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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, April 8, 2008

ACM CareerNews is intended as an objective career news digest for busy IT professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM. To send comments, please write to careernews-request@acm.org

Volume 4, Issue 7, April 8, 2008




Building a Recession-Resistant Career
Computerworld, March 31

Katherine Spencer Lee of Robert Half Technology weighs in with advice on how to find new IT job opportunities even during a recession. As she explains, whether you are concerned about your current position or looking for a new one, a few key strategies can help you keep your career insulated from economic uncertainty. For example, IT workers who continually update their skills and build their professional networks keep themselves in high demand when employers start tightening their belts.

To prepare for a tighter job market, your first priority should be to update and expand your skills. If your current employer doesn't offer sufficient training options, inquire about reimbursement policies for training courses elsewhere. However, keep in mind that even the latest technical skills and credentials won't guarantee you a job offer if you lack the ability to solve real-world business problems. Well-developed "soft skills" such as problem-solving, business acumen and interpersonal communication can set you apart from other candidates. Training in these soft skills is available via local colleges and universities, online classes and seminars from training companies or organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration. Attending industry conferences and other events is another way to develop your soft skills.


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Security-Cleared Employees Clearing Better Salaries
Network World, April 1

IT workers with government security clearances receive higher salaries and have better job prospects than their peers without security clearances. A new study from ClearanceJobs.com shows that average salaries rose 6% over the last year, to $72,803, for IT workers with security clearance at consulting firms and defense industry firms. The study breaks down the salary data by geographic location, offering a better look at how obtaining a government security clearance is more important in certain regions. With the quantity of qualified candidates in much shorter supply than the number of open jobs and a growing backlog of candidates awaiting clearance, wages for cleared candidates are expected to continue rising over the next 12 months.

In terms of job functions and titles, IT positions that require a security clearance continue to command a premium. For example, executive IT managers with security clearance earn $116,935, compared to $86,179 for IT managers without security clearance. IT project managers earn $100,089; IT systems engineers $93,202; network LAN/WAN designers $84,545, security network managers $83,309 and intrusion detection managers $83,158. Overall, government contractors earn an average of 22% higher salaries than their government employee counterparts. Moreover, the female/male wage gap is not as prominent for women with security clearance.


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Computer Science Major Rebounds
Inside Higher Ed, March 5

According to a new study from the Computing Research Association, enrollment levels in computer science departments across the country are finally starting to increase. For the first time since 2000, the number of newly declared undergraduate majors at doctoral-granting computer science departments is up. While the increase is a relatively small one, anecdotal evidence from computer science departments all point to signs of a turnaround: a much improved job market for graduates, creative and exciting new curricula and improved perceptions of the computer science discipline by both prospective students and their parents. The article goes behind the scenes at a number of major universities to see how administrators and faculty members are helping to boost computer science enrollments.

After the downturn in the IT job market that started in 2000, there has been a slow return of students to the computer science field. Even with employers offering high salaries to graduates, students and their parents have been wary about an imbalance in supply and demand. It’s now been several years since the market adapted and not only has it been absorbing new graduates, but employers have been complaining that universities aren’t turning out enough young graduates. As a result, students are starting to respond and the imbalance is starting to correct itself. Within a few years, if the trend persists, the spike in declared majors will soon be reflected in degrees awarded as well as faculty jobs created.


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Chip Maker Trains in the Virtual World
Wall Street Journal, April 2

In Silicon Valley, a number of forward-thinking companies are adding elements of video gaming and virtual worlds to their training programs. At Silicon Image, for example, workers learn about making and managing the company's silicon chips by exploring a virtual world representing its corporate campus, and interacting with co-workers using three-dimensional characters they control. The exercise is similar to online games like Second Life, which allow players to inhabit and participate in a computer-simulated environment. The article takes a closer look at Silicon Image's new-employee technical immersion program (NETI), explaining how the virtual world training supplements the company’s live classroom training.

This virtual-world training makes employee training programs more engaging and interesting for employees. This kind of virtual training is still in its infancy, with market innovators and early adopters, mostly in media and entertainment, testing its applications to business. The actual cost of the virtual-world training depends on what kind of features and functions a company would like in the virtual world and on the number of people using it. Silicon Image, which has 600 employees, has been using the program since last summer and received a discount rate for being an early adopter.


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Skilled IT Worker Shortage a Major Concern
Business Edge, April 4

Across Canada, technology employers are grappling with a shortage of skilled IT workers. As the Canadian high-tech industry continues to grow, demand far exceeds supply and companies are reporting problems finding qualified employees. Toronto-based IT staffing firm Sapphire Canada reports that, in Winnipeg, the demand for full-time technology positions has surged 125% in just the past 12 months, while Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver all posted double-digit growth during the same time period. High-tech workers are also in high demand in Toronto and Ottawa. The article takes a closer look at recent steps taken by Canadian business and government leaders to recalibrate supply and demand for IT talent.

To address Canada's shortage of IT professionals, a national coalition led by Bell Canada is taking steps to significantly grow the pool of IT workers. The Canadian Coalition for IT Succession is made up of technology companies and major players in telecommunications, financial services, energy and transportation who view IT as strategic to the functioning of their businesses. With more than 89,000 IT jobs becoming available over the next three to five years, a failure to fill these jobs could cost the Canadian economy close to $10 billion. The problem could become more acute with Baby Boomer retirements and slumping IT enrollments at Canadian universities.


