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CareerNews: Tuesday, January 22, 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 2, January 22, 2008




The New IT Worker Shortage
CIO Insight, January 15

According to the latest employment statistics released by the U.S. government, the number of employed IT professionals is growing at a faster rate than that of the overall workforce. In 2007, the IT unemployment rate (2.1%) fell to its lowest level since 2000 and many recruiters are noting a growing imbalance between the supply and demand of IT workers. Since most economists consider unemployment below 3% to be "full employment," the current unemployment rate suggests that most of those out of work will find new jobs soon. Since a low point in 2002, the outlook for IT employment has improved every year, leading to the current IT worker shortage.

For IT organizations, this imbalance in the supply and demand of IT workers is being felt in terms of increased competition for limited human resources. Of the eight government-classified IT occupations, only one saw a decline in the number employed last year. Computer programmers employed 526,000 people last year, a loss of 6.4% compared to the previous year. As fewer companies develop custom systems and more offshore their coding application projects, the ranks of employed programmers in the U.S. have fallen by nearly 30% since 2000. Yet, filling the coding jobs that remain in the U.S. continues to pose a problem for IT recruiters, as reflected by the low 2.2% unemployment rate among programmers.


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How Blogs Are Changing the Recruiting Landscape
Computerworld (via Career Journal), January 7

For corporate IT recruiters, blogs are emerging as an important way to find the most talented technology workers. By including blogs as part of their online search tactics, IT recruiters are able to expand the talent pool of the best candidates and gain insights they can’t get from online resumes or face-to-face interviews. In addition to reading blogs that focus on particular industries or fields of interest, recruiters say they check blogs about non-career-related topics for evidence of writing skills and clues to how well rounded candidates are. The article includes a few tips for bloggers on how to get noticed by recruiters, as well as insights on how organizations can tap into active bloggers to recruit new talent.

For many bloggers, having a highly visible online presence naturally leads to unsolicited job offers. Some bloggers get as many as 15 offers a month from companies and search firm recruiters seeking to fill consulting assignments and full-time jobs. Job seekers with blogs increase the odds that a potential employer will find information online about them. Everybody has an online identity whether they know it or not, and a blog is the single best way to control it. With more recruiters using search engines than ever before, having a blog ensures that you can control whatever results appear at the top of search engine listings.


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Online Job Search Tips for International Students
One Day One Job, January 17

International students searching for jobs with U.S. employers often encounter a number of problems during their job search. As the article points out, many international students are treated like second class citizens in the job recruitment process solely because of their need for sponsorship to obtain a visa. In addition, employers typically have a number of other concerns about hiring international students. By following a number of simple guidelines and learning how to access the most reputable sources online, however, these students can find employers who have a positive attitude toward international candidates.

Employers often harbor a number of false perceptions about international students. They view hiring international students as a costly, time consuming process likely to end up with the new hire leaving after 6 months or a year. Employers also worry that if they hire foreign students, they will end up with employees who have poor communication skills. As a result, they are not always upfront about their hiring and sponsorship policies. There are many companies that truly do a great job of recruiting and hiring international students, but they tend to be large corporations that have the resources and the know-how to navigate the process on a regular basis.


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Let It Shine
Entrepreneur.com, February 2008

Romanus Wolter explains how IT workers can kick-start any business launch or consulting practice in order to gain an advantage over their rivals. Focusing on the passion you have for your business entices people to listen to you and enables you to establish important client relationships. The article explains how to break out of self-imposed limitations and gain the confidence to sell yourself and your business by standing up for who you are, not what you believe others expect. This advice is particularly appropriate for small business owners or consultants who need to land higher-paying projects and convince clients that they can work well with corporate teams.

Most importantly, be genuine when interacting with potential clients. Allow your true self to come through in business conversations. The passion you share ignites people's imaginations and kick-starts powerful relationships. Secondly, think about ways you can fine-tune your message for certain types of clients. Your goal in speaking about your business is not to please everyone. Instead, it is to connect with the people who will benefit the most from using your product or service.


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Freedom = Success (And Not the Other Way Around)
Mavericks at Work Blog, January 15

Many organizations are coming to the realization that jobseekers are interested in more than just a paycheck when they come to the office. While most employers have engaged in cosmetic changes, such as offering flextime and other perks to workers, organizations will have to take further steps in order to halt the ongoing erosion in employee job satisfaction rates. While employees still care about money, security, and mastery, they are also putting creativity, meaning, and freedom on the same level. Quite simply, there is a new paradigm at work. According to the old paradigm, employees work hard for a very long time, achieve success, and earn the freedom to retire and do all the things they missed out on while they were working. The new paradigm holds that employees can find freedom and success at the same time, provided they find work that is meaningful and stimulating.

Organizations and leaders that find a way to build freedom into everyday work will be the big winners in the future. For today’s generation of worker, freedom is a bigger draw than power or authority. At the end of the day, power is about what you can control, while freedom is about what you can unleash. Increasingly, freedom isn’t something you pay your dues to earn, but instead, a basic human right of all working adults. The most obvious freedoms are freedom from the clock, freedom from hierarchy and the freedom to create. Alternative work arrangements, while a step in the right direction, do not go far enough in empowering workers.


