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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, January 4, 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-request@acm.org

Volume 7, Issue 1, January 4, 2011




Five Smart Career Resolutions for 2011
U.S. News & World Report, December 27

Heading into 2011, there are five practical career resolutions that can help you to recharge your career. Most importantly, reconsider how you can align your own career growth with the needs of your boss and organization. This requires re-thinking your core role within the organization and how you can best help to fulfill the organization’s key objectives. You should also widen your professional network by making a conscious effort to invite new people to lunch. By exploring new education opportunities, you can make your skills and experiences more relevant to your employer. The article also provides concrete suggestions on how to turn each resolution into reality.

Returning to work from the holiday season, re-focus on the reason you were hired and confirm that it is still in line with the organization’s key objectives. For example, you can schedule a meeting for mid-January with your boss and ask this question: “What can I do to help this team succeed in 2011?" This will help you and your boss confirm the best place to use your talents. And that may open doors to new assignments, cross-functional roles, or a key internal role. Secondly, use your lunch to meet new people. Instead of eating lunch at your desk or with the same old crowd, pick a day each week and invite someone new to lunch. Social networking creates new friendships and more productive work relationships. Choose an internal contact for the first week and an external contact the next. Make a target list of 10 internal and 10 external people so you have a place to start.


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Job Offers Rising as Economy Warms Up
Wall Street Journal, December 24

As the economy gradually recovers, big U.S. companies are intensifying their recruiting efforts and advertising thousands of job openings, including positions for experts in emerging IT areas such as cloud computing. The number of U.S. job postings on the Internet rose to 4.7 million on December 1, up from 2.7 million a year earlier. These figures may undercount available jobs because some companies don't post all listings online. Many of the new technology jobs are in consulting, health care, telecommunications and defense-related industries. After surveying the national employment data, the article takes a closer look at the hiring needs of employers in fields ranging from telecom to defense to healthcare.

Keeping in mind that online job postings represent only a partial and unofficial look at the labor market, there is reason for optimism. A Wall Street Journal survey of 55 economists in early December showed they expect only moderate job growth in 2011, enough to reduce the unemployment rate to a still-high 9% at the end of 2011 from 9.8% in December. But companies are racking up profits and now have built strong cash positions, and may be ready to hire again. As consumer confidence revives, the economy should continue a gradual recovery that encourages more companies to hire. Unlike previous turnarounds, however, many of the available jobs require experience and technical expertise that few job seekers have. Moreover, there is still a lot of spare capacity in the economy, so some companies can continue to see increasing sales without hiring many more workers.


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CSO Resumes: Five Tips To Make Yours Shine
Network World, December 22

For computer security professionals, one way to minimize the length of a job search is by updating your resume and career accomplishments in a way that positions you as a business, rather than technology, professional. On a regular basis, ask yourself: “Is there anything interesting I have done recently that is more interesting than what I have on my current resume?” Computer security professionals, who must keep up with fast-moving changes within their industry, need a resume that positions them as best able to help organizations reach their business objectives. A group of security recruiters share their thoughts on what to include on a resume for the best chance of being selected as the highest-potential job candidate.

When putting together your resume, try to position yourself as a business professional first, a security professional second. The most important thing for a job-seeking security professional to recognize today is that security needs to be seen as an enabler of business. Be able to quantify things you have done that have business value for the organization, such as increased sales or improved productivity. Recruiters reiterate that they are looking for real business-focused, value-driven resumes. In doing so, take efforts to distinguish yourself and your brand. Instead of comparing yourself only to your peers, make an effort to compare yourself to business executives as well. Make career investments that will differentiate you from your peer group. Instead of focusing on security certifications, look for ways to ramp up your business background, whether it's taking on new responsibilities in your current position, or getting some business-related education.


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It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You
The Globe and Mail (Canada), December 28

With the rise of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, it has never been easier to build and maintain a network. Job seekers no longer have to set aside several hours a week to call connections and engage in small talk. Our networks and our reach seem wider than ever. On the flip side, however, many of these online connections are difficult to include as part of a job search. Since business success is truly based on who knows you, rather than who you know, it makes sense to re-frame your online connections in terms of how well they know you and how willing they might be to help out on a job search.

