Matt's got another post up that you should read if you want the skinny on Search Firms (All that I'll add is that it is SPOT ON). Although the reference frame is from someone who is in the Finance world, the advice is the same for those in the Technology world. Working with Search Firms: Matt Bud's Opinion.
One of my buddies has had an accomplished technology career. A few years ago, he walked away from it and pursued a job that was closer to his heart. Then, that didn't work out and he needed to get back to his first career.
But, he had two problems in his job hunt. First, too many short roles, and second, a career shift out of the technology sector.
What did he do to solve these problems?
First, in each of the roles he stated clearly what he accomplished in financial terms, revenue, profit, cost reduction (but not by speaking in technical detail about the projects he deployed or designed, which is a very common mistake by technologists). Second, he kept all his experiences on his resume - he claimed his results with aplomb and as a result his story was complete.
He also made a nice move and worked around the resume problem by largely taking it out of the process. He engaged his network and landed a role at a startup working for a friend with whom he had worked with before. And make no mistake, this was a hard job hunt, it took a fair amount of time to land a role. What he ended up with was a job that was well below his prior level in the technology realm, but it was a job he had done in the past, and was well within his current skill set. The firm got a really great hire for a good price who could easily stretch well beyond his current roll (and at the same time he cheerfully got the basics done). And he got back into the industry and was able to re-establish his bona fides.
In sum, the key components to address too many short tenure roles:
One thing that ties people in knots is short tenure entries on the resume.
By 'people' I mean those that have them on their resume and those that read the resume.
Let's start at the beginning.
What is 'too many'?
What is 'short tenure'?
Only you and the hiring company can answer these questions, largely because each industry, and each company view them differently.
That said, if you THINK you have this affliction, you need to go find a mirror, look deeply into your eyes and ask yourself what is wrong. Fortunately, there are plenty of reasons, and there are actions you can take to address them:
You routinely pick the wrong boss
You routinely pick the wrong companies
You do not match your skills to the job very well
You sabotage your work relationships
You sabotage your work
You don't perform the work
You have anger management issues
You are a narcissist
You are a sociopath
You are a psychopath
You are are an asshole
You are always right, even when you are right
You are addicted to some drug or other
Your chosen profession is all about short assignments, e.g. turn-arounds, which have a low chance of succeeding
You don't really like, I mean L-O-V-E, what you do
So, maybe after further reflection, none of these resonate. Make double-dog sure that you're not an 'I'm always right' person, and then go do something else to improve your job hunting because you don't need to put your time into this one.
If one or more of these do resonate with you, this topic is either about you and your inability to figure out how to fit into the work world, or it's about bad luck. In either case, employers are not that happy about hiring either of these traits, which is why you need to pay attention to the root cause of this sooner rather than later in your career.
But, let's say that you find yourself in this position, and you've completed whichever course of self-help you needed, so what do you do about telling your story on your resume so you don't get shot down all the time?
There is a very subtle point in the positive re-frame Matt uses in his article, "Good news, folks! After many years of being off the market, I’m excited to report that I’m finally available for hire!"
Do you see it?
It's the word, 'finally'. Take this word out, and this sounds like a positive person looking for a new gig. Leave it in, and suddenly you want to know why they are now available, and you might just want to click on their linkedin profile to find out more. I know who I'd bet on in a profile views contest!
Scarcity is a very important attribute in marketing a product.
Candidates and Hiring Managers do not seem to understand this very often, which is too bad.
By way of example, we visited a fine Southern Oregon Winery, Schmidt Family Vineyards(Ever heard of them?). We tried their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, and wow, it's good! I'm planning on putting my purchase in the cellar and let it age for several years.
Then, we meandered down to the closest eatery, The Buckboard Grill (Ever heard of this place - only 2 reviews on Urban Spoon, could be that it's not urban enough). Had a really nice French Dip done with Tri-tip. And, you could buy the aforementioned Cabernet for $6 a glass - and it was a healthy pour to boot - for $6!
The thing about both these products is that you gotta go there to get them - they only service the local market. There are only 225 cases of the Cabernet being produced. And my guess is that this particular wine is going to skyrocket in price as a result of the few cases being produced and the quality of the product. Yes, it's really that good.
What does all this have to do with job hunting, or attracting talent who meets/exceeds the bar? Stay tuned...
But, are they good? No, I mean really good. Good enough that you'd work with them in the same cubicle with you for another 12 months?
Do they play well with others? Are they professional enough to handle working at a dynamic startup with top-tier artists, developers, testers, and execs?
My employer, Smith & Tinker, is looking for a seasoned Web Developer to help us update our current web properties, and to create new ones as well. If you know of a talented Web Dev looking for an energetic games startup, send them the link to our ad on Craigslist, or have them email me directly.
There's this guy I know, he's a programmer. We'll call him John. He learned Java shortly after Sun released Java 2 that was his 3rd or so major programming language he learned (he's added a few more since). He's the kind of programmer who takes the compiler's bugs in stride, works around them, and then goes back and updates his code once the bug is fixed.
