Everyone has to find work at least once in their life. I have had to find it at least 10 times in the last 20 years. This is way too times many for the average person, but as a result I've honed my job-seeking skills, such as interviewing.
I thought it would be valuable for those building an IT career on System i if I shared what I've learned about finding a job in information technology. Whether you are an old interviewing pro or a novice, these pointers will make the process at least a little easier for you and the hiring process easier for potential employers.
Have a group critique your qualifications
When I was most recently job prospecting, the first thing I did was gather a group of my peers together whom I called my "Board of Directors." I asked them to give an honest assessment of my resume package.
This may sound a bit silly, but I wanted a sincere critique from a group of people whose opinion I valued. I chose my wife, two current colleges and a System i professional I trust and have had correspondence with from Common. I submitted all of my application materials, such as resume and cover letter, for comment.
When you submit items to your BoD, you might not hear fluffy happy thoughts or comments. You must be prepared to handle tough criticism and be open to suggestions. It's important to find people who will be brutally honest and are in tune with you and your direction. Your BoD members will offer important items, which is the kind of general information you want. It's almost like dry-run interview without the let down of being told no. Let your BoD tell you no before you head out on the streets.
The BoD does not have to be System i specific and in most cases having one or two System i professionals is a good thing, but you want to have generalist as well. You want people who are not technical to look your package over. More then likely your only going to see 10 – 20 % of your interviewing process be about technical items.
You might also want to have them interview you for a made up position. Each of them acting as a certain person in the hiring process.
Your marketing package is going to cover all of you, your personality, your succeses and your technical ability. So plan accordingly and make sure you sell all of your skills to your BoD before you try it out on the streets.
Elevator speeches raise employers' interest
Writing a resume and cover letter requires a substantial degree of self-awareness. What can you tell someone about your skills in 30 seconds to get them interested in you?
Work up what I call the "elevator speech." What would you tell someone if you only had 10 floors to tell them before they got off the elevator? Sales people use elevator speeches to pitch products to companies. It's a good way to hook employers into discussing your skills. You should practice your elevator speech on your BoD.
Here is a sample: Hello, my name is David Vasta and I am a 17-year veteran of the data center. I have been a System i, UNIX and Windows administrator during my career for large companies like Cingular and IBM. My skills are specialized for increased operational efficiency and system up-time, qualities that effect the over all bottom line. I would like to continue this line of work with a large company like yours.
The elevator speech needs to really give what a I heard an Army Colonel call the "WHO, WHAT, WHEN WHY, WHERE & HOW" details. We don't need to cover all of them but it never hurts to give the listener all the information they need to want to know more. I think if you you stick to presenting those ideas you will cover you basis.
WHO: Make sure you tell them who you are and say you name slowly.
WHEN: Make sure you let them know how long you have been doing this type of work.
WHAT: Your title you either want or have had and where you have done that kind of work
HOW: What you did in the past to impact the companies you worked with. Did you save them money? Did you increase uptime? What did you do?
WHY: Let them know why you are looking or why you are talking to them. Why? Because I want to work with your company.
Your resume is by far the most important tool in scoring an interview. You should make sure your elevator speech is noticeable in your application documents. Most interviewing managers are not familiar with your talents and may not really understand what System i people do.
Being too technical with my resume has been a common criticism. Too many items that, while important, will eventually make the reader glaze over and bore them into placing my resume in a trash can. You can be technical with the right person but make sure you keep everything high level. You never see all the ingredients on the front of a box, but you always see high level information about a product, so think along those lines when rebuilding your resume.
It's difficult to convey IT skill sets and System i talents, so make sure you put them in plain English.
My resume used to be heavy with very technical items. I had to rethink those items and come up with bullets people would want to read.
Here is how the items used to read:
- Performed duties as lead iSeries System Administrator for global technical services.
- Provided on call systems support for a global organization providing after hours support for all enterprise based systems. This would inclued the iSeries, Solaris, and Windows systems.
- Provided the Enterprise Team with iSeries based solutions for J.D. Edwards, iTera Echo2, and BPCS Systems deployed to the entire company
- Provided the Disatar Recovery project with a clear plan to move the company to a high avalibility system in less than 3 months.
- Provided the Support Center with ideas and recommendations on their re-engineering and retooling of the support center proceses and procedures.
- Was an active member of the Change Management Team, review software and procedures, and aslo help establish the new policies that would control change management for the entire IT organization.
- Platforms: iSeries, pSeries, Solaris, Linux, Windows
Here is how I revised the above items:
Responsible for IBM iSeries and applications for a $500 million dollar medical supply manufacturing company with 15 plants in the UK, Europe, USA, Mexico, China, and Australia. Provided administration leadership for J.D. Edwards implementation on iSeries. Senior advisor to Disaster Recovery initiative and implementation.
Contemporary IT resumes
The old adage that you have to keep your resume under on page is tired and simply not true anymore. In most cases it should be longer than one page. Most people with years of System i IT experience will need the space to cover skills and items that need to be covered.
The elevator speech, your cover letter and resume serve as your marketing package. Your entire career may hinge on these documents, so you must accomplish certain goals:
- Make sure you cover the highlights,
- don't go into technical detail in your resume,
- keep everything very high level,
- and make your cover letter snappy.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am seeking a position with your company as a [FILL IN THE TITLE]. I would like to take this opportunity to address my real life credentials in this cover letter.
To begin with, I understand that my application will be coming to you in the midst of many other similarly qualified applicants. In real life knowledge and expertise, however, I can assure you that is where our similarities end.
I pride myself on the ability to handle a large workload with great efficiency and speed. I am one of the first members of our IT support team to be called on cases that need to be reconciled quickly. In addition, I usually handle Level III support on any unresolved IT difficulties and am sometimes the only member of the team capable of troubleshooting these more complicated problems.
I have a very good work ethic and a thirst for knowledge. I love being challenged by new problems and find myself thriving in an environment of difficult tasks.
I am equally as dedicated in my family life, which is the job I take the greatest pride in doing well. I assure you that if you were to hire me you would receive the same level of hard work and devotion I share in all areas of my life.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Job boards and social networking
Finding a good source for job leads is also important. The usual job board suspects include Monster and Dice. Additionally, I highly recommend looking into joining theLadders.com. There is a fee to use their services, but they have great jobs and unique opportunities that aren't picked over like free job boards.
Online professional networking sites are also appropriate places to find leads. I recommend joining LinkedIn.com. It's a great place to find people you know, search for jobs, see who you know in your network that knows someone at the company you might want to work for.
Armed with this information you should have a job in no time. Good luck and make sure you smile.