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Gain Recognition for Your Hard Work
Job Journal, March 16

James E. Challenger of recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas shares his insights on how IT workers can improve their visibility within the workplace. After all, lack of recognition for one’s accomplishments is cited by over 90% of departing managers as the most frequent complaint against their former employer. When recognition is withheld or is erroneously granted to someone else, the person who is overlooked feels slighted and unfairly treated. As a result, resentments can build up faster, eventually hampering job performance and serving as a roadblock to advancement in the company. With that in mind, the article provides a few strategies to improve your on-the-job recognition factor.

In order to maximize your visibility throughout the organization, you need to continually work to develop rapport with your supervisors and higher-ups. Being disliked by someone in authority is the single most common reason people are discharged, not their lack of skills or abilities. Mentally review what it is the employer liked about you when you were hired, and keep up those qualities. Make it a point to tell your supervisor what you have done, and offer some well-thought-out new ideas and suggestions for improving the bottom line. The company does not necessarily know what you have done for it lately, and in many cases, good work can go unrecognized if you do not call it to your superiors’ attention. You can either send memos or notes or make your pitch in person and talk face to face about your accomplishments.


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Four Glaring Signs Your Job Search Is Not Working
CIO.com, March 6

Too often, job seekers ignore the warning signs indicating that their search tactics are simply not working. However, the longer you wait to take corrective action, the longer you'll be unemployed or stuck in a job you dislike. By establishing a defined job search strategy and spending more time networking, you'll be able to land your dream job much faster. Instead of searching job sites on your computer, for example, you need to tap into your personal network for opportunities. Instead of sending out resumes indiscriminately, you need to become more selective about where you apply so that you can better match your skills to those required for a specific position.

The first sign of a failed job search is that you spend your time at your computer searching job sites instead of reaching out to your personal network for new opportunities. Use your alumni database to identify contacts at the companies on your target list. Talk to those people about the culture of the company and its hiring process. Join professional associations to make new contacts and learn about job opportunities. Seek out people who are doing work that interests you or those who work in companies you are targeting.


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The Kids Are All Right
Management Issues, April 3

A new study from Sirota Survey Intelligence suggests that Generation Y workers (age 27 or younger) are more engaged in their jobs than previously thought. In fact, there is little difference between the engagement of Generation Y and older generations, measured by such factors as overall job satisfaction, willingness to put forth extra effort and whether they would recommend their organizations as a good workplace to others. Sirota looked at the cross-generational attitudes of more than 300,000 workers in more than 50 organizations during 2006 and 2007, studying four different generations: Generation Y, Generation X, the Baby Boomers and Traditionalists (those aged 63 or older).

The survey looked at a number of key factors, such as overall job satisfaction and willingness to put forth extra effort. These responses were then aggregated and used to create an “index of employee engagement.” While members of the Traditionalist generation were the most engaged in their jobs overall, with an 84% overall engagement level, the engagement levels of the other groups were all within a relatively narrow range of 77% to 80%. Generation Y, it turns out, is actually more engaged than members of Generation X or the Baby Boomers. Overall, employees' continued or maintained level of engagement depends on how well management meets their needs and expectations during their time with their employers.


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The New Rules for Making the Big Leap
Business Week, March 27

There are several important steps to follow if you hope to make a Big Leap in power, pay or prestige within your career. Unlike a lateral move, a Big Leap is about more than just making incremental progress or advancing to the next rung on the career ladder. It's about taking risks, stepping up, and being willing to be recognized and rewarded. The article takes a fresh look at how you can update your resume, leverage new networking tools online and cultivate personal relationships for your network. At the end of the day, you must think of yourself as a salesperson who is continually “selling” skills and experiences to others.

The first step in making the Big Leap is to streamline your resume in order to rid it of corporate jargon. Instead of using corporate-speak like “results-oriented business professional,” try to use phrases that sound more conversational. You can start by talking about yourself the way you would in normal conversation, and writing what you've said. In addition, you need to take advantage of networking sites like LinkedIn, FaceBook, and MySpace to connect with people around you. While it may not be possible to communicate face-to-face with everyone in your network, you can keep in touch with, and keep track of, people more easily than ever before. Moreover, you can personalize these networking sites with your personal job aspirations.


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Some Thoughts on International Women’s Day
ACM’s Committee on Women in Computing News Blog, March 8

On International Women’s Day, Annemieke Craig of ACM’s Committee on Women in Computing shared her thoughts on the continuing efforts of women to achieve equal footing within the IT industry. For years, pioneering women in computing have struggled against preconceptions, restrictive work practices and stereotyped management practices in order to survive professionally. Despite efforts by the ACM-W Ambassador program in nine different countries, the unequal participation by women in IT has not disappeared and continues to be an issue globally.

As Annemieke Craig points out, ACM-W ambassadors still face a number of social, political and economic challenges as they attempt to increase the number of women within the IT industry and improve the standing of women within society. For example, women's representation in Parliament, often used as an indicator of the status of women, varies significantly across the nine ambassador countries. Moreover, the wage gap between men and women still exists in every country, complicating efforts to bring equality to women.


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