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CareerNews: Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 9: Tuesday, July 10, 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.





100 Best Places to Work in IT 2007



Escalating War for Talent Drives Changes in Recruitment



Consulting: A Smart IT Career Choice



Wooing Interns to Silicon Valley



Creating a Positive Professional Image



Network Your Way to a Second Career



10 Mistakes to Avoid When Negotiating a Raise



Tips for Recent College Grads Stepping Into the Work Force



Why Do Women Leave IT?



Landing Your Next Job



Schmooze, Whether You Like It or Not




"100 Best Places to Work in IT 2007"
Computerworld, June 18

According to a survey of 27,000 IT workers conducted by Computerworld, the best IT companies to work for are those that are able to link the IT department to the overall mission of the organization. These organizations are able to make their IT workers feel connected to a greater whole, enabling them to accomplish meaningful work in an energetic environment alongside co-workers they respect and like. In fact, other than compensation, working in a challenging and enjoyable environment was the most important aspect of their jobs for IT workers. These 100 Best Places to Work nurture a sense of belonging by establishing mission statements that explicitly link IT activities to business goals, bringing IT workers into strategic discussions, promoting group cohesiveness, keeping policies as flexible as possible and providing unlimited opportunities for growth.

For companies already facing heightened competition for the best IT workers, it is important to establish the appropriate elements of a thriving workplace culture. In general, organizations that can help employees establish a connection with the workplace can hold on to them longer. The best companies are able to share their future vision of the business with their employees and show them how they are part of that larger vision. Using examples such as Anheuser-Busch Entertainment and Pulte Homes, the article shows concrete examples of companies changing their ways of doing business to integrate their employees into the overall vision of the organization.

Companies must also foster an environment that encourages a free flow of ideas and favors flexibility and innovation over policy and hierarchy. Instead of creating complex rules and regulations or overly restrictive policies, companies should instead focus on making the IT department a place that is fun, easy to manage, and unburdened by hierarchy. Flexibility also has to extend into the types of benefits offered employees. This might mean enabling employees to take advantage of some form of alternative schedule, such as working from home or working four days a week. Finally, the Best Places to Work in IT also offer healthy training and development benefits, access to interesting projects, and the ability to match staffers with roles that showcase their talents.

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"Escalating War for Talent Drives Changes in Recruitment"
Management Issues, June 28

As a recent study by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation points out, finding and recruiting the best talent has become the most pressing issue for more than 50% of all UK firms. As a result, employers of all sizes and across all sectors are reconsidering how they manage recruitment and staffing as well as re-thinking the role of the HR function. Since the search for staff increasingly impacts costs and productivity of companies, many employers are now exploring alternative approaches to recruitment, including the greater use of Web-based solutions and recruitment process outsourcing.

Among large employers, direct online recruitment is the favorite technique for improving the talent acquisition process. Not surprisingly, a number of major companies have launched recruitment Web sites in the last years, with the result that organizations such as Unilever, the BBC and the Royal Mail have reduced their use of recruitment agencies by up to 80%. However, direct Internet recruitment only makes sense if the organization is large enough or has a brand powerful enough to attract a large number of candidates. Most employers do not fall into this category, meaning that eight in ten employers still use a combination of in-house recruitment and agencies to find staff.

Somewhat surprisingly, more than a decade after companies discovered the power of the Internet as a recruiting tool, many still lack an easily-navigated career section on their corporate Web sites. As a result, it may take another 24 months before most employers are in a position to move their recruiting efforts online. Spurred on by the example of larger organizations, many smaller companies will continue to make their sites more user-friendly for job-seekers. In the near-term future, the Internet will become an important recruitment tool for all employers regardless of size.

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"Consulting: A Smart IT Career Choice"
Computerworld, July 2

With the worldwide technology talent shortage expected to intensify over the next decade, there are a number of reasons why it might make sense to consider a career in IT consulting. Whether it is viewed as a bridge to eventual retirement or as a full-fledged career change, consulting is one way to revitalize an IT career. In fact, according to a recent survey, 46% of CIOs said they would likely consider consulting or project work as a possible transition to retirement. The article outlines the major benefits of a consulting career, highlighting the ability to try out new environments, technologies and industries, as well as the potential for increased financial compensation.

Consulting gives seasoned IT professionals, whether or not they plan to retire soon, a chance to explore new specialties or industries. Consultants can continue to earn a substantial income while building a career that accommodates their changing personal needs. Engagement lengths and work schedules can vary, providing flexibility for those with personal aspirations or obligations, such as spending more time with family or caring for aging parents. Consulting can also be an excellent way to re-charge an IT career by introducing new challenges in the form of new work environments and a wide range of new industries and technologies. In addition, consulting can minimize some of the less enjoyable aspects of everyday work, such as dealing with ongoing office politics.

