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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, October 20, 2009

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 5, Issue 20, October 20, 2009




Is the Worst of Recession Over for IT Pros?
CIO.com (via Network World), October 6

According to the Yoh Index of Technology Wages, wages in the IT sector show signs of stabilizing, giving hope that the worst of the economic recession may be over for technology professionals. Pay for IT professionals increased by slightly more than 1% during the second quarter of 2009 compared with the same time period in 2008. During the first six months of 2009, in fact, technology wages have remained steady. The small trend upward is causing industry watchers to be cautiously optimistic about an economic recovery and increased hiring of high-tech workers. Even in a competitive hiring environment, however, recruiters and hiring managers say they are still finding it difficult to fill positions requiring certain high-tech skills.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas recently reported that the number of monthly job cuts in September fell to the lowest level since March 2008. Job cuts were down 13% from the 76,456 jobs eliminated in July 2009 and 30% lower than September 2008. The electronics, telecommunications and computer industries were among those with fewer job cuts announced. Moreover, each of the three high-tech industries also announced hiring plans. Computer companies reported plans to hire 3,150 new employees; electronics vendors intend to add 1,145 positions, and telecommunications providers announced plans to hire 750 employees. The downward trend in planned job-cut announcements is a possible sign that employers feel more optimistic about business conditions.


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Diversify Your Job Search
Computerworld, October 13

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, weighs in with ideas on how to create a diversified job search strategy that achieves results. If you're seeking work in today's competitive IT environment, it’s no longer enough to depend on online networking tools such as LinkedIn or Twitter, job boards, IT trade publications or even employer Web sites as a single source of job leads. After all, it's difficult to predict exactly where your next job will come from. It may come from sending a targeted résumé to an employer, or it may come through a casual conversation. By exploring a broad range of paths, being able to trace your steps through each path, and continuing to experiment with new ways of networking, you will give yourself an advantage in locating the next job opportunity.

Taking a diversified application approach doesn't mean you should blindly pursue every possible source of job leads. The sheer number of ways to find technology employment makes it essential to carefully select the methods you'll be investing your time in. Every source of job leads has its advantages and disadvantages. Try to establish a mix of tools — specialized and general, large and small, local and national, online and off. Keep in mind that, in general, the smaller and more specialized the source or the more specific the geographical location, the less time you're likely to spend sifting through irrelevant leads. You can also register with a specialized IT staffing firm as a way to double your job search efforts, rather than interrupting your own networking and research.


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Bright Future: Prospects Look Good for Graduates in Technical Subjects
The Independent (U.K.), October 8

Despite a rising unemployment rate in the U.K., students with degrees in technical subjects, including computer science and engineering, are finding their job prospects surprisingly bright. Experts acknowledge that students with science, technology, engineering and math degrees appear to have the qualifications and skills that give them a better chance of landing entry-level positions than those from other subject areas. Moreover, employers in the engineering and technology sector are continuing to pay for exhibition space at university careers fairs aimed at next summer's graduates and are talking positively behind the scenes about the attractiveness of working in the IT sector.

In the current hiring environment, engineering and science skills are not enough on their own to land a job with employers. Companies are looking for engineers with good social and communications skills, who can work in teams and work with customers and who can take the initiative. Some technology companies are deliberately keeping its graduate recruitment going, despite the recession, in order to avoid repeating the mistake they made in the last downturn when they stopped recruiting altogether and found themselves a few years later with an empty pipeline. Despite downbeat news reports, employers emphasize they continue to follow through with recruiting initiatives. However, any vacancies tend to fill up very quickly.


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Solo But Not Alone
Entrepreneur Magazine, October 2009

At co-working spaces in cities across the U.S., tech entrepreneurs are finding new opportunities to connect with like-minded peers. For these entrepreneurs, the new co-working spaces are a way to overcome a lack of face-to-face time with others as well as establish clear boundaries between their work and home lives. Sole proprietors, freelancers, consultants and other independent workers are now working and connecting under the same roof in a workplace that combines the best of a home office, an internet cafe and a traditional office. Co-working spaces only began popping up a few years ago in places like New York and San Francisco. Now they are slowly becoming a national and international phenomenon, especially as the number of self-employed workers continues to increase.

