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CareerNews: Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 11: Tuesday, August 7, 2007

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.





Web Networking Boom Blasts into the Workplace





Ten Reasons Why You Should Get an MBA




Web 2.0 Tools Still Scarce in IT Recruiting




Turn Your Interview into a Job




Women 2.0




How to Cope with Job Burnout




IT Managers Unfazed by Impending Boomer Brain Drain




Exit Your Current Job by Developing Bonds




Business Runs on People Skills, not Gadgets




How to Give Notice




"Web Networking Boom Blasts into the Workplace"
Information Week (via Reuters), August 2

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are starting to enter the mainstream of American corporate life. The sites, which started as a way to help people stay connected with friends, have begun tailoring their offerings to professionals, with many of them now offering significant networking opportunities. In fact, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is people older than 25. The article highlights the general growth trends in social networking sites among professionals and outlines the reasons why companies are starting to embrace these sites as a way to connect their employees.

While many businesses are experimenting with social networking sites, it is still somewhat controversial for employees to take advantage of them during work hours. In the UK, for example, more than two-thirds of London businesses have banned or limited employee access to the sites. Moreover, Toronto prohibited its 40,000 municipal workers from using such Web sites three months ago, saying it distracts them from official government business.

Despite the potential problems caused by employees posting inappropriate content online, many workplace experts are in favor of the social networking sites. For example, Jerald Jellison, a professor at USC and an expert in change management and social relations, said companies should embrace social networking. People often meet other employees of their own firms through the sites. In addition, the connections via these sites could be used to share resources, increase productivity and keep employees in the loop.

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"Ten Reasons Why You Should Get an MBA"
CIO.com, July 5

The MBA degree can provide an important boost to any IT management career. In fact, there are at least 10 good reasons to earn an MBA. Having an MBA gives you credibility with your business peers, teaches you to think like a business person, and provides a jump-start to the career of any aspiring CIO. While the MBA is expensive, requires a significant emotional investment and can distract from daily work responsibilities, only the MBA can provide all of the above benefits in a relatively short time frame, in a comprehensive framework and with a lasting credential.

Having an MBA demonstrates your commitment to the business due to the substantial time and energy required to obtain the degree. The MBA degree shows that you value the business perspective and recognize that the technology you implement, support and develop is intended to enable business activities and is not an end in itself. The ability to think like a business person is critical for technology managers, especially those who need to position IT strategically within the company. IT managers need to know how to plan, design and build an IT architecture that is capable of supporting the business as it adapts to a changing marketplace.

Quite simply, if you have an MBA as an IT manager, you are seen as having more to offer than just your knowledge of technology. In addition, you will be able to communicate better with your business colleagues and better prepared to solve business problems. While earning an MBA, you will also have an opportunity to deepen your technical expertise by working on papers and projects that explore the application of different technologies in business.

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"Web 2.0 Tools Still Scarce in IT Recruiting"
Computerworld, July 30

Approximately half of IT and HR leaders do not utilize any Web 2.0 tools whatsoever to recruit young workers. According to the latest Vital Signs survey conducted by Computerworld, only 4% of the recruiters said they used blogs or social networking sites like Facebook to engage potential IT job candidates, and only 15% reported using professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. As a result, many IT organizations are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect, particularly with the talented young workers under age 30 who are accustomed to creating relationships online.

While many companies are missing out on Web 2.0 recruiting opportunities, a few forward-thinking companies do see the potential. Some of these companies are experimenting with recruiting blogs or special recruitment events in virtual worlds such as Second Life. One of the chief benefits of a blog is that it helps company workers connect with potential employees in a genuine way. Moreover, the use of Web 2.0 tools can help job hunters screen companies and vice versa. For example, the use of professional networking sites can help companies separate the likely hires from the rest on the basis of job skills, geography and academic background.

Of course, Web 2.0 tools comprise only one piece of the recruiting puzzle. The primary goal of any new technology, say recruiters, is to attract the attention of the best recruits. This is especially true now. In a recent survey, 27% of respondents said it is tougher to recruit college graduates now than it was two years ago. Complicating the challenge, some say, is that the current crop of new workers is different from previous generations in several respects. For instance, many young workers are accustomed to receiving a lot of personalized attention and the ability to create a flexible work schedule.