(For those of you who consider yourself non-technical, why would you think that software to create software is any different that your Web browser, your PC's operating system, your word processor?)
Anyway, John is good. He has written all kinds of different commercial software. Developer tools, games, and hard computer-science type stuff that requires research, clear thought, and tight coding.
John also happens to be looking for a job at the moment. He has been sending out his resume for the past four months, and nary a nibble.
Why no nibbles, when this programmer is clearly worth his salt?
John says, "It's Ageism". "The hiring managers are all in their thirties, and are biased against an older programmer, and are afraid that I'll be asking for too much money, that I won't put in the hours, and that I won't get their business model."
I look at his resume. I ask him, "If you are looking for Programming jobs, why are you saying all this stuff about leadership?"
"Oh, that's because I think I add more value as a Lead or a Manager."
"And what about this stuff you wrote regarding architecting systems?"
"I'm good at architecting systems. I like architecting systems. It shows I bring more to the table than a regular developer."
I say, "Well, your problem isn't ageism on the part of the Hiring Manager. Your problem is that you are not writing your resume to the job requirements, and the Hiring Manager does not see you as a Sr. Developer. They see you as a Lead, a Manager, an Architect. They aren't looking for one of those, they are looking for a Sr. Developer."
Your resume has about 15 seconds to convince the hiring manager to call you for an interview. ANYTHING that you put on that resume that is other than the job requirements becomes a bump for the hiring manager to trip over.
Besides, how can it be ageism when they haven't even met John?
Here's what I recommended to John:
Write three resumes, each one targeted to a different role you want to do (Sr. Developer, Architect, Manager).
Be the hiring manager. Ask yourself, 'What are the three top problems I'm trying to solve in hiring for this role?" Answer those in your resume. Since John has the experience, he also knows what the hiring manager is looking for. Because if he didn't he wouldn't be worth his salt.
Stop thinking about ageism as the problem. It's like riding a bike, the bike is going to go where you look. If you look over the side of the rail you are riding across the river, you are going into the river. Replace that that thought with what you think the hiring manager is trying to solve, what do they want?
Caveat: Ageism does exist (but John is not an it-thing actress in LA, trust me!). But don't let the small percentage of time it does happen define the prism through which you view the entire world.
Linkedin is arguably the pre-eminent social networking recruiting website today, especially for technology-focused companies. It must be a part of your job search!
One of the challenges in using Linkedin for job searches is that you always have to go log in, go to the job search function, type in your search parameters, etc, etc. And, if you don't have a paid account, some of the site's features are limited, hindering your search.
Not the best way to conduct a search!
One tactic that on-line recruiters use is called X-Ray Searching. The idea being to use better search tools outside a given website to look under its skin. Very powerful. Much faster than using Linkedin's UI alone. And, relatively simple to learn for what you need as a job hunter. The key is using the 'site' feature in Google search.
For example, let's say that you are looking for Director of User Design job in Seattle and Bellevue, so you type the following into Google:
site:linkedin.com Director UX "Job Description" "Bellevue" "Seattle"
This tells Google to go find all the jobs with the keywords 'Director' and 'UX' and 'Job Description' that happen to be in Bellevue and Seattle within the linkedin site. When I first ran this search, I hit three job ads and a recruiter profile. Obviously, I don't want the recruiter, so I modified it to reduce the by-catch:
site:linkedin.com Director UX "Job Description" "Bellevue" "Seattle" -Recruiter
Searching for a job is hard work, and you should use all the tools available to maximize the investment of your time in this very important work. Yes, a job hunt is work, but there's no reason you cannot reduce some of the frustrations of looking for that needle in the haystack!
Ever wonder how recruiters succeed at their job? Or, maybe, how the evolution of on-line technologies has helped or hindered their work?
No? As a former professor of mine used to say, "Oh, you go to movies Mr. Coleman, you never become C++ Programmer".
With a few small lessons in the online tools recruiters use these days, you can turn their tactics to your advantage, in a good way, a way that gets you a job, and helps the recruiter, too.
Let's start with something basic, using job ads to help you know when jobs are posted, and also get the bigger picture of what the market is looking for in the broader market place.
We're going to use two online tools in this example, Craigslist and a blog reader.
Let's say that you live in Seattle, and are skilled in three programming languages, Java, Python and C++. What you want to do is create a search string for each of these that you can add to your blog reader so you can be notified whenever a job posting goes up that might be of interest to you. For you hiring managers, this is one way the third-party recruiting firms know that you've posted an add, resulting in their call to you about two minutes later. Back to our task, here are the steps to get this set up:
Go take a look for Software & QA jobs in Seattle: http://seattle.craigslist.org/sof/
Check your blog reader every day for updates to these queries.
BTW, did you take a look at the number of hits from each of these search strings? If not, do that now. The results will give you a clear sense of the demand for different Development skill sets.
In summary, using the tools recruiters use can give you the ability to reduce the administrative time of your job search, and give you more time on higher-value activities, like going to coffee or lunch with folks who can help move your job search along. Next post will be about another notification tool to help you stay current with changes in the job market.