However, there are also drawbacks to a possible consulting career. Some may find the financial security of a steady position and the camaraderie of familiar team members irreplaceable. Others who enjoy their workplace status may not be keen on earning the respect of a new set of colleagues on each project. Consulting requires you to hit the ground running at the client company. You need to be comfortable meeting new people, able to adjust to new office cultures and excited by new challenges. If this does not appeal to you, consulting might not be the best option for you.

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"Wooing Interns to Silicon Valley"
CNET News.com, July 3

Across Silicon Valley, technology companies of all sizes are engaged in a spirited competition to hire the best and the brightest college interns, especially as the number of computer science grads continues to shrink at the university and graduate levels. For computer science undergrads with ambition and a modest amount of industry experience, these are boom times. As companies fish from a shrinking pool of skilled job candidates, they are upping the ante when it comes to recruiting talent for next year. The article takes a closer look at the various ways that companies are attempting to recruit university students with an expansive array of new internship perks.

In response to the greater competition for student interns, companies are making offers as attractive as possible. Microsoft, for example, offers students extensive benefits, even going so far as to fly students to its campus for interviews. It also offers to pay new intern hires for relocating, and gives them the choice of a housing stipend or subsidized corporate housing with free transportation to and from work. Microsoft also offers a number of standard perks, such as tickets to baseball games or invitations to the house of Bill Gates. Not to be outdone, Google treats its interns to ice cream socials, bowling nights, bay cruises, and other social events. Google interns also enjoy the same free gourmet meals that regular employees do. Google also encourages interns to attend its lecture series featuring technology luminaries or to participate in events involving high-profile visitors to the Google campus.

Without a doubt, tech companies have their work cut out for them as they seek to woo students. To find students, most major tech companies still recruit at universities and career fairs all over the world, scouting for undergrads and graduate students in the departments of computer science, engineering, electrical engineering, physics and math. Many promising computer science students will receive multiple offers to intern from rivals like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo before they choose where to go. And when they graduate, having a tech giant on the resume is a major advantage in helping them land a job.

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"Creating a Positive Professional Image"
HBS Working Knowledge, June 20

According to Harvard Business School professor Laura Morgan Roberts, if you are not managing your own professional image, others will do it for you. Quite simply, people are constantly observing your behavior and forming perceptions about your competence, character, and commitment. These perceptions are then rapidly distributed throughout the workplace, thereby shaping your professional image. In an interview with Mallory Stark of Harvard, Laura Morgan Roberts discusses the key issues involved in creating a professional image, arguing that candidates should take a strategic, proactive approach to managing image that begins with honest self-assessment of factors such as culture, audience and identity.

As Laura Morgan Roberts explains, your professional image is the set of qualities and characteristics that represent perceptions of your competence and character as judged by your key constituents, such as your clients, superiors, subordinates and colleagues. However, there is often a divergence between your desired professional image and your perceived professional image. Most people want to be described as technically competent, socially skilled, of strong character and integrity, and committed to their work, team, and company. Yet, you can never know exactly what all of your key constituents think about you, or how they would describe you when you are not around. Thus, you must keep a close eye on how people interact with you. People often give you direct feedback about your persona that tells you what they think about your level of competence, character, and commitment. Other times, you may receive indirect signals about your image, through job assignments or referrals and recommendations.

After discussing how stereotypes affect perceived professional image, Laura Morgan Roberts describes how workers can use strategic self-presentation to manage impressions and change an image. Impression management strategies enable you to explain predicaments, counter devaluation, and demonstrate legitimacy. People manage impressions through their non-verbal behavior, verbal cues and demonstrative acts. In addition to using these traditional impression management strategies, people can also use social identity-based impression management to create a positive professional image. This refers to the process of strategically presenting yourself in a manner that communicates the meaning and significance you associate with your social identities. By using these techniques, you will be able to proactively manage the way people think about you in a professional context.

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"Network Your Way to a Second Career"
Business Week, June 26

Workers who have been in the labor force for 10 to 15 years often face the same difficulties as they attempt to change career paths. How do you move into a new industry or sector when everyone you know is here with you in the old one? The key is to leverage the richness and complexity of your personal and professional networks, tapping into the interconnections that you never knew existed in the first place. When you are starting your move to a second career and want to make contacts in that area, the first place to start is your own trusted network of colleagues and friends. These people will be able to create a base of knowledge for you about a new career path, and suggest the types of leads that can lead to a radical career change.

