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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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@hq.acm.org

Volume 7, Issue 15, August 2, 2011




IT Jobs Are Growing, But Can It Last?
http://www.informationweek.com/news/global-cio/interviews/231002574

During the second quarter, total U.S. IT employment exceeded 4 million jobs, marking a return back to the employment levels of 2008. However, will the jobs momentum last? IT employment also hit 4 million in the second quarter of 2010, only to give back the job growth in the following quarters. In 2008, by comparison, there were three consecutive quarters with more than 4 million IT pros employed, before the fourth quarter erased nearly 260,00 IT jobs, a decline of more than 6%. With this in mind, the article takes a close look at current employment trends in the IT sector.

U.S. IT employment stood at 4.06 million in the second quarter, based on adding up the employment estimates for 12 computer and software related job categories. That led to an IT unemployment rate of 3.4%, compared with unemployment of 4.4% for all of managerial, professional, and related occupations. IT made up 7.7% of the 52.7 million managerial and professional jobs. At its highest point during the recession, IT unemployment was just over 6%.


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An MBA or a Master's in Computer Science? It’s Your Call.
IT World, July 25

Deciding between an MBA and a Master’s in Computer Science requires long-term thinking about your future professional goals. If you’re a recent college grad with a degree in computer science, the article provides some perspective on how to answer this difficult question. Rather than looking at an advanced degree as an end in itself, look at it as a means to an end. First decide your desired professional direction and then tactically decide which advanced degree has a higher potential to get you there.

If you would like to move into the IT management ranks, an MBA may be a better route because it teaches you about leadership, budgeting, marketing, and other business/management related topics. If, however, you would like to continue on a technical path, find a degree program that expands your technical knowledge in an area that excites you, for example, database design, data security, or other specific technical area. The reason for suggesting that if you go the technical route you should specialize is because we are in a world of specialization. Becoming a true technical specialist in a high demand technology can give you an enormous advantage in the job market and command higher pay for your specialized skills.


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LinkedIn Launches Button That Lets You Apply for Jobs
Mashable, July 25

With the launch of its new “Apply With LinkedIn” button, LinkedIn is making it easier for candidates to apply for jobs online. The social network’s goal is to make the job application process as simple as a one-click button. The button is much like the Twitter Re-Tweet button or the Facebook Like button in that companies can embed it on their website. The button essentially lets you submit your LinkedIn profile as your resume, without the need for a cover letter. Once you submit your job application, you are given the opportunity to message your contacts at the company and ask for a referral.

For businesses looking to hire, the Apply With LinkedIn button provides a simpler way to screen candidates. LinkedIn profiles are uniform and easily searchable, and the button only requires a few lines of code to implement. It integrates with several application tracking systems as well, so many companies can just incorporate the LinkedIn job application feed into their existing infrastructure. Netflix, Tripit and Photobucket will be some of the first companies to feature the button on their websites.


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Execs Get Ready: Workers Will Soon Be Running Companies
CIO.com, June 22

At the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference, participants discussed the changing roles of workers and executives within organizations. According to Sara Roberts, the president and CEO of Roberts Golden Consulting, employees will be running much of the show at many companies within five years. Non-executive workers are increasingly making important daily decisions by taking advantage of emerging Enterprise 2.0 tools that provide direct access to important information and key corporate contacts. Corporate managers need to realize that the traditional corporate hierarchy no longer works when younger, tech-savvy workers increasingly call for and use these enterprise-level social collaboration tools.

The empowerment of rank-and-file workers does not mean that companies will become leaderless. Instead, managers will create ways for employees to push through an operational idea or jump on a competitive advantage when they see it. They will recognize that employees are resourceful and collaborative and they will do what they need to do to get a job done. This is the first time in our history that we have communications technology that can make a big company feel small, offering the human benefits of small companies that can help encourage creativity and collaboration. Employees can use social networking software to find out answers from multiple colleagues, get access to information quickly and then act on their own.


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How to Prepare for a Career Change
U.S. News & World Report, July 28

Career coach Curt Rosengren comments on how to prepare for a major career change. Once you make the decision to move on, it can feel tempting to hand in your resignation and dive into that change. Before you start making that change, take some time to ask yourself a few questions to enhance your potential for career-change success. Most importantly, you will need to consider why you want to make a change. By understanding the source of your dissatisfaction, you will understand whether you should get a similar job but with a different organization, or whether it makes sense to explore an entirely new career direction.

If you’re going to go through the challenge of recreating yourself in a new career, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re gravitating toward the new path, not just running away from your current one. Reasons for choosing a career path like “it’s a growing field” or “it makes a lot of money” might be relevant from a purely practical perspective, but if you’re making a career change because you’re unhappy with the work you’re doing, they will do nothing to help guide you in a better direction. Unless you spend some good introspective time to get a deeper understanding of what energizes you, any career direction you choose will be little more than a random guess. Take the time to get to know yourself, so you can take the guesswork out of deciding on a new career direction.


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What’s Wrong With America’s Job Engine?
Wall Street Journal, July 27

Over the past decade, the U.S. economy's output of goods and services has expanded 19%, and corporate profits have risen 85%, but the number of private-sector jobs has fallen by nearly two million. Moreover, the percentage of American adults at work has dropped to 58.2%, a low not seen since 1983. While profits may be up, the economy is growing much too slowly to absorb the available work force, and industries that usually hire early in a recovery, such as construction and small businesses, were crippled by the credit bust. Then there's the confidence factor: if employers were certain they could sell more, they would hire more. A number of factors, from lower overseas wages to a “just-in-time” hiring mentality, have put a ceiling on current U.S. hiring efforts.

