in the knowledge or credentials of employees in an organization can offset strange and outmoded views of risk and security management. Both Castro and posters to the comments on his story observe that avoidance of risk (perhaps best understood in psycho-babble terms as “denial”) remains the predominating security strategy in most businesses and organizations even today. Until hard-boiled risk assessment and management percolates into the executive suite and becomes a more standard tool for allocating and managing resources, this situation is likely to continue. In the interim, no mandates nor other forms of incentive are likely to make big differences in how businesses and organizations operate and behave. Despite this state of affairs, however, infosec certs remain popular among IT employers, and likely targets for IT professionals seeking to add to their technical competencies.]]>
And of course, I hope everybody gets his or her fair share of treats and sweets today, with access to friends, family, and all the good cheer you can stand. Thanks also to everyone for helping make this blog a success, and for your many excellent comments and insights. Once again: best of this festive season to one and all.
— Ed and Gregory (pictured above), plus Dina (who makes it all happen and keeps it worthwhile) Tittel]]>