As a first step, you will need to advertise your availability. You can send out an e-mail message to people in your network, being careful that each recipient receives a personalized message rather than a generic message. Let your contacts know that you are pursuing a career change, reminding them of the experiences you have accumulated so far, and sharing with them as much concrete information as you can about the new direction you are taking. Once you have alerted your friends to your second-career plans, there are a few more steps to take. Update your social networking profiles to reflect your new career direction. Browse Internet discussion forums devoted to your new, chosen field, and join those groups to learn about current topics and trends in the profession. Keep in mind that networking is all about reciprocity, and even if others never take you up on your offer, you always want to make it clear that your networking outreach is not a one-way proposition.

At the same time as you are building contacts, you need to be establishing a base of knowledge about the new career area. You should expect to spend hours online, attend a number of networking events, and meet a lot of people in a short period. Although you will want to focus your energy on creating strong relationships with people who can refer you to the best opportunities, you never know where the best leads may come from. Thus, you need to keep an open mind when making introductions and adding people to your network. Remember, too, that you must rely on your own personal credibility and personality, rather than a track record of success in other environments, as you seek out leads in a new field.

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"10 Mistakes to Avoid When Negotiating a Raise"
CIO.com, June 27

An experienced negotiation coach and trainer points out that a consensus-driven approach to negotiation is often ill-suited for convincing your boss to give you that next big raise. Instead of basing your actions on making your boss happy or on avoiding making your boss angry, it is often more effective to focus on what you can actually control during the negotiation process. Often, that means encouraging the person across from you to say no. Inviting no, hearing no and even saying no yourself can open up the conversation for real give-and-take. With that in mind, the article provides 10 rules of the road for negotiating a raise.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but during the salary negotiation process, invite your boss to say no. Tell him or her that you are comfortable with a no answer. This puts your boss at ease and clears the air for serious negotiation. At the same time, avoid attaching any emotional value to responses from your boss. Above all, overcome any neediness, since the very act of not needing the raise or promotion gives you power. Successful negotiation of any sort requires that you understand this fact and use it. Being calm, staying in the moment, controlling your emotions, asking pointed questions and listening carefully to any responses from your boss will enable you to remain in control during the negotiation process.

Before heading to the meeting, prepare yourself by researching what people in your position get paid. Check out job and career sites that list salary information. Visit association or industry websites for salary surveys. Search for trade publications, which often run their own salary information. When discussing compensation matters with your boss, do not try to impress him or her by bragging or by making the boss feel in any way inferior. Sometimes less is more. Try to talk as little as possible and ask your employer a lot of questions so you can find out important issues, concerns, needs and objectives. Then you can tailor your response to fill these needs and your boss will eventually see that you can help him or her achieve that vision and are worthy of a raise.

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"Tips for Recent College Grads Stepping Into the Work Force"
Career Journal, June 27

For recent college graduates just starting out in the workforce, the first couple of weeks can be a difficult transition period. In addition to learning new tasks, these workers must figure out the office culture, the expectations of the boss, how to interact with colleagues, how to dress, and even when to arrive and leave. Unlike school, where students receive specific instructions and regular feedback, the world of work is more ambiguous. With that in mind, the article covers a few basics of starting that first job for recent college graduates.

Career advisers recommend that new grads spend their first weeks on the job observing their co-workers. It is better to watch and learn at first, until you become acclimated to the new environment. Watch co-workers to learn how people dress, the hours they keep, how long they take for lunch and how they interact with each other and their supervisors. In addition, new hires should take advantage of any mentoring system. Later, they can seek out slightly older co-workers to learn more about the culture and rhythm of the workplace.

Although many new hires may be afraid to ask questions in their first few weeks, do not just sit silently and nod when given an assignment, hoping to figure it out later. Instead, ask specific questions to understand what a boss expects. In addition, the new hire should ask which other resources, such as databases or websites, can provide information. If in doubt, it may be necessary to tap into the expertise of older co-workers, who can often reduce the amount of time required to finish a particular assignment.

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"Why Do Women Leave IT?"
CIOInsight.com, June 7

Women are leaving information technology jobs for a variety of reasons, including many that are rooted in historical patterns of workforce demographics. In addition, the lack of female mentors and networks discourage many women from seeking out new opportunities in the IT workplace. In 2000, women accounted for 28.9% of all employed IT workers, but that figure fell to 26.2% by 2006. In addition, the number of women in IT leadership roles has declined to a five-year low. Amidst this backdrop, the article looks for possible clues to the female brain drain from the IT field. A number of workforce experts weigh in, explaining how business cycles, lifestyle choices, culture, and labor relations all play a role.

