Monthly Archives: February 2014

How to Handle Conflicts in Your IT Team

It’s no secret that IT headhunters prize IT consultants with sparkling resumes and who never cause conflicts in their teams.  However, there’s