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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, May 18, 2010

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 6, Issue 10, May 18, 2010




IT Hiring Jumps in April: Demand Up Sharply For Full-Time Workers
Computerworld, May 10

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment market continues to experience greater demand for full-time workers. In April, there was an increase of 290,000 total jobs, including a sharp increase in IT-related jobs. By some estimates, technology employers added 17,300 jobs in April, rebounding from a slight dip in March. In addition, IT jobs board Dice.com reported a sizable increase in the percentage of opportunities for full-time, rather than contract workers. Taken together, the latest numbers are part of a mostly upward trend that started late last year, and are a clear indication that hiring momentum has returned to the technology market.

The statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics have been supported by a number of third-party research firms. For example, in its analysis of IT employment, Foote Partners reported a net gain of 8,800 jobs in April, representing a swing of nearly 16,000 jobs from March, when IT employment dipped by nearly as much. At Dice Holdings, 62% of jobs advertised on Dice.com in April were for full time positions, up from the all-time low of 56% last October. While the results between different research firms may differ depending on how broad or niche their focus is, there has been general consensus on the broader uptick in hiring trends.


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IT Jobs: Data Center Hiring Turns a Corner
CIO.com, May 4

According to Symantec's 2010 State of the Data Center report, companies will likely hire slightly more data center workers this year. Even as they deal with management pressure to keep budgets low, they are facing a growing need for workers who can navigate a wave of new technologies flowing into the datacenter. Corporations adopting new technologies—such as virtualization, data protection, identity systems and cloud computing—are requiring different skills of job seekers. Workers are being asked to manage more systems and deal with new technologies, while simultaneously providing better service levels for the overall business. Faced with these expanding roles for the data center, 40% of companies report trouble finding qualified staff.

Job postings for the information technology industry have jumped 17% year over year, with clicks on postings up 27%, according to Indeed.com. Jobs listing "cloud computing" ranked No. 2 in the site's lists of most popular job postings. In addition, the area of virtualization remains popular. Workers that focus on security, backup and disaster recovery are also in demand. More than 80% of companies named security a top priority in the data center, with backup and recovery and continuous data protection ranked No. 2 and No. 3. There are a few initiatives that seem to be top-of-mind, such as those having to do with mitigating risk or reducing capital costs.


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Science-Engineering Job Market Improves in March and April
Science Careers Blog, May 3

Based on data from The Conference Board, the job market for science and engineering fields continued to improve in March and April. Not only did the number of online job ads in April increase for these occupations, but the number of unemployed jobseekers in most of these occupations decreased as well. The more favorable job market for science and engineering staff reflected improvements in the overall U.S. job market, which saw the number of online employment ads increase in April by nearly 223,000. To understand the condition of the science-engineering job market, it is important to consider both the absolute number of online job openings as well as the number of job hunters for each opportunity.

In April, for all of the categories of scientists, engineers, and related occupations tracked by the Science Careers index, the number of online opportunities increased, in some cases substantially. This was the first across-the-board increase in posted job ads since January. Ads for computer and mathematical science staff increased the most, up 32,500 in April, a jump of 6.3%. Job ads for engineers and architects registered a solid 6% gain in April, and postings for life, physical, and social scientists followed close behind with a 5.7% increase. Postings for health care professionals and technicians also recorded a small gain – 3300, or 0.5% -- much smaller than March's 16% jump.


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How to Get the Most Out of Offline Networking Events
Mashable, May 12

Mollie Vandor, Product Manager for Ranker.com and Media Director for Girls in Tech LA, describes the multitude of ways that young technology workers can transform online connections into real-world relationships. As she explains, the people you meet via Twitter or Foursquare or Facebook are the same people that you will meet at conferences, networking events and other offline events for technology workers. The web can make maintaining all those real world relationships easier, especially if you know how to optimize your online and offline networking. For tech-savvy job seekers, it is important to make the most of meet & greets; to follow up appropriately after events have ended; and to keep business contacts organized.

To make the most of meet & greets, you have to find and attend the right events. Join Meetup groups around your interests, use the Mashable events calendar to find conferences and panels in your area, or join a niche social networking group. Once you’re actually at an event, focus on putting a face to your username or handle. Make sure you keep your business cards up to date with your most recent usernames. Make sure you also include those usernames on the nametags you wear at networking events. It’s also a good idea to make plans with the people you want to meet before the event actually arrives. If you want people to approach you at events, tell your followers, friends and fans where you’re going to be and then check-in at the event using location-based services.


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Tips for Finding Your Next Job through Social Media
Glass Door Blog, May 10

In a special guest blog post for Glass Door, Jeff Hunter, a VP of HR Solutions at Dolby Laboratories, shares insights on how to find a job through social media. With both social media and social networking increasing in importance as a recruiting tool, it is important to learn how to optimize your presence on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Social media is slowly but surely replacing career sites and job boards as the way to find qualified candidates for recruiters, and that means an ability to find the right groups on LinkedIn to make connections, as well as the right places on Twitter and Facebook where jobs are being advertised.

Recruiters are starting to move away from job boards such as Monster.com, viewing them as too crowded and too difficult to differentiate themselves from other employers. In short, these job boards should no longer be a one-stop shop for jobseekers. A LinkedIn profile has increased in value, as has the value of joining LinkedIn groups, since LinkedIn is being used by all types of recruiters, even those looking for hourly workers. Search LinkedIn for areas of interest (companies, industries, cities, skills) and then join groups in those areas. At the same time, go to sites like Glassdoor and Facebook and give direct, honest feedback on your work experience.