In trying to understand the gender imbalance in IT, many labor experts point to the very nature of economic cycles. They suggest that the high employment figures for women in IT at the end of the Internet boom were simply unsustainable. Then, during the downturn, the limiting factors on women in IT became self-perpetuating and reinforcing mechanisms. For example, the lack of female mentors and networks made it more difficult for women to find new jobs in a tough market. Moreover, during boom years, employers are much more open in terms of who they are interested in hiring. They may be more wiling to make jobs more attractive to people, in terms of accommodating lifestyle demands and offering greater flexibility in job scheduling. As soon as a downturn occurs, this willingness largely disappears.

Even a small differential per year in the gender turnover can result in an outsized effect within three to five years. Issues related to culture, mentoring and networking contribute to this differential. For example, women have limited access to informal networks in technology jobs and face gender-based stereotypes and a lack of role models. In addition, diversity programs that might help women in IT are often reduced or eliminated in tough economic times. In a worst case scenario, if companies refuse to recognize the demands of families and personal responsibilities, it may become the case that women opt out and never return to IT. This is especially true since returning to IT after being out of work or taking time off to have a baby can be tougher than coming back to other fields because the pace of change in technology makes it harder to stay current.

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"Landing Your Next Job"
CIO.com, June 21

Recognizing that interviewing is more of an art than a science, the article taps into the collective wisdom CIOs who have recently landed new jobs for guidelines on how to interview. Preparation is a key part of the process, meaning that you should be able to articulate why the company and the industry interest you and highlight the key details of your own background that would make you a good fit for the job. Self-confidence is another key, enabling you to ask the right types of questions during the interview and also close the interview on the right note. Simply stated, IT job candidates who are well-prepared, self-confident, and well-informed will likely perform the best during the interview process.

Being prepared before the interview is an important factor. Obviously, you want to know everything you possibly can about the company and the people who will be interviewing you. Armed with this information, you can prepare for your interview by thinking about the connection you want to draw between that data and your own experiences. While it is critical to be well-prepared, recruitment experts warn that you must not be too prepared. Some people study the annual reports of a company in detail, and then try to overwhelm their interviewers by citing irrelevant facts, figures and statistics. You should only bring these facts up in a business context that showcases your understanding of the business and the challenges it faces. Think about preparing five success stories, with about three bullet points each. This gives you a suitable framework for discussing your accomplishments.

Treat the interview as if you already have the job and are conducting a first meeting instead of interviewing for a new position. If it helps, you can think of yourself as a consultant meeting with a prospective client. However, do not attempt to solve the problems of the company before you have the job. Candidates truly need to understand the underlying business before they can start thinking about all the ways they can change the company. Also, remember that interviewers want to hear that a particular job is extremely attractive to you for some very concrete reasons. When the interviewer asks why you would leave your current job, or why you are currently unemployed, just keep it short and sweet. Finally, do not go for the close at the end of the interview. Recruiters would rather have someone show self-confidence that they did well on the interview.

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"Schmooze, Whether You Like It or Not"
Business Week, June 21

IT job candidates who appreciate the value of networking will have an advantage as they advance along their respective career paths. Even if you do not like the idea of schmoozing, you need to understand the basics of good networking. If you are currently employed, you may have an advantage in having access to day-to-day encounters with others in your same industry. For those who are not employed, however, the process is often more difficult. As the article points out, the key steps in business networking are to find an in, to make the networking appear authentic, and to leverage the connections of mentors and counselors.

Finding a common ground of discussion is the most important step in establishing a networking relationship. Networking with your peers may be easy and natural, but networking with people in influential positions is a lot harder because everyone wants to speak with them and usually you need a good reason to even get them to meet with you. The challenge is to make networking as natural and authentic as possible. Instead of working a room and exchanging as many business cards as possible, for example, young professionals should focus on deep, lasting connections. By identifying a hot-button issue, you may be able to establish a bond that will lead to future interactions. In addition, you may find possible opportunities to help this person in a professional capacity.

Remember that you do have something to offer to older, more experienced workers. It is often rewarding for older people to help younger people. All you have to be is the person who is going to succeed under their tutelage. In a certain sense, then, you need to open yourself up and explain any possible weaknesses that you are trying to overcome. You might focus on developing a deeper relationship with a small group of contacts instead of attempting to connect with the masses. If you would prefer to cast a wide net, you need to give depth by showing people your capacity for achievement and capabilities.

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