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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, October 7, 2008

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 4, Issue 19, October 7, 2008




Nine Tips for Taking Control of Your IT Career in the Face of Layoffs
CIO.com, September 22

Given the current uncertainty in the economy, IT professionals working at companies that could be impacted by an economic downturn need to take proactive steps to take control of their careers. With an influx of talented professionals from other areas, especially financial services, IT professionals need to understand how to best leverage their skill sets. According to recruitment professionals, there are at least nine steps that IT workers can take who are concerned about losing their jobs due to the economic slump.

In order to take control of your career, you need to ask the right questions. If you are concerned about layoffs or the effect of a potential merger, you will need to find out how these changes will affect your job and whether there are other opportunities within the company that you could apply for. Once you know where you stand within the company, take an inventory of your skills. In general, IT professionals within the financial services industry have the most in-demand skill sets right now, especially when it comes to security and compliance. When updating your resume, keep in mind how these in-demand skills can help you land new job opportunities.


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Zen and the Art of the Six-Figure Linux Job
Datamation, September 30

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it is possible to make a six-figure salary at a company that sells free software such as Linux. According to open source recruitment specialists, many mid- and senior-level positions now pay at least high five-figure and up to $150K in base salaries. Over the past two years, there has been a 10% to 15% increase in Linux salaries, primarily due to an increase in demand. Even with the prospects for a softening economy, a significant shortage of qualified Linux workers in a number of specific areas will continue to push up salaries.

For an aspiring Linux developer, the first step in landing a six-figure job is to understand your own preferences and aptitudes. You will need to consider what types of open source jobs would be the best fit for your skills and what you like to do. You can find out about new opportunities by contributing to an open source project. By becoming a recognized member of an open source project, you will be exposed to professionals at companies like IBM, Novell and Google. By making the right impressions on these professionals, you may even receive an unexpected job offer. Make careful decisions about where you build your reputation since your contributions and your name ultimately become your brand.


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Wall Street's Collapse May be Computer Science's Gain
Computerworld, September 26

The difficult times on Wall Street may help make computer science and IT careers attractive to students who previously ignored them after the collapse of the dot-com bubble. For many of these students, careers in banking and finance are no longer as attractive as careers in technology. Unlike the go-go years of the dot-com boom, students are returning to computer science and embracing technical disciplines because they enjoy the work and not because it might make them rich. Coming amidst the background of Baby Boomer retirements, the current downturn on Wall Street may be the perfect time for tech firms to bolster their IT talent pipelines.

Just as the dot-com collapse eventually led to a period of declining computer science enrollments, it now appears that the collapse on Wall Street could lead to an increase in computer science enrollments over the next few years. Given the current turmoil on Wall Street, students who are now choosing majors might be looking for safer alternatives, such as those provided by computer science and IT. Unlike the dot-com years, tech companies are no longer wildly overspending on projects with little chance of future success. With a wave of Baby Boomer retirements on the horizon, technology companies are facing an opportune time to replenish their talent pipelines and convince today’s students that opportunities in IT are worth pursuing over the long-term.


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Are You a Thriving Web Worker?
Web Worker Daily, September 26

Thriving as a freelancing Web worker takes more than just a few months of trial and error, learning all you can, and finding the online tools and processes that work for you. While finding a steady flow of freelance work can be difficult at first, especially for those coming from a traditional office environment, truly thriving as a Web worker comes from setting career goals, meeting them, and feeling a deep sense of personal fulfillment when it comes to your work. With that in mind, the article offers some practical advice for thriving as a Web worker.

In order to thrive as a Web worker, you need to be active in planning your career. After all, waiting for work to come to you puts your career in the hands of your future clients rather than your own. Knowing what you really want and taking the steps to attain it is the difference between working with passion and working just to pay the bills. Secondly, always focus on self-improvement. By striving to get better, we avoid repeating the same mistakes multiple times and stay ahead of other people who work just as hard. Thriving doesn’t mean meeting a certain minimum, it’s about exceeding the standards you’ve set for yourself and constantly raising them.


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Ten Ways to Learn New Skills on the Cheap
Tech Republic Blog, September 18

Limited time, family demands, and travel can make it difficult to invest in the career training you need, but cost doesn’t have to be an obstacle to improving your IT skills. In fact, a number of inexpensive training alternatives, such as those offered by organizations like ACM, can help you work around those time and travel constraints. Whether you simply need to learn the latest techniques or you want to completely retool, there are still options even if your employer does not fund the training. The article offers some creative, affordable training options for staying current with constantly changing technology and acquiring new skills.

Vendors often offer career training for little or no cost. This training is made available in a variety of formats, including training sessions at conferences and trade fairs, white papers, online tutorials, online videos and special training events. There are also podcasts, webinars, webcasts and virtual trade shows. Associations and user groups are also worth checking out, especially if they are national in scope. Associations such as ACM provide access to online libraries, peer forums, and training courses. A membership to ACM, for example, gives you access to more than 1,100 books online. Special interest groups (SIGs) within your community also offer further topic specialization and can be a tremendous way to discover new learning resources.


