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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, December 7, 2010

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 6, Issue 23, December 7, 2010




Ten Reasons to Step Up Your Job Search Over the Holidays
U.S. News & World Report, December 1

While it may be tempting to put your job search on hold during the end-of-year holiday season, this is actually one of the best times of the year to continue your job search. Contrary to the popular consensus, many employers do hire over the holidays and into early January. Personal lives may get more hectic this time of year, but many businesses slow down, giving hiring managers breathing space to think about staffing and even conduct interviews. Many companies are putting the pieces in place for 2011 projects and want to bring new people on board before then. There are at least ten good reasons why the holidays are the best time of the year to find a new job.

The best reason to step up your holiday job search is because your competition is likely taking time off. Many other people are taking time off on their job hunts this time of year, which makes it the perfect time to increase your efforts. The holidays are also great networking time, as attending parties and events are opportunities to expand your network. The holidays are also a great time to reconnect. This is the time of the year when it’s natural to get back in touch with former bosses and co-workers, college roommates and people you’ve met casually throughout the year. Choosing to job hunt now, whether by cold calling or lining up informational interviews, also shows that you're diligent and mean business.


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Manage Your Personal Online Brand: Three Must-Do Steps
CIO.com, November 15

According to personal branding expert Dan Schawbel, managing your personal brand isn't just about monitoring your reputation, it's about achieving recognition and visibility within your company and positioning yourself for future job opportunities. Since online visibility creates opportunities, cultivating a strong brand and online presence will help you become more valuable within your company, and possibly propel you to a higher position. If you can show that you're a thought leader or an expert in a field, for example, you'll start gaining recognition within your company and position yourself for a pay raise later. While managing your brand can be as simple or time consuming as you want, there are three essential steps to start building a brand to ensure that you get the most out of the process.

Generating online content is the first step to creating an online presence. If you’ve been holding off joining social sites like Facebook and Twitter or starting a blog, now’s the time to do it. The Internet is now a global talent pool, so you need to have strong profiles and a strong online presence. That way when they search for you on Google, they'll find you. Joining sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter—and publishing a blog—will usually populate the top 10 search results for your name. Because you control the content on these sites, they're an excellent way to fine-tune your brand. If you're active on social sites and already maintain a blog, ask yourself how you want others to see you. Then, use a variety of online tools to monitor your reputation. One of the most useful free tools is Google Alerts, which are brief e-mail updates about topics or phrases. Creating alerts for your company's name, key industry buzz terms and other stakeholders can be helpful, too. There are also brand- and keyword-monitoring sites that are useful to keep tabs on your name and industry across specific social networking sites, like Twitter.


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How to Build a Network in 12 Days
Network World, December 2

The holiday season is an ideal time for re-connecting, making new contacts and strengthening relationships. Networking already generates 80% of new hiring opportunities, and it’s no different during the holidays. Constantly nurturing existing relationships and strategically developing new contacts can put you on the inside track to great job leads, whether you are an active candidate or just want to keep up with the market. Keeping in mind that contacts provide referrals, recommendations and invitations, the article highlights the 12 critical steps you should take to start (or re-start) building your new career network.

On the first day of your 12-day program, define your networking strategy. Focus on individuals and activities related directly to achieving personal and professional goals and compile a list of existing contacts. On Day 2, organize these contacts into how you would like to interact with them, such as in-person one-on-one or via individual e-mail. On Day 3, select and prioritize in-person and virtual communities. Identify a few groups or organizations to focus your efforts because it's better to be an active participant or leader in a few groups and build strong relationships. On Day 4, create a networking card and add a signature block to your personal e-mail. On Day 5, connect with contacts by writing e-mails, making phone calls or attending live events. On Day 6, you’re ready to target specific employers and identify appropriate hiring managers at each of these employers.


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Five New Year's Resolutions for Your Project Management Career
Computerworld, November 29

With the end of the year right around the corner, now is the time to consider the New Year’s resolutions that will move you along in your job or career. There are at least five steps that you can take to get a better job or keep the one you have, starting with a greater focus on how your work can add value for your company. Take time to think about ways that you can better track your performance at the office, how you approach deadlines and how you are exhibiting continuous improvement to your managers. By doing so, you might just be able to help make your annual performance report a little brighter.