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Follow the Loser
Computerworld, January 14

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, sometimes the best opportunities for starting a new job occur as a result of someone else’s past incompetence. If your predecessor under-performed expectations, you may have an opportunity to surpass expectations at your new job. By choosing a job where your predecessor was perceived as a failure, you will work harder during your first year in order to fix existing problems and rebuild the credibility of IT, but you will have a better chance of succeeding in the long run. In short, if your predecessor was held in low esteem, you start the job with multiple advantages, such as a built-in honeymoon period to effect change.

When starting a new position, think of how you can capitalize on quick wins. Most IT organizations have overlooked opportunities to save money or improve service. If your predecessor was incompetent, distracted or scrambling to save his or her job, he or she probably ignored some opportunities. A careful review of IT spending and service levels may reveal opportunities for consolidation, renegotiation or other improvements. If quick wins are hard to find, blame any problems that won’t go away on your predecessor. For the first six months, you get to blame any problems on your predecessor and plausibly claim that you are just cleaning up the messes he or she left. Use this honeymoon period to create an objective assessment of departmental strengths and weaknesses.


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Six Ways to Cope When Office Politics Damage Your Career
CareerJournal.com (via MarketWatch), January 17

By paying close attention to your work environment and the office politics that go with it, you can avoid any unanticipated changes to your future career path. According to a new research study on workplace politics from the North Carolina-based Center for Creative Leadership, a global nonprofit that focuses on leadership education, most employees can actually turn office politics to their advantage. If you feel your career is at risk or on the rocks because of your reluctance to manage relationships with co-workers or the people who report to you, the article provides six tips on how to avoid career derailment.

Choose your organizational battles ahead of time. Politically skilled managers have impulse control and tend to size up situations before deciding how and when to present ideas to others. Leaders also need to skillfully manage up by communicating with their bosses. But political skill also involves the ability to build teams and maintain good relationships with people at all levels in the organization. Practice influence so that you establish good rapport with others and build ever stronger interpersonal relationships. Effective influencers are comfortable with their interpersonal power and tend to have a better judgment of when to assert their needs, which in turn results in more cooperative relationships.


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Five Boundary-Setting Tips for the Work-Obsessed
Four Hour Work Week Blog, January 16

Anne Zelenka, an editor for Web Worker Daily, weighs in with five ideas for Web workers who are having trouble establishing boundaries between their work and personal lives. Being able to set boundaries has become a greater problem with the Internet and new mobile devices, which enable workers to stay connected no matter where they are, who they are with, or what they are doing. As a result, workers sometimes are unable to move beyond simple rules such as only working during certain hours or not checking email on evenings and weekends. There are other ways, though, to ensure that your work life does not encroach on your personal life.

In order to re-establish boundaries for your personal life, choose hobbies and diversions that take your mind away from work. These activities might include sports, arts, or even doing crossword puzzles. Such activities will lure you away from work because, unlike passive activities such as watching TV, they can provide the same sense of engagement and challenge that your work life offers. Secondly, set goals in your personal life just like you do in your professional life. Working towards goals is a sure way of getting yourself excited enough about non-work activities that you can pull yourself away work. Goal-oriented activities are more likely to provide a sense of flow than activities taken on for simple recreation and relaxation.


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ACM Opens Branch Office in China
AScribe Newswire, January 10

In collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing, ACM has opened its first-ever branch office in China. The move is part of a broader strategy at ACM to meet the growing needs of its professional and student members in China as well as to re-affirm its leadership role in providing valuable resources that benefit the global computing community. As the Chinese IT sector continues to grow, ACM is also expanding. As CEO John R. White explains, ACM has the educational and career resources to help Chinese-based researchers, practitioners, and students achieve their professional goals.

The new ACM branch office in China builds on previous successes in the region. Previous ACM events include successful participation by Chinese universities in several recent annual ACM International Collegiate Programming Contests and a number of recent computing conferences held in Asia. ACM currently has more than 800 members in China as well as several chapters representing professional members and Special Interest Groups. Other recent events in China include a number of conferences and symposia arranged by ACM Special Interest Groups. Within China, members will now have access to a wide range of resources to help computing and IT professionals and students advance their career interests. These resources include the ACM Digital Library, hundreds of online books and courses, an individualized mentoring program, Special Interest Groups, global networking opportunities and prominent recognition awards.


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On Mentoring and Altruism: “Paying It Forward” in 2008
MentorNet News, January 2008

In many cases, mentors gain as much as their protégés from the mentoring relationships created through MentorNet. While protégés gain value from mentoring relationships through the stories, data and insights gleaned from those with more experience, mentors also gain a number of intangible benefits. As more protégés “pay it forward” by thanking mentors for their time and dedication, the bonds formed through MentorNet relationships will only strengthen. Today's MentorNet protégés can not only become tomorrow's mentors, but can also volunteer now as mentors for less experienced students. In this way, the benefits can continue to flow and accumulate. The article explores the motivations of mentors, the role that mentoring can play in career success and the intangible rewards of paying it forward.

There are several factors that motivate mentors to become active in MentorNet. Many consider mentoring to be essential for success in their own business. Mentors learn through self-assessment and through discovery as they engage in the learning process, and also from their protégés. They develop future colleagues, sometimes in ways that directly benefit their own succession planning. They may gain valuable help on projects. Service as a mentor may help meet performance evaluation requirements. Mentors may benefit from access to new networks of colleagues through their protégés, or as they explore on behalf of their protégés. They gain new skills and valuable experience in the areas of communication, management, and mentoring. They frequently note a feeling of renewal, recommitment, and an energizing of spirit. They can benefit from recognition from peers or management, and enhance their own reputations through serving as a mentor.


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