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Looking After Talent is Vital in a Downturn
Management Issues, September 25

Despite the ever-present threat of economic recession, hiring managers point out that organizations should allocate a greater share of time and money to employee retention. The two primary ways to retain staff include paying bonuses and spending more money on training courses. According to a recent poll of more than 500 HR professionals in the U.K., nearly a third ranked "accelerating development of key employees" as their top strategy when it came to retaining top talent, followed closely by "competitive pay and benefits." Organizations are increasingly realizing that, when the economy is tight, retaining the best and brightest talent can provide a real competitive advantage.

According to a SkillSoft survey, managers in Europe and the UK generally feel most inadequately prepared when it comes to “managing people,” despite it being such a central part of the manager's job. In the U.S, “managing people” comes in third. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, seven out of 10 workers polled said they had been asked to accomplish tasks without receiving proper training beforehand. Two thirds of the North American workers polled agreed that training would have helped had they received it before doing certain tasks in their jobs. This leadership training is important during all stages of a career. Regardless of a company's training program, these programs play a key role in achieving the proper fit with employees.


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The Economy and Jobs: More Than You Can Handle?
Information Week, September 30

New HR software solutions could help employers handle their changing recruitment and hiring needs, especially if an economic recession leads to further imbalances in the supply and demand of IT talent. With companies in industries such as financial services downsizing, it is quite likely that an influx of displaced IT professionals from these industries will now be applying for positions at companies that have similar functional needs. Quite possibly, these companies will have more candidates than they ever imagined applying for jobs, placing a real load on the HR department. The article reviews the software and other technology solutions that are helping hiring managers fill IT positions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Employers are finding that a little technology can go a long way in streamlining the hiring process, especially when they're anxious to put new employees to work sooner rather than later. For example, companies are exchanging their manual job recruitment and hiring processes in favor of Web-based job candidate tracking tools from companies like Jobvite, which delivers its offering via a software-as-a-service model. Using these solutions to help manage job recruitment workflow, companies find it easier to hire workers scattered throughout the U.S., many of them working remotely from their homes. Large hiring projects are now able to be managed by a small team of recruiters in a relatively short period of time.


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A New Approach to Mentoring
Wall Street Journal, September 22

The traditional mentoring relationship involving a single senior colleague is being replaced by a new approach to mentoring that involves several senior professionals, each possessing a wide variety of skills. Quite simply, the world of work has become too complicated for one person to provide all the guidance and opportunities you need to manage challenges and prepare for the future. A better approach is to create and cultivate a developmental network comprised of a small group of people to whom you can turn for regular mentoring support and who have a genuine interest in your learning and development.

The mentoring relationships need to have a high degree of mutual learning and trust in which both individuals give and receive various kinds of informational, emotional and strategic support. Within these developmental networks, employees form groups of as many as 10 to 12 each to coach one another. In meetings, they help other members identify new challenges, build core skills, improve their interpersonal skills and develop their leadership abilities. They also help members better understand the context of global and multicultural business environments.


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Job Hunting Is, and Isn’t, What It Used to Be
New York Times, September 26

Over the past 20 years, new technologies such as the Internet and voicemail have radically changed the way that job candidates can learn about new job openings, contact hiring managers and apply for positions. However, even with these new innovations, what hasn’t changed is how frustrating it can be to land the right job. While many of the tools available through the Internet can help searches, they can also become obstacles to actually finding employment. At the end of the day, submitting hundreds of resumes to general online job boards while sitting at home is still no replacement for networking and meeting new people.

The biggest online job sites tend to overwhelm people. It is too easy to spend hours trolling job sites instead of doing the harder work of calling and meeting people. By some estimates, 4,833,700 job vacancies were posted online last month at sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and Yahoo HotJobs.com. Moreover, sites like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com aggregate the results of big and small jobs sites, leading to even more listings to browse. The trouble with many of these sites, especially the bigger ones, is that are simply too cumbersome and too wide-ranging for a truly focused job search.


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ACM, CRA, NCWIT Confront Shortfall in US IT Workforce
ACM MemberNet, September 25

Together with the Computing Research Association and the National Center for Women in Information Technology, ACM recently hosted a roundtable discussion on the employment and recruitment challenges facing companies in the IT sector. Attendees included government affairs officials from Silicon Valley companies as well as leaders from non-profit IT organizations. According to speakers at the event, the U.S. educational system is having a difficult time producing the future IT leaders of tomorrow. With a focus on diversity, research, and education, participants advanced ideas for developing a sustainable IT workforce in the US to keep pace with the nation's rapidly growing IT infrastructure.

There has always been a strong link between a strong educational system and business innovation, with American schools consistently producing the talent needed for a thriving technology sector. At the current time, however, America’s IT workforce does not meet expected demand, either today or in the future. At the same time that there is growing demand for IT professionals, there are indicators of declining interest and participation in American schools. Moreover, the representation of women and minorities in the profession fails to reflect their proportion of the population. Thus, the primary solution to the IT workforce problem involves engaging women and minorities in IT, as well as cultivating a diverse and versatile pipeline by encouraging K-12 curricula in computer science.


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