Your career goals need to inspire you, your team and your management. As you look ahead, make sure that your goals are clearly aligned with corporate strategy and have a return on investment that you can demonstrate. Develop a mix of both short-term goals that can provide early wins and longer-term goals that add value for the company. When thinking ROI, develop a well-thought-out proposal that spells out the advantages in terms of time, money, manpower and customer satisfaction. You also need to help your company track time and dollars. It's hard to make decisions about where to cut costs if management can't clearly identify where they are. When you can show your bosses exactly where you are, both in terms of time allocated and actual dollars spent on a mission-critical project, you're speaking their language.


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Could Pay Freeze Send Federal Workers to Private Sector?
Federal Computer Week, December 1

Even though it's likely that federal salaries will be frozen for at least the next two years, the White House says federal employees aren't likely to leave the government workforce, nor will the pay freeze deter qualified people from seeking government jobs. According to the federal chief performance officer, government work offers a strong value proposition that resonates with job seekers. While government workers sometimes report a deeper sense of accomplishment than workers in the private sector, there is also a growing unease that President Barack Obama’s proposal to eliminate federal pay raises for two fiscal years could result in the loss of qualified workers and the potential inability to recruit the best and brightest.

Experts outside of the Obama administration have mixed feelings about the impact of the salary freeze. On one hand, some experts point out that the private sector might not have much more to offer federal employees. Industry is still coming out of an economic recession, which means budgets are tight and hiring is slow. Companies are wrestling with the ramifications of the recession and taking tough actions, such as cutting employees’ pay to avoid layoffs. Furthermore, the benefits packages in the private sector often are not as generous as the government’s. If a government employee wanted to jump ship for a better paying private-sector job, it might not be so easy to find, and in the end, the net pay increase would be less because of the decrease in benefits.


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Bridging the Generation Gap Through IT Training
Enterprise Efficiency, December 1

Recognizing that there is a growing divergence between the skill sets of different generators of IT workers within the workforce, forward-looking companies are turning to new types of training programs to bridge this generational gap. The generation gap is becoming increasingly pertinent as Baby Boomers prepare for retirement and younger IT professionals from increasingly diverse backgrounds enter the workforce. Those just beginning IT careers face a significant learning curve in learning about proprietary computing platforms, while older IT pros often lack skills that young IT workers already learned in school. For years, corporate IT has been focused on large project workloads, which has translated into an older, established, and highly competent workforce that it has been able to augment with outsourced resources at the expense of training new hires. Realizing the need for both sets of skills, IT organizations should be taking several steps to align the IT skills of older and younger workers.

More companies are warming to the idea of working closely with universities to develop IT curricula that benefit the enterprise and to provide internships to the best and brightest students. Some of these internships give students an opportunity to earn college credit working on a non-mission-critical project in a corporate environment. For its part, corporate IT gets a glimpse at young prospects for employment and is in an excellent position to hire these students as they graduate. Particularly in network and security areas, IT departments are increasing their investment in employees' education, training, and certification. Such programs benefit the development of both young and older IT professionals. Larger IT departments have a dedicated training function that actually develops a "mini university" within the company. The internal university posts various IT jobs and also lists the requirements and the training steps for each position. Aspiring young employees can discuss these jobs with their supervisor, develop training plans, and take online training at their own pace.


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Cyber-Security Job Development Challenges Highlighted in Survey
eWeek, November 17

While there is a growing consensus that the U.S. government needs to hire more cyber-security professionals, the path to building the pipeline for that workforce is still unclear. According to a recent survey from the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² many of the current ideas on how to structure the cyber-security workforce do not agree with the thoughts of IT security professionals on the frontlines. A recent poll found considerable doubt about the available career paths for security professionals, as well as a lack of unity about the professional development plans for federal IT security pros. Going forward, there will be need to greater alignment about the appropriate curricula for security-related careers as well as greater clarity about the career paths available to IT security professionals.

Some 74% attributed the security weaknesses of infrastructures as being due to inadequately trained staff. Lack of professionals with appropriate skills (68.6%) and insufficient funding (63.2%) were also popular answers. Roughly 47% agreed current information security certification programs are serving the need of the U.S. federal government to build a qualified cyber-security workforce. About the same amount (48.3%), however, said there is a gap between existing certification programs and the specific cyber-security skills needed in the workplace. Approximately 40% felt current professional certification programs create a false sense of security, and about 54% said increasing investment in training and certification primarily for technical skills will not solve America’s security problems. While each certification meets specific enterprise security needs, the current providers of certifications are not always able to map each certification to each role/requirement. That is perhaps one of the first steps that should be taken in order to accurately evaluate the certification landscape and whether it is meeting the government’s needs.