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Why Don’t Students Network?
Wall Street Journal Blogs, May 13

Geoff Falen, an experienced academic and career adviser, weighs in on the importance of networking for students, especially as they transition from college to career. Students will update their resume, or ask for help with cover letters and job applications, but most won’t extend themselves to connect with people who may be able to help them find a potential employer, learn more about a particular industry, relocate to a particular area of the country, or advise them regarding further education. Since many of today’s college students are extremely active social networkers, Falen notes, it is all the more confusing why they do not take advantage of readily available resources and information to transition to life after college.

The first main reason why students don’t network is the anxiety about approaching someone whom they don’t know, even if there is a shared affinity, such as alumni connection, friend of a friend, former internship or job supervisor. The truth is that many people, particularly alumni, are willing to assist students with information and advice, especially if that request is professionally delivered and, ideally, targeted to the person’s area of expertise or knowledge. The second obstacle is students’ lack of understanding on how to frame correspondence or questions for maximum effect. Most career-services centers offer a range of assistance related to networking. These may include online networking tutorials, sample questions, group workshops, how-to books, as well as individual editorial assistance.


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How to Make Better Career Decisions and Avoid Setbacks
CIO.com, May 11

The field of game theory, which uses mathematics to model decision-making under specific conditions, opens up a new approach to career management. Instead of focusing only on strengths and weaknesses, people can better plan their careers and make better career decisions by employing the principles of game theory. Already popular in politics and business, game theory lends itself to career management, even though people involved in career decisions don't always act rationally. Jobseekers need to think of careers as strategic games that have rules and involve multiple players, as well as goals such as a promotion or a specific position. If they do so, they will have a framework that provides them an edge in today's competitive job market and even rebound from or avoid career setbacks.

Game theory tries to make very salient, as you consider a career move, who are the other players; how are they going to react to your move; and what sorts of things can you do in advance to get you to win, so they support you rather than block you. You can use the questions game theory asks of a situation to diagnose your career situation and, as a result, make smart moves. As a result, IT workers can use game theory for both long-term and short-term career planning. By starting at a specific goal (title or position) and then working backwards, workers can think about the strategic steps that they will need to take each step in their career. By thinking in this way, it’s possible to get a sense of what your career path needs to look like and the moves that need to be made now in the context of the larger career game.


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The Seven Deadly Sins of Job-Hunting
The Recruiters Lounge, May 12

Building on his experiences of helping students interview for positions at top US companies, a recruiter shares his view on what he considers to be the seven deadly sins of job hunting. As he points out, it’s important to be happy, motivated and enthusiastic as you embark on your job search. You are your own boss now and it’s time to draw up your future plans by finding the right job. This means focusing on the right opportunities, paying attention how to market yourself to potential employers, performing basic due diligence as you seek out new opportunities, and taking advantage of job hunting support & services.

To maximize your effectiveness, you will need to create a detailed plan for your job hunt that includes a daily to-do list and a daily activities schedule. Focusing and getting organized from the beginning will preserve some of your good work habits and will help you cut the time you are without a job. Before contacting employers, you need to know what you’re marketing and to whom. Defining yourself as the ‘best possible candidate’ for a job requires you to learn how your education, skills and experience apply to the expectations of the hiring managers. For each opportunity, you should know to what extent your background is a perfect fit. To do so, you will need to inventory all of your assets and marketable skills.


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How to Make Progress in Computing Education
Communications of the ACM (Vol. 53, No. 5), May 1

Cameron Wilson, director of the ACM U.S. Public Policy Office in Washington, D.C. and Mark Guzdial, a professor at Georgia Tech, discuss the future of computing education. At the same time that there is a national urgency to improve K–12 computer science education, the Department of Education has earmarked hundreds of billions of dollars for states to improve schools, help teachers, and support students. To ensure that these dollars are used most effectively to improve student learning, it’s important to expand the field of computing education research. Computing education research can improve our teaching of computer science in several ways: helping us understand why students do not pursue computing as a career, and learning how to recruit, engage, and motivate students.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), which is primarily responsible for funding education research, divides computing education research into two primary areas: Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) and Education and Human Resources (EHR). Within CISE, the focus is on moving earlier into the pipeline with specific engagements in middle/ high school to bring computational thinking and computer science concepts into this space; and widening the program to be inclusive for all populations. Compared to the relatively small CISE budget for education, EHR has over $850 million for education research. Not all of this funding goes into education research, but in looking where Congress is investing federal education research money, EHR has emerged as a clear focus. EHR funds both higher education and K–12 research programs through various programs, such as the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program.


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Creating Online Professional Learning Communities
eLearn Magazine, May 13

By implementing best practices, it is possible to adapt successfully a Professional Learning Community (PLC) to a virtual environment. As Elizabeth Gruenbaum explains, a PLC requires that all stakeholders – teachers, staff, parents and school leaders – work together, focused on the best interests of the students. These stakeholders need to improve their methods of collaboration, improve their system of ongoing assessments, focus on continuous improvement and reduce the amount of hierarchy. With that as backdrop, Gruenbaum suggests ways to create and establish online PLCs to make them work for a virtual environment.

The first step is implementing professional development so that members of the PLC understand what a PLC is and its possible applications to the classroom environment. There are various ways of doing this, such as by hosting an online book club or conducting an online forum, where school members can interact on a weekly basis via chats with audio and blackboard-type interfaces. The second major step is conducting self-assessment surveys that help to measure the progress of a school toward becoming a PLC. These online surveys may be done a few times a year or more to chart the progress of buy-in by stakeholders. Focus groups or online web conferencing may also be beneficial in concentrating efforts where they are needed to make sure changes are on pace.


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