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"Turn Your Interview into a Job"
California Job Journal, July 15

As Penelope Trunk of the Brazen Careerist points out, there are six ways to maximize the chances that a job interview will result in an eventual job offer. As a first step, job seekers should realize that hiring managers do not always hire the most qualified person. Instead, they take into account factors such as the likeability of the candidate. Thus, candidates need to be able to demonstrate a good fit with the culture and overall direction of the company. They also need to enter the interview with carefully prepared responses to typical interview questions.

As a first step prior to the interview, thoroughly research the company. Peruse every section of the company Web site and memorize it as if you were preparing for a test. During the interview, the overall goal is to seem as though you are intimately acquainted with every area of the business and that you are aware of what the company does and what its plans are for the future The next step is to develop a sense for the corporate culture of the company, including the way that people within the organization dress. People like to hire people who look like them, and clothing is the easiest way to make this impression.

Since most interview questions are somewhat standard, you can prepare these answers before the interview and learn to deliver them with a special flair, so they do not seem rehearsed. Since an interviewer will judge you first and most importantly on nonverbal cues, prepare to take charge at both the beginning and end of the interview. At the end of the interview, this means inquiring whether the hiring manager has any reservations about hiring you.

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"Women 2.0"
Entrepreneur.com, August 2007

While the number of Web 2.0 startups expands at a rapid clip, how many of these new companies are run by women? Statistics on the number of women at the helm of technology start-ups are difficult to find, but anecdotal evidence suggests that their numbers are growing. According to women tech executives interviewed for the article, a background in computer science and experience within the IT industry are essential for future success, especially when it comes time to raise venture capital financing.

In general, becoming a tech entrepreneur is becoming easier for women, especially for those women with extensive personal networks and previous managerial experience within the technology industry. According to serial entrepreneur Eileen Gittins, the founder and CEO of Web-based book publisher Blurb, women within the Web 2.0 arena are finally starting to reach a point of critical mass. In the future, women entrepreneurs will be able to leverage this ever-growing network of successful women entrepreneurs.

As a sign of the growing presence of women high-tech leaders, venture capital backers are now less likely to replace female founders as leaders of the company they invested in. Instead, venture capital backers are increasingly realizing that women have the skills, experience and temperament to become CEO.

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"How to Cope with Job Burnout"
Web Worker Daily, July 30

Even if you love your work, there will always be times when your job no longer fills you with passion and energy. Web workers may be especially prone to burnout, since they are typically expected to be available online around the clock. With that in mind, the article provides tips and advice for workers so that they can overcome the sense that they are overworked and underappreciated. By moving around to new tasks and projects, offloading certain responsibilities, and finding time to downshift after bursts of activity and achievement, Web workers can avoid the worst cases of burnout.

One way to overcome job burnout is to seek out exciting new projects. Especially if you work in a team of substantial size, there is usually room for individual workers to move around to different tasks or projects. Another way is to offload some responsibilities. Talk to the person in charge about whether you might be able to offload the tasks that are burdensome in favor of focusing on what satisfies you. Most jobs do involve some tasks you do not like to do, but if the balance has shifted so much towards unpleasantness that you are facing burnout, you need to make a change.

When you start to burn out, you may push people away with your irritability, but connecting with other people can be just what you need to change your mindset. If you feel comfortable with it, share your exhaustion and pessimism online with your friends. If you go through periods of massive achievement and accomplishment, be sure to take time off to relax and re-charge. If your job allows it, take it easy while you recover from big efforts. Finally, you can use any vacation time to take a class, volunteer for a cause you care about or teach yourself something new.

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"IT Managers Unfazed by Impending Boomer Brain Drain"
Computerworld, July 30

When the current generation of Baby Boomer IT workers retires, these workers will take decades of valuable insights about IT operations with them. Yet, few companies are taking steps to retain these older workers. In fact, nearly 60% of IT leaders consider that the real impact of the changing demographic situation will not be felt within the next few years. On the other hand, nearly one-fifth of IT leaders are taking steps to retain older workers, such as by offering them flexible work schedules.

In a recent survey, 60% of the respondents said their organizations have not taken any steps to keep retirement-age IT workers from leaving. In fact, some companies actually view impending retirements as a way to offload high salaries and encourage the creation of a younger workforce. At some companies, the threat of baby boomer retirements will not be perceived as a looming concern for at least the next five to seven years.

