Tips for Landing an IT Job in the Recession

Monday May 11th 2009 by Dave Willmer
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You may need to throw out your old resume and redo it for today’s climate. Plus: networking is great, but don’t overdo it.

Today’s job market is more challenging than any that most IT professionals have ever faced. One consequence is that strategies to locate employment that may have proved successful in previous economic cycles may not be as effective today. Here are some tips to help you land a high-tech job in the current recession:

Throw out your old resume

When launching a job hunt, your first step is usually to dust off your old resume and update it with your most recent accomplishments. But that strategy may not be effective in today’s job market. For one thing, it may have been many years since you last searched for employment. If that’s the case, the document could be so outdated that it simply makes more sense to start from scratch.

Perhaps more important, today’s employers seek attributes that you may not have focused on in earlier drafts of your resume. For example, companies that are hiring are looking for individuals who can help the organization save money or improve efficiencies. They want evidence that you’ve contributed to another firm’s bottom line. As a result, you must note any quantifiable achievements, such as reducing call times by 10 percent when you worked the help desk.

In addition, many hiring managers seek “multitalented” professionals, those individuals who can wear more than one hat. These IT practitioners can often fill multiple roles especially when teams are lean. Although you want to keep your resume targeted to each opportunity, you may decide to highlight a slightly broader segment of your work experience than you would have in the past.

Don’t try to hide employment gaps

In previous hiring environments, a break in your work history could have been seen as a black mark on your record. But with so many individuals out of work, employers understand that you may be looking for a job because of factors beyond your control.

If you have an employment gap, you don’t need to go to great lengths to disguise it. For example, some individuals rework their resume using a functional style to downplay any periods of unemployment. But this format — in which you list your skills at the top of the document and shorten or omit entirely your work history — could work against you by making it seem like you have something to hide.

Instead, use your cover letter and any face time with the hiring manager to explain how you’ve remained professionally engaged while searching for a new position. Enrolling in a training course, for example, can help indicate that you have kept your skills sharp and that you remain up-to-date with changes in the IT industry.

Also highlight any volunteer work you’ve done. Listing these types of assignments on your resume — as well as part-time or temporary engagements — will show hiring managers you’d be able to hit the ground running if hired.

Expand your horizons

In today’s employment market, a narrow focus could ruin your chances of landing a new position. Instead of setting your sites on a specific job or company, consider what types of employers seek your qualifications and in which industries and even areas of the country there are a shortage of professionals with your skill set.

For example, the healthcare field continues to expand, and initiatives such as the transition to electronic medical records mean that IT professionals will be needed by organizations in this sector for the foreseeable future.

Next Page: Use your personal network -- but not too much

The key to pursuing work outside your traditional sphere is to highlight your transferable skills in your application materials. Transferable skills are those abilities you possess that could be applied to any number of jobs, such as communication, leadership and critical thinking.

Consider how these qualifications might translate in a different role or industry. For example, if you’ve enjoyed leading projects, you might apply for a position as a project manager, even if you’ve never held that title.

Network, network, network

The best way to find a job is through word of mouth, and this is especially true in a market like today’s, where opportunities are few and far between. A referral from a friend can make all the difference when a hiring manager is determining whom to call in for an interview.

Because of this, it’s crucial you continue to invest in networking activities. After all, the more people you know, the more likely you are to have a contact who can assist you in your job search.

Becoming involved in an industry association is a great way to meet others in the IT field. But don’t limit your outreach efforts to other “techies.” Professionals in other industries may be able to help you get an “in” with companies that are hiring through new channels.

Attend networking events that are open to workers from various fields or even “pink slip parties,” where out-of-work professionals can share leads and information. You can also meet a broad range of people by leveraging online communities such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

One word of caution, however: Don’t be overzealous when asking for help. You need to establish rapport with someone before requesting his or her assistance in your job search. A good rule of thumb is to do the other person a favor before seeking help from him or her.

In addition, many professionals today are suffering from “referral fatigue.” That is, they have been approached by so many people asking for a job lead or referral that they simply can’t accommodate every request. Be selective in who you approach for help and be aware that someone may not always be able to lend a hand.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com. /p>

ALSO SEE: How to Not Get an IT Job: 10 Tips

AND: IT Salary Levels, 2004-2009

AND: Studying for Tech Certifications on a Budget

AND: Six Strategies for Securing an IT Interview

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