The appeal of co-working for entrepreneurs is that it provides an attractive package of professional and social benefits. Most importantly, there’s the live human camaraderie you can’t get online, as well as the potential for networking and uncovering new business opportunities. A co-working office can also offer a sounding board for ideas in an informal setting, eliminate the problems of office politics, and minimize lost time commuting. A basic support system typically includes dedicated spaces for working and for socializing; high-speed Internet; office equipment like printers and fax machines; and free coffee. Others offer organized social outings, consulting services and even child-care options.


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Nearly 10% of Lateral Hires Occur Via Social Networking Sites
The Economic Times (India), October 10

Within India, social networking sites are emerging as an important source of new hiring talent for technology companies. HR managers are increasingly investigating networking sites like Facebook, Orkut and LinkedIn to weigh the merits of profiles as they search for the right candidates for their organizations. Workers who diligently record every achievement at work find that their social networking profiles can attract employer attention. Recruitment managers, for example, may send a message in reference to new job opportunities that have opened up. Social networking is the latest evolution of recruiting, where word-of-mouth is making way for peer group recommendation. In fact, over the past 12 months, almost 10% of all lateral hires of experienced professionals happened via these sites.

In some cases, Indian recruiters trust these social networking websites enough even to look for CIO-level candidates, country directors, product managers and marketing directors. In India, LinkedIn has seen a three-fold increase in membership in the last 12 months, and is setting up a local office. In short, business-oriented social networking sites provide instant credibility to a professional's profile, with the referrals and recommendations of the person. TCS, India's largest tech company, has almost 3% of all hires coming from such media, specifically LinkedIn and Facebook. Industry players reckon that almost 15-20% of lateral hires could come from social networking sites in the next couple of years. Companies are also tapping Twitter to look for talent and encourage passive job seeker candidates to apply. Recruiters describe social networking sites as a more realistic, as well as less intrusive, environment to locate top candidates.


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The Lost Generation
Business Week, October 9

The economic recession is hitting young people especially hard, with a potentially negative impact on both their future and the future of the U.S. economy. While unemployment is impacting just about every part of the global workforce, the most enduring harm is being done to young people, including recent college grads and MBAs, who can't grab onto the first rung of the career ladder. In the U.S., for example, the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has climbed to more than 18%, from 13% a year ago. An extended period of youthful joblessness can significantly depress lifetime income as people get stuck in jobs that are beneath their capabilities, or come to be seen by employers as damaged goods. Equally important, employers are likely to suffer from a “lost generation,” especially when the economy recovers and they no longer have access to a pipeline of young, highly-trained IT talent.

Given the imperative of adding young workers to the workforce, the article argues that governments should act sooner rather than later. Options include everything from subsidizing education and training to reducing the minimum wage for young people and trainees. The disappointing outlook for youth employment extends beyond the traditional 16-to-24 demographic, to include people launching their careers in their mid- to late 20s. College graduates in the 22- to-27 age bracket have fared worse than their older educated peers during the downturn. Two years ago, 84.4% of young grads had jobs, only somewhat lower than the 86.8% figure for college graduates aged 28 to 50. Since then, the employment gap between the two groups has almost doubled. The employment outlook is even more desperate for job seekers who lack college diplomas and thus have fewer options.


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Advice for Taking Your Career to the Next Level
Yahoo! Hot Jobs, October 2009

Robert McCauley of Robert Half International offers advice on how professionals can take their career to the next level. In uncertain times, the best strategy is not to put your head down and attempt to ride out the storm. Instead of resting on your laurels, now can be a good time to distinguish yourself as a leader in your firm. As companies plan for the economic recovery, they'll need individuals who aren't satisfied with the status quo to help them grow again. After assessing your strengths and weaknesses, workers need to consider them in the context of their personal goals and think carefully about their options for reaching those goals.

To take your career to the next level, conduct a self-assessment and identify skills that you could strengthen. For example, although you may feel you already possess strong communication abilities, you may not be comfortable presenting in front of large groups. As a result, you might aim to improve your public-speaking skills. Solicit feedback from others when considering areas for improvement. Family, friends and members of your professional network may have suggestions you would not have thought of on your own. Ask for honest feedback and try to remain objective when evaluating the opinions you receive. Keep in mind that an area in which you already excel could be a prime candidate for attention. After all, if you don't continue to hone that skill, you could lose your edge. You might, for instance, take a class to improve your knowledge of a software program you use each day.