Among your Facebook and LinkedIn connections, you likely have quite a few “weak” connections who do not truly know you and, therefore, would not be able to help you in a job search. A connection who isn’t interested in connecting beyond hitting the “accept as friend” button is not adding any business value to a network. As professionals though, it is important to know who is in your network and to whom you can turn for advice. In short, it is necessary to identify who knows you. One way to do this is by creating four categories and identifying which category to place each member of your network into. It is a time-consuming exercise, but it offers lots of value. It gives you the chance to get to know your network again and provides a great reminder of who is in it that you may have forgotten about. Just remember, that if you want to build true rapport, you will need to take these connections offline at some point.


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Has the Definition of a Job Changed Forever?
Duct Tape Marketing, December 29

The current generation of students graduating from college is finding that a massive technological change in how companies work, combined with the current economic downturn, has altered the view of what a job is forever. In a guest interview for the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, Scott Gerber argues that it’s perfectly acceptable for members of Generation Y to “never get a real job.” Gerber’s take on the traditional job is that it’s like putting all your eggs in one basket and handing the basket off to someone else you no longer control how the eggs are handled. Gerber has created the Young Entrepreneur Council as a tool to help the Gen Y generation of workers figure out how to be more entrepreneurial and understand the demands of a rapidly changing workplace.

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an advocacy group made up of many of the world’s top young entrepreneurs, business owners and thought leaders. The mission of the organization is to teach young people how to build success. While Gerber is not necessarily suggesting that every young person’s only option is starting a company, he is saying that you need to take control and become a self sufficiency expert and start getting much more proactive about your financial future rather than handing out resumes. Gerber’s book, Never Get a Real Job, is a practical, hands-on guide for how to actually live the dream of controlling your own employment destiny.


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How Design Can Get Kids On the Path to Tech Careers
Fast Company Design, December 23

The founder of an innovative new science and math academy, Dr. Stephanie Pace Marshall of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), discusses how design thinking can change the way we accelerate students on their future technology careers. The IMSA is an internationally renowned, publicly funded residential high school that emphasizes a curriculum in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Due to the unique educational approaches of IMSA, it has become a role model for other technology programs. Dr. Marshall shares her thoughts about the opportunities and challenges we face in advancing STEM learning, especially as they relate to STEM education as a source of future competitive economic strength for the United States.

As Dr. Marshall explains, design thinking plays an important role in helping to create a new conversation about education so the system can be re-architected for a new generation. Dr. Marshall then outlines the key ideas and goals behind creating a learning community like IMSA. As she explains, Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman first proposed the idea of a residential secondary institution for students talented in mathematics and science in 1983, as a response to the perceived national crisis in developing STEM talent. Over the next 25 years, traditional models for educating academically talented students in STEM have not been truly effective in nurturing the next generation of STEM researchers, innovators, leaders, and inventors. From inception, IMSA sought not only to develop decidedly different scientific minds, but also to develop a decidedly different residential learning community -- one that was nurturing and innovative, and one that instilled a sense of stewardship, and an obligation to give back. IMSA remains a dynamic teaching and learning laboratory.


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Finding Success in Follow-Ups Into 2011
Talent Culture, December 27

Basic business etiquette stresses the importance of follow-up with new business contacts within the first twenty-four hours: however, what most people don’t realize, it is the actual post follow-up that is crucial to setting the groundwork. Due to the difficultly in keeping contacts and relationships alive in the ever-changing Internet world, there is a tendency to either forget to reach out or not make the effort. Given that contacts are made on a daily basis and technology introduces new, more flexible ways to connect, the article provides five tips to help you in the post follow-up to a business contact.

