I have to say that I feel very fortunate that I have not had to change jobs frequently since I started my career in IT back in 1998. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. I departed sooner than I had hoped from my first two gigs in sales working for Microsoft solution providers, though each led me to search harder and smarter and always led me to more interesting and more lucrative gigs. In order to get my break in sales I wrote a business plan to market PC and network solutions for Capital Datacorp in Sacramento, but before landing that job I canvassed Northern California by fax (I was so broke that I didn’t have an ISP account or a personal computer) and by foot searching for a job. The efforts eventually paid off, and the rest is history and will spare those details for another time.
What is there to learn from all this and why does it matter to you? My experience is not exhaustive and I am no authority on dishing career advice, but I wanted to write a few ideas as a former job seeker and an interviewer that I think really might be valuable to you.
Take the path of MOST resistance
You might be inclined to do just the opposite and take the easiest path to your destination, but I have found that there is no shortcut to landing a killer job. If you are just starting out in your career then you need to begin building your foundational tech skills by becoming an expert in LDAP or Linux or scripting of some kind (Shell, Perl, whatever) and using LinkedIn to connect with folks you meet and know. For those with more experience, you might find yourself avoiding that awful Director or Sr. Manager who always seems to have something negative to say and isn’t allowing you into his close network. I would suggest taking to battle the most difficult challenges and projects in your environment and don’t waste precious time being shy about your intentions. Make it known that it’s not about YOU, or HIM or anything personal. It is about the work! Many but not all people can get their foot in the door or climb the corporate ladder by being nice or by having an “In” with the right people, but don’t count on that person being you. Take stock in yourself and make it an all-in proposition. Go with gusto and “Either we have a breakthrough to more successful relations or all bets are off!” There is no other way. Put your egos aside and get the work done.Who are you, anyways?
In preparing for interviews with job candidates, I search them online using LinkedIn and search engines. Whether you like it or not, for most professionals, your LinkedIn profile and online persona is your new resume and can help put you at advantage over others looking for the same job. Resumes work for submitting yourself to jobs at the big job boards and at a few of your favorite companies but once your resume is discovered, how your potential employers perceive you can be shaped heavily by what they found out about you in professional networks. If you haven’t started already, begin sharing your capabilities and achievements on LinkedIn and write some stories about them on your blog that will show your expertise. Doing so should help you prepare for the dreaded first question that start off many interviews: “So tell me a little about yourself.” You might be tempted to say something like “Duh, haven’t you read my blog?” but resist that temptation because the interviewer has already read your blog and is evaluating your speaking and presentation skills.
Taking these steps and building a “living resume” online will show that you are managing your career as diligently and skillfully as you would manage yourself and your responsibilities if you are extended a job offer. For those of you already employed, this discipline may help solidify your standing with your current employer and may help you get that promotion or raise that you have been holding out for. The best way to fail at this is to wait until you are a job seeker to begin blogging or updating your LinkedIn profile.
Hiring Suggestions For IT Managers
Most hiring managers (who are career or professional managers) do not have the background or expertise in Identity Mgmt to put architects, engineers and admins through the paces and test their technical abilities, so different tactics are needed to qualify whether you have a good fit for a position or not. Even if you do have prevous experience in this domain, the following suggestions will help avoid many of the frustrations and pitfals you are likely to encounter:
- Prescreen candidates by asking them to fill out a pre-interview questionnaire (like this one) to evaluate their qualifications prior to inviting for further interviews.
- Write more accurate and compelling job descriptions that will deter those who are not qualified or do not have the right skills from ever applying for the position.
- Ask the top talent on your team or organization to refer their friends (who are also likely to be top talent) for the position.
- Always be building your network of professionals on LinkedIn or other social networks that will help be more efficient in the recruiting process and keep a pulse on qualified professionals that you can reach out to when needed. (I.e. don’t wait for HR to do this for you)
If you are a new manager, or simply new to Identity Management, why not make the effort to build up your knowledge about the subject to make you more effective at understanding the issues and managing your team? I have found that IT managers with responsibility for integrating or maintaining IdM systems come and go, but the good ones who stick around are those with some technical background or who have more advanced understanding than an average IT manager does. And it will do a lot to help build credibility with the team you lead and the peers who have trusted you to take responsibility for such an important technology domain.
If you are patient, relentless and determined, these suggestions will work for you. I get emails from job seekers and recruiters on a weekly if not daily basis asking similar questions, and from what I can tell the job seeking and recruiting/hiring process would go a lot smoother if some of these common sense suggestions were more consistently followed. If you find that your job search misfiring and you are not having success landing a job, it might be time to contact the professionals over at TheLadders.com for a professional resume makeover and career coaching. Or it might also be time to just take a weekend (or an entire week) and go live in the mountains and get in touch with who you are, where you want to go and how to get there. Prayer. Meditation. Sabbatical. Whatever you call it, taking time out regularly to relax your mind and revive your spirit is necessary whether you are a job seeker or not. You don’t want to burn out before you get the job.
For further reading I recommend The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman
Godspeed and good luck to you! Post your experiences, questions or suggestions in the comment box for posterity, thank you.