Career re-boot: Working the Net to get a job

Technology columnist Dana Greenlee talks with SeattleJobs.org co-founder Janice Brookshier.

Monster.com. HotJobs.com. Dice.com. Yes, there is a tech job shortage. While tech employment opportunities have diminished, our dot-com job vocabulary has grown to include these online career recruiters.

If you live in Tacoma – “America’s #1 Wired City” – chances are you know someone in the tech industry who has recently been laid off and is having a difficult time finding a new job.

It may be time to look into a career re-boot, according to SeattleJobs.org co-founder Janice Brookshier.

Brookshier co-founded SeattleJobs.org in 1996. SeattleJobs.org is a recruiting consortium of high tech companies in the Northwest. She is also a corporate trainer on an array of topics from managing performance to HR and recruiting best practices.

Brookshier gave us a dozen minutes for a dozen questions on what the view is like from the front lines of the tech job search.

Q: The general job market is tough, but SeattleJobs.org is focused on the high tech industry. Why?

A: The upshot is we want to give back to all the technology workers who did a lot of work and actually were the ones we can credit with making our economy strong during the last several of years.

They’re kind of in a tough situation right now. So it’s time help them get back on their feet so they’re ready and available to us later on when our economy turns around and we need them.

Q: From your unique perspective, is it that bad out there?

A: It certainly is not like it was last spring. Then we were saying, “OK everybody, just chill out for a little bit. Things are going to get better.” It hasn’t gotten better. It hasn’t turned around like we anticipated.

Q: What’s the strategy of looking for a job now?

A: Do your job search with more style, so you stand out better. First, think what the recruiters are looking for. It makes it easy when recruiters like the resume, like the skill sets, like the person, see them in a work environment.

Q: Any resume tips?

A: Have a resume that really reflects the individuality of you. In the past we taught you to have a resume tailored for the job you’re applying for. Now, more importantly, write a resume that reflects you and what you’re about.

You’ll represent the resume well, you’ll interview well so you get a job that fits with your strengths and with your own personal psyche.

Q: Are you seeing a different type of tech job-seeker than you’ve seen in the past?

A: We are quite surprised with the experience level of the job seekers. They are at a very senior level. Probably the average level of years of experience for these people is 7-10 years. We’re seeing titles like Director of Product Marketing, Director of IT, some Vice President titles. There is some profoundly good talent out there seeking how they can do better.

Q: Does having too much experience work against you?

A: What we’re finding is employers – in all industries – are being a lot pickier. They are looking for a better bargain in the person that they hire. I think that when they see a lot of experience on a resume, they might think, “Oh, that’s going to cost a lot of money.” To some degree, some are saying, “I don’t need that much experience. I’m only really willing to pay for five years experience and this person comes with ten.” That is a reality out there, so you need to do your job search more strategically.

Q: Give us one good strategic tip.

A: Networking. We’ve found that people either really like networking or they think networking is a bunch of hogwash. Quite frankly, we’ve learned that networking is a very valuable tool in finding your next job. The unfortunate thing is that a lot of us don’t know how to do it. We’re either too shy or we don’t know how to articulate what we want to do or what we need. Or we go to a networking opportunity – and we end up just partying.

Q: What’s a good networking tip?

A: Look for opportunities to tell people what you want. It’s hard to articulate what we want. We talk around it, above it. We talk about what we’ve done in the past. But we don’t specify, “This is what I want to do!” One idea is to put together your 20-second elevator pitch so with any opportunity you have, you can fire it right out there.

Another idea is develop personal branding: how to differentiate yourself, how to be distinct and not extinct.

Q: Are there any jobs going unfilled?

A: There are jobs, just not as prolific as they were. There are still jobs for software engineers for Unix and Linux development.

Q: How about tech jobs in the less technical areas?

A: There are jobs in marketing and HR, just not as many. So those who want jobs in the hard to come by professions need to make themselves more distinct. Also look outside the technology industry. Maybe look at falling back on a career that is five years in your history. Find some other skill set that you can pull out of your bag of tricks. That’s what personal re-branding of yourself is all about – how you can market yourself.

Q: Taking in account the old supply and demand formula, how will salaries fare?

A: You won’t see very many salary increases this year. You actually will see salaries will go down from last year in some professions. But it all depends on a person’s unique skill set and what the business can afford to pay.

Q: One final question: How are people dressing in the tech industry now?

A: I think they’re trying to stand out a little more these days. They’re not coming in shorts anymore.

They were getting away with that during the dot com boom. A suit may or may not be appropriate. It depends on the environment, so ask your recruiter.

Q: Something in standard Northwest gear? Khaki on khaki, brown leather shoes – and orange hair?

A: You don’t want to stand out that much. There’s branding and then there’s branding.

Visit www.SeattleJob.org to either list a job or search for openings in the tech sector. They also list many resources and articles to assist in the hunt.

Dana Greenlee is co-host, producer and engineer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.

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