As a first step to better follow-ups, prioritize with whom you want to keep in touch. After all, it’s impossible to keep in touch with everyone so decide which contacts have the most potential to be beneficial to you. Once you have decided “who,” you will have a better idea of what to ask them and how they can help. Using a variety of communication methods, including e-mail, Twitter and LinkedIn, start by checking in with them once a month. The goal is to stay on their radar, while constantly evaluating possible short- and long-term benefits. A good way to use e-mail is to send them an article that is either related to their personal brand or related to a previous conversation amongst you two. This shows that you are genuine in your communication as well as a valuable resource to them.


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Discovering Your Genius Formula
Psychology Today, December 20

Marcia Reynolds, author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction, comments on a new approach to achieving amazing results in the workplace with less effort. As Reynolds explains, you need to have the ability to define yourself according to your unique talents, gifts and strengths. A way to discover what makes you feel fully alive and excited is an approach called Appreciative Inquiry: this approach directs people to build on what's working rather than trying to fix what's not. Taking an appreciative approach, you see the events in your life through a new lens. When you hold an appreciate dialogue with a partner who will freely engage you in the discovery process, you open up a portal for identifying your true contribution to your own growth plus the value you give to others.

The first step of the Appreciate Dialogue process is thinking of a time in your past when you felt energized, significant, and fulfilled. This moment could have happened yesterday or years ago. With this memory in mind, describe a peak experience where you felt fully alive and fulfilled. Recall the five things did you contribute to creating this peak experience. Instead of using broad characterizations such as being a good team player, leader or friend; define specific strengths, personality attributes, powerful emotions, work or life values, special actions. Explore the five distinct factors that led to this peak effort. These factors might be emotions that helped you to persevere, or values that helped you make the right choices and connections. What did you do or feel naturally that led to the amazing result that may be difficult for others to access, express, or experience?"


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Where Have All the Workshops Gone?
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 54 No. 1, January 2011

The informal graduate workshop, which had long been the most popular way to introduce students to the computing research community, has a new opportunity to be revitalized. These computing research workshops were informal gatherings of researchers who mixed networking with work-in-progress presentations and intellectually stimulating discussions. While conferences were the place to present polished technical results, workshops were a place to gauge the interest of your scientific colleagues in the progress of your research results. The article considers why such informal workshops are almost extinct today, why these workshops have evolved into mini-conferences, and suggests a possible solution for reviving the workshop concept.

Today's research workshops have typically large program committees, calls for papers, deadlines, and all the other ingredients of computing-research conferences. What they usually lack is the prestige of major conferences. Furthermore, most workshops today do publish proceedings, before or after the meeting, which means a workshop paper cannot be resubmitted to a conference. As a result, today's workshops do not attract papers of the same quality as those submitted to major conferences. Workshops have become a form of slimmed-down conference. It is not uncommon to see workshops where the size of the program committee exceeds the number of papers submitted to the workshop, or deadlines extended in the hope of attracting a few more submissions.


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MentorNet Alumna: Being a Woman in Engineering is Fun
MentorNet News, December 2010

According to Professor Katherine Kuchenbecker, a former MentorNet protégé and current mentor, being a woman within the engineering field can be a unique and satisfying experience. Now a faculty advisor for the University of Pennsylvania’s Society of Women Engineers chapter, Kuchenbecker won Penn Engineering's Ford Motor Company Award for Faculty Advising in May and was named one of Popular Science's 2010 "Brilliant 10" - one of the ten most accomplished and promising scientists in the nation. Kuchenbecker describes what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated field, and why girls today should broaden their imagination of what is possible within the engineering profession.

When Kuchenbecker signed up to be a MentorNet protégé during her fifth year of graduate school at Stanford University, she found a great mentor in Dr. Elisa Barney Smith, a Boise State professor of Electrical Engineering. Though in a different field than Kuchenbecker, Smith helped her decide that she wanted to become a professor and guided her through the job search process. What is perhaps most encouraging to young women engineers is that Kuchenbecker has been warmly welcomed and supported by her colleagues at Penn and in the worldwide robotics research community at large. In fact, people she meets outside of academia are sometimes surprised to learn she is an engineering professor, since she doesn’t fit the common cultural stereotype. Her mentor also helped her through the job application process and guided her through the decision-making related to a post-doctoral year at Johns Hopkins University.


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