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Coping With a Job Loss – Again
Wall Street Journal, October 6

The economic recession is especially difficult on employees who are attempting to rebound after one or more job losses. Numerous Americans have now lost their jobs twice during the past two years and their ranks are larger than in past recessions. In some cases, they are forced to accept hourly work in place of more permanent employment or transition into lower-paying industries. Settling for less often seems like the sole solution for repeat victims of unemployment. With the ranks of the jobless continuing to rise, individuals experiencing repeated layoffs face a difficult time proving their worth to hiring managers. Those who have lost jobs twice recently will have to work twice as hard to convince the next employer why they ought to be hired there since many businesses believe such individuals lack abilities and credibility rather than being victims of economic circumstance.

There are several ways to deal with the problem of repeat job loss. The most important of these is to refresh outdated skills with further training. Job seekers can also consider a new locale, industry or profession. More creatively, you can create a monthly newsletter about a topic you know well and send it to potential employers. There are other out-of-the-box approaches to handle this dilemma -- ranging from a personalized Web page focused on a potential employer to using a specialized coach. To further widen awareness of your credentials, experts recommend putting your LinkedIn.com and Twitter links below your email signature. Taking this one step further, you can offer to take questions or give advice as a virtual consultant via Twitter. A career coach savvy about your field may bolster your prospects, especially if they can help you answer difficult questions during job interviews about recent job losses.


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Failure Is Not an Option
MentorNet News, October 2009

Formal mentor relationships can be the key to unlocking career opportunities and receiving new perspectives on important career moves. In one example, a fifth-year Ph.D. student signed up for a MentorNet relationship as a way to help her find out whether to pursue an opportunity in academia or the private sector. Dr. Richard Irwin, a senior member of the technical staff at Texas Instruments, helped Nancy Santagata develop a proactive approach. Together, mentor and protégé worked through the difficult times and toward the realization of her ultimate goal: a Ph.D. In a special for MentorNet, the two discuss not only the situation and how it was overcome, but also various aspects of the ideal mentor-protégé relationship.

Nancy Santagata and Rich Irwin discuss their expectations of the mentor relationship as well as the different roles that a mentor must play. As Rich Irwin points out, being a mentor is a combination of being a parent, a sibling, and a trusted friend. It can go from giving you a shoulder to lean on, to giving encouragement, to applauding successes, to advising, to discussing alternatives, to patiently correcting mistakes, to giving honest, candid advice. They also discuss the traits of a successful mentor and what mentors need to bring to the table. The biggest need for the student is for the mentor to be there, the most important characteristic is caring, and the principal attribute is actual school and life experience. The two also discuss how to pick a mentor, the types of questions that a mentor can help answer, the different problems that a mentor must be willing to confront early in the relationship, and the value of being able to reach out to other colleagues for additional advice.


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A Report from the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
The Computing Community Consortium, October 8

The ninth annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing took place in Tucson, Arizona from September 30 - October 3. At the 1600-person conference, participants highlighted the accomplishments, talent and enthusiasm of women computer scientists. Keynote speakers Megan Smith, Vice President of New Business Development and General Manager of Google.Org, and Fran Berman, Vice President for Research and Professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, illustrated the important points of leadership in a world shaped by technology. In addition, top computer scientists showcased new, cutting-edge research and the undergraduate finalists in the ACM student research competition presented their results.

While the technical program plainly illustrates the quality of the conference, what is more difficult to convey to those who did not attend is the positive energy and excitement that permeated the entire event. For example, the “Ninja Coder” promotion had students enthusiastically swarming around sponsor booths, while some attendees showcased t-shirts proclaiming their embrace of gender diversity in computer science. Throughout the halls, colleagues and friends hugged as they reunited. As its name implies, the Grace Hopper Celebration is not simply a conference, but a celebration of the work that attendees do as computer scientists, and particularly as women computer scientists. For women, the event is a reminder of the work they are doing in an exciting field at an exciting time.


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