However, some IT managers are taking the threat of an IT brain drain seriously. Approximately one-fifth of respondents said they have established flexible schedules to accommodate IT workers nearing an exit, while 12% said they have offered part-time work, and 4% said they have offered delayed-retirement plans. Other companies are experimenting with ways of encouraging retirement-age workers to become part-time sub-contractors. As a general rule, there are recruitment, hiring and training savings for companies that retain performers they know and trust who can gradually transfer their knowledge to others.

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"Exit Your Current Job by Developing Bonds"
Wall Street Journal Online, August 1

Approximately 25% of executives intend to quit within 12 months, according to a new survey conducted by a Connecticut-based career-networking organization. Before they walk away from their jobs, though, these executives should think carefully about ways that they can use a dignified exit to enhance their reputations. Building solid bridges instead of burning them can actually boost your future job prospects. If you leave on a high note with connections that are real and true, especially with your boss and closest colleagues, you can create opportunities for yourself later in your career.

A graceful exit strategy from any job requires careful planning. You should draft an upbeat explanation for your leaving that includes praise for the skills acquired on the job. Rehearse your remarks before giving notice in person. Express gratitude to your superior, citing specific ways that your colleagues and boss assisted you. As you exit the company, remember that trying to settle scores could be destructive.

With that in mind, your resignation letter should be as brief and neutral as possible. Retain your composure, even if you have legitimate complaints against your employer. Anticipate an unwanted counteroffer by preparing a diplomatic response that reiterates why you chose to quit. Finally, give enough notice to ensure a smooth transition with customers and fellow staffers. When you inform peers about your departure, provide a vivid, positive description of your next employer, but avoid boasting about your future salary.

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"Business Runs on People Skills, not Gadgets"
Management Issues, August 2

A new survey from workplace consultancy Randstad provides a broad overview of key trends within the U.S. workplace. Approximately one-third of U.S. workers consider that new technologies, especially those related to mobile and wireless, have contributed to easier access to information, a greater ability to stay ahead of new trends, and an enhanced ability to control their workloads. In addition to examining the role of technology within the workplace, the survey looks at the importance of personal communication skills and outlines key trends related to worker productivity and job satisfaction.

While American workers are working longer hours than ever before, a majority of them are willing to work as many hours as it requires. Moreover, the survey from Randstad shows a clear connection between hours worked and increased productivity. Half of employees and 65% of employers are working 41 to 60 hours on average per week, and half of employers and 40% of employees said productivity has increased since last year. The primary driver appears to be the introduction of new technology. Approximately one-third of the workers polled said they were happy about the benefits that technology brought in terms of easier access to information and its ability to help them stay on top of work.

Over the past five years, however, a rising number of employees and supervisors reported increased doubts about the intentions and capabilities of top management. Moreover, while more than eight out of 10 employers and six out of 10 employees viewed their current work as a career as opposed to just a job, there was not much evidence of loyalty to their organizations. In fact, there was a strong feeling among employees that it was time to make a career change, with 54% of them looking to take on extra work or leave for another job.

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"How to Give Notice"
Business Week, July 19

While receiving a new employment offer may be an exhilarating experience, informing your current employer that you are planning to leave can often be a time of stress and anxiety. As a result, giving notice at your job, especially for the first time in your career, can be intimidating. According to career planning experts, the best way to announce your impending departure is quickly and forcefully. Avoid talking too much, and sidestep any potential counter-offer. Using this advice, you will be able to avoid anxiety when you give notice after a new job offer.

As a first step in giving notice, inform your boss politely that it is important to meet as soon as possible to discuss something important. If possible, arrange to see your boss in person, and when you enter the office or conference room, remain standing. Then, get to the point quickly. Comment on how much you have learned at the company and the opportunities that you have been given. After that, it is up to your boss to react and ask questions.

You do not have to say where you are going, but if you do not have a reason to keep it quiet, you may as well share the information and avoid having your boss think you are going to work for a competitor. React quickly, and decline politely if your boss talks about a counter-offer. If your boss wants to get into your reasons for leaving or acts hurt that you conducted your stealth job search, you can make an appointment for later when you have had time to prepare your answers. Finally, talk with your boss about how and when the news of your departure will be shared with members of senior management and your colleagues.

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