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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, October 5, 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 19, October 5, 2010




CIOs Say They're Hiring Again
Computerworld, September 27

The latest quarterly Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report projects a moderate increase in hiring during the fourth quarter of 2010. While the technology employment outlook is slowly starting to improve, the improvement in hiring has been modest and hasn't come close to making up for the IT jobs lost during the economic downturn of the past couple of years. The good news is that almost half of the survey respondents said they expect their companies will invest in IT projects in the coming months, and that could lead to stronger than expected hiring results.

Technology executives are slowly adding new employees as work starts on projects that had been put on hold, and as IT workloads increase in general. In the first six months of this year, technology companies added 30,200 jobs to their payrolls. The optimistic note comes after a couple of down years for IT workers. Tech firms are filling not just IT-related jobs, but also sales, marketing and distribution positions. Firms that are still in the early stage of recovery are no longer laying off workers, but rather, simply delaying plans to hire.


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What Job Recruiters Can and Can’t Do For You
U.S. News & World Report, September 24

Jobseekers typically think of recruiters as an end-to-end solution to the job search and that once they contact a recruiter, the job opportunities will start to appear. This is not always the case: while recruiters can be incredibly helpful, it's important to understand how most recruiters work in order to avoid frustration and disappointment. Keep in mind that recruiters do not work for you -- they work with you, and that means they are focused first and foremost on finding the right candidate for a position they need to fill.

As a rule of thumb, remember that a recruiter is conducting a search for a company, not a job search for a candidate. Recruiters will select you as a candidate to present for a search only if you are an exact match. If selected, you can expect that they will work with you through the process for that particular search. That being said, it's a big mistake to stop your job search once you've had a conversation with a recruiter. Contingency recruiters are only paid upon making a successful placement, so their time will be spent where it is most likely to pay off -- having conversations with candidates who are an exact match for their current searches.


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The Future of Work Won’t Contain Resumes
GigaOm, September 19

Lukas Biewald, CEO of CrowdFlower, weighs in on how to find the perfect job candidate for a growing technology business. As Biewald points out, the resume places too much emphasis on a good GPA, a great degree and sound-bite accomplishments at previous jobs, but not enough emphasis on relevant information that tells you how a candidate will really perform on the job. New social networking sites are quickly making the traditional resume obsolete. For example, LinkedIn profiles are sometimes better than resumes in that they give extra pieces of information: recommendations, as well as the people that are known professionally.

Websites like oDesk and eLance, which provide rankings and insights about recent projects, more closely reflect the future of resumes and how companies hire. When you hire someone on these contractor marketplaces, you don’t see things like what college they attended, you see past jobs and employer ratings. This simple reputation score is much more reliable, fair, and is harder to gloss over than any resume. Past performance on work is essential in predicting future performance. As companies feel pressure to hire faster and hire more specialists on a part-time basis, reputation scores in online marketplaces will start to replace resumes as the main initial hiring criteria.


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Six Ways to Keep Women in Science
Science Insider, September 24

While more women are getting Ph.D.s than ever before, and now outnumber their male colleagues in some scientific fields, the bad news is that women are still less likely to enter and remain in scientific careers. Beyond the doctoral level, the ratio of women to men starts to dip below one. In order to explain this trend, L'Oreal, in conjunction with AAAS, surveyed 10,000 U.S. doctoral scientists about perceived barriers to a successful career and reasons why some people may leave science altogether. While both men and women complained about the struggle to find jobs and obtain research funding, women were much more likely to cite more abstract barriers to success, such as the difficulty of balancing career and family obligations or access to good mentors. With that in mind, the article provides some practical advice of how women can improve their career prospects.

Based on the findings, having a helpful mentor seems to make a bigger difference in career success for women than for men. Although it may still be harder to find female role models in fields like computer science and engineering, they exist if you look hard enough. When it comes to negotiating pay, women can learn from their male colleagues, who are typically better at asking for more. According to Title IX, women are guaranteed equal access in all educational activities supported by the federal government, including research. Every institution must have at least one employee monitoring compliance, and are receptive to the needs of women.


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Tech Employment Steady, Latest Census Figures Show
Network World, September 29

According to recent figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, IT employment appears to have stabilized over the past 24 months. At a time when total U.S. employment dropped by almost 6 million people from 2008 to 2009, jobs in the computer/mathematics sector remained almost constant. An estimated 3.472 million people were employed in computer- and math-related jobs last year, down only slightly from 3.475 million the year before.

While the official U.S. Census takes place only once every ten years, the smaller American Community Survey (ACS) is conducted each year. In terms of jobs, Colorado showed the largest increase, 2.2%, followed by North Carolina and Kentucky at 1.8% each. Last year for the first time, the ACS asked for specific details from those with bachelor's degrees. An estimated 36.4% of people with a bachelor's degree or higher had at least one science and engineering degree.