Changes in the way the job market works and how employers view labor play a leading role. Executives call it "structural cost reduction" or "flexibility." Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon calls it the rise of "the disposable worker," shorthand for a push by businesses to cut labor costs wherever they can, to an almost unprecedented degree. By some estimates, 70% of today's job shortage is simply cyclical, the result of a disappointing recovery from a deep recession. However, the other 30% can be attributed to changes in the job market that began a decade or more ago. In the most recent recession and the previous two—in 1990-91 and 2001—employers were quicker to lay off workers and cut their hours than in previous downturns. Many also were slower to rehire. As a result, the "jobless recovery" has become the norm. In the past, when business slumped, employers cut work forces and accepted less work per employee; now they are emphasizing productivity at all costs.


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IT Workers With Heart
Network World (via Computerworld), July 25

For a growing number of companies, volunteerism from their IT employees means improved collaboration and productivity on the job. In many cases, IT professionals perform these activities with the approval of their employers, who often allow workers to take paid time off to donate their skills, talents and time to charities and other nonprofit organizations. Employers also benefit from these arrangements. In fact, they are increasingly more than happy to subsidize employees' volunteer efforts outside the workplace, because they've noticed an undeniable link between employee volunteerism and improved collaboration and productivity on the job. Moreover, volunteerism can enhance a company's image in the communities where its employees and customers live. And offering time off -- either paid or unpaid -- for charity work can also help organizations attract younger, more community-minded and tech-savvy employees.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that an increasing number of companies are offering paid time off to employees who want to volunteer, either on company-sponsored initiatives or at a charity or agency of their own choosing. Comerica, for example, has donated more than 100,000 hours of its employees' time in the past two years, which translates to more than $2 million worth of volunteer activities in the communities it serves. Texas Health Resources, whose tagline is "Healing Hands, Caring Hearts," pays its employees for volunteer time served. For Texas Health, this has a huge impact not only on perceptions in the community and with the people they serve but on its employees as well. They come back changed and with a fresh outlook on what their role is in the community, what their role is in healthcare and what their role is in IT. The article takes a closer look at a recent Texas Health Resources community project with Habitat for Humanity.


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The Sustainable Job Search
Job Journal, July 10

Ideally, everyone would view the job search as an exciting and invigorating opportunity. In reality, the process can be stressful, exhausting and emotionally draining, particularly when coping with rejection, financial hardships or uncertainty about the future. It’s important to recognize that job searching doesn’t have to be a negative experience. The co-authors of Make Job Loss Work for You, Richard Deems and Terri Deems, believe there are several small steps you can take to conduct a faster, more rewarding job search that maintains your energy and confidence levels.

First, set up an informal office area where you can direct your job search. Make this a place where you can take calls, handle correspondence, and keep track of your research and other information. When you are in this space, you are ‘at work.’ Next, maintain your normal schedule. Don’t sleep late. Get dressed each morning, just as if you were going to be out talking to people – because you probably will. View your daily activity as fulfilling your ‘job requirements.’ It is helpful to see yourself as ‘employed,’ except now your job is to find a new position in another company as quickly as possible. Set weekly and daily goals in terms of contacts to make and research to conduct. Keep a record of your activity. People who devote four to eight hours per day to their job search become employed faster than those who devote only a few hours each week.


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ACM Urges Inclusion of Computer Science in K-12 Core Curriculum
ACM Press Room, July 21

Although the National Research Council’s newly released Framework for K-12 Science Education provides a helpful next step in revising the existing scientific ideas and practices for U.S. students, computing and computer science are not yet included as a core part of the framework for mathematics and science K-12 education. This, despite the fact that computing is by far where the greatest demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs is in today's economy. Despite substantial input from the computing community, there is little mention of the need for computer science in the core curriculum. This is a missed opportunity to expose students to a fundamental discipline that they will need for their careers.

The NRC Framework report also reflects the longstanding confusion between computer literacy, which uses computing as a tool, vs. acquiring basic knowledge of computation and computer science. This difference was a central finding of ACM's report "Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age." While computing technologies can be powerful tools, computer science education is not about using computers, but about teaching students the fundamentals of computation and, thus, empowering them with new problem-solving tools and capabilities.


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The Confused Computing Career Aspirations of 12-Year-Olds
Blog@CACM, July 25

What makes young teenagers choose computer science as a career path? The article interviews 12-year-old boys and girls about their attitudes to computing, and their future career choices, to determine what makes them choose a future career. But now, children’s exposure to computing is ubiquitous and centered around the use of computers rather than more fundamental computer science concepts. Based on the interview results, it appears that educators will need to do a better job of defining concepts such as “programming” and “computer science.” They also need to clearly articulate to pre-teens what computer science is, as well as why it is so important.

In interviews with 12-year-olds who had just completed a game-making project, they were asked them about what they understood by the term "computing." It became clear that their understandings were partly related to the label for the subject on the timetable, such as "ICT" or "Information Technology" or "Computing Studies." When asked what they might expect to do in a computing class, the children typically mentioned using applications: spreadsheets, databases, PowerPoint, Word, sound recording packages. The "Internet" was often featured, in the sense of learning to use Internet-based applications safely and effectively. They thought that in a computing class they might learn how to use computers in general, and learn to use programs they had not come across before. A couple of students mentioned learning about what computers can do, and what parts are inside them.


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