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Keeping Overqualifieds on Board
Wall Street Journal, November 15

Employers who hired top talent on the cheap in the depth of the recession should start worrying about defections, according to recruiters and hiring managers. Companies that continued to hire during the slump found they were able to nab talented but recently laid-off workers at bargain salaries, or into jobs for which they were overqualified. Now, as the job market slowly loosens up, and as those overqualified hires become more frustrated, some of them are considering greener pastures. When adjusted for seasonality, the percentage of total employees who voluntarily quit their jobs in September was 1.6%, up from 1.3% in September last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this turnover rate is still low, it is quietly increasing as the economy improves.

Management watchers say the low rates of employees who are voluntarily quitting their jobs mask a risk of future defections, and that many companies may be caught off guard when the labor market improves more robustly. As a rule of thumb, about one in five candidates who are contacting recruiters are trying to get back to their previous salary after having been in their current job for a year or less. Over the past six months, there has also been a "significant increase" in chatter among headhunters about overqualified hires looking to improve their situations. Employees try first to pitch for higher-level roles within their companies, but if they can't get that, they're looking elsewhere. As a result, some companies are taking pre-emptive steps, such as by offering flexible work arrangements and extra time off. In some cases, companies are also giving out small merit raises after two years of spotty or no raises.


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The Academic Job Search: How to Prepare Key Documents
XRDS Magazine, December 2010

While the academic job search can be a grueling nine-month process, there are several key steps that you can take to increase your chances of future job success. Before setting out on an academic job search, it's crucial that you prepare a number of key documents that will help you sell yourself as a candidate and future faculty member: the cover letter, CV, research statement and teaching statement. Then, you will need to develop the social media profiles that will provide another view of your aptitudes and experiences. Finally, there is the personal website where you can host your primary documents and published works. With that as an overview, the article provides a checklist and related advice to help you prepare the right application materials in a timely manner for the academic job search.

Your cover letter, CV, research statement and teaching statement will become your primary documents for winning a new academic job, so you will need to make these really shine. Create both HTML and PDF versions of these primary documents. In the cover letter, use bold face on the names of faculty member. Keep your cover letter very brief, two paragraphs at most. Ask local faculty members outside your area read over your materials and then listen to their feedback. List impact factors or acceptance rates alongside your publications in your CV. This gives people outside your field a crude metric to judge your publications. Employers likely will search for your name, and they do anticipate you'll have a Facebook page or a LinkedIn account. It's okay to have online profiles, but clean up your image and politically sterilize them before your job search even begins.


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Diverse Connections
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 53, No. 12, December 2010

The Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, scheduled for the first week of April 2011, continues to attract students and professionals from diverse backgrounds pursuing careers within the computing industry. Originally created as a supportive networking environment for underrepresented groups in computing and information technology, the Tapia conference features inspiring speakers, a dynamic technical program, and a community of encouragement and motivation. In previous years, attendance has been 50% female, 40% African-American and 30% Hispanic. While there have long been computing conferences focused on individual minority groups, Tapia was founded as an inclusive conference transcending demographic changes over time.

A survey from Tapia 2009 found that 82% of the attendees agreed the conference increased their dedication to complete their degree and reaffirmed their belief that computing was the right career path for them. One reason is that the Tapia Conference helps people from underrepresented groups overcome the feelings of isolation that is common in the computing field. Tapia 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the conference. Some of the highlights planned for the event include: The Memorial Ken Kennedy Lecture given by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, former chair of the IBM Academy of Engineering and the HENAAC Hispanic Engineer of the Year; a speech on the future of IT by Alan Eustace, executive vice president for Research and Engineering at Google; and the presentation of the 2011 Richard Tapia Award to William Wulf, University of Virginia, and past president of the National Academy of Engineering. There will also be workshops on resumé writing, professional development, and a doctoral consortium. New this year is a focus on connections: between speakers and audience, among students and professionals, and beyond the conference via remote research collaborations.


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