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Opportunities Abound for Bilingual Workers
California Job Journal, September 19

With the Hispanic and Asian populations in the U.S. expected to triple over the next 50 years, the demand for people who can speak and write in multiple languages is increasing rapidly across a variety of industries and careers. As a result, adding foreign language skills to your resume is one way to boost your value to potential employers. Moreover, bilingual employees typically enjoy higher salaries than those who only speak one language. This is especially true within the technology sector, where there is a growing need for bilingual IT workers to translate and explain technology concepts for non-English-speaking audiences.

Within the tech sector, one area of demand for bilingual workers is providing IT support for a wider audience of foreign-language speakers. A day in the life of a bilingual IT worker may involve working with a foreign client in a tech-support environment; translating help files and user guides for global product releases; or creating software applications tailored to a worldwide market. Employers with specialized jobs in technical writing, customer service, and software development are especially eager to hire individuals who can provide multiple-language support. The benefit of bilingual employees goes deeper than language. According to recruiters, bilingual people use different frames of reference to approach problems, thereby increasing analytical ability.


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For Accountants and Engineers, School Name Plays Bigger Role
Career Journal, September 27

According to a survey of recent college graduates by the Wall Street Journal, college reputation matters more for jobseekers who majored in fields like engineering and accounting than in the humanities and other non-professional fields. The survey asked people who graduated from college between 1999 and 2010 to rate how important their undergraduate college's reputation and connections were to their current job and career success. Since entry-level job candidates don't have much work experience for employers to evaluate, recruiters rely more on college reputation in hiring, especially for specialized majors who are more likely to be recruited straight out of college into jobs that directly relate to their majors.

Engineering, international business and accounting majors said they saw the strongest correlation between school reputation and their careers. Large engineering and accounting firms typically know well in advance how many entry-level positions they need to fill in a given year, as well as the precise skill sets that are needed to succeed in these jobs. These companies form close relationships with universities that have a track record of producing skilled graduates, and dedicate many of their recruiting resources to these campuses.


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Five Easy Steps for Networking Like a Pro
Personal Branding Blog, September 28

Networking can be a vital way to build contacts and provide a basis for future career growth. No matter what you’re looking to do with your personal brand, growing and nurturing your network will help you get there. In order to network like a professional, there are five easily executable steps that start with getting in the right mindset to network. From there, you will need to construct an effective elevator pitch, think of ways that you can provide value as part of a mutually beneficial relationship, and learn ways to follow-up effectively with your new contacts.

Even if you aren’t searching for a job, never leave networking until you “need it.” You’re looking to create a mutually beneficial relationship between yourself and another person – and that doesn’t happen overnight. Keep in mind that you will need to network over time, but keep in contact with those who are already in your network throughout this period. Building and maintaining a network can open the door to huge opportunities for you in your job search and career. In order to reach out to new and interesting people, you need to have a 60- to 90-second elevator pitch ready. If you’re contacting someone for the first time, your elevator pitch should also end in a call to action.


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ACM Hails Second Computer Science Education Week to Raise Awareness of Computing and Its Role in Society
ACM Press Room, September 23

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a resolution that designates the week of December 5-11 as Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). During this week, organizations such as ACM will raise public understanding of the critical role computer science education plays in preparing students for high-tech careers. The House resolution, co-sponsored by Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), recognizes that while the outlook for computer science-related jobs remains strong, too few students are exposed to engaging computer science education based on rigorous computational concepts.

As Debra Richardson, the Chair of CSEdWeek, points out, in order for students to thrive in computing-related careers, it is imperative to provide them with opportunities to take effective computer science courses that instill an essential understanding of computing and its impact on society. This goes beyond simply learning basic computer skills, but rather includes fluency in using computers to solve complex problems and engaging in abstract and computational thinking. By supporting CSEdWeek, Congress is taking a step to recognize the need for a national STEM strategy that highly values computer science.


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How OffShoring Affects IT Workers
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 53, No. 10, October 2010

The outsourcing of IT services continues to have a long-term impact on the domestic IT workforce, especially when it comes to the demand for skills among U.S. IT workers in the future. Thanks to new survey data about IT outsourcing, organizations will be better able to anticipate the training needs of existing and future IT workers, while policymakers will be able to frame initiatives that ease the transition to a global IT work force. The authors quantify the extent to which offshoring has affected IT workers; show a relationship between occupational attributes and offshoring-related displacement; and demonstrate the growing importance of managerial and interpersonal skills for IT workers.

Although about 15% of firms in the U.S. offshored in 2007, firms in high-tech industries offshored at rates higher than 40%, and IT work was the most commonly offshored type of work. In fact, IT workers in the U.S. have experienced offshoring-related displacement at a rate of 8%, more than double the percentage in other occupations. While firms offshore for a number of reasons, IT workers appear to be offshored primarily for cost or access to skills. The survey results suggest that employees in jobs requiring face-to-face contact or physical presence in a fixed location are less likely to be offshored. IT workers are especially vulnerable to offshoring because IT jobs generally require less customer contact or interaction with fixed physical assets. Interpersonal and managerial skills are increasingly valuable for IT workers, suggesting that IT workers may find more robust career paths in IT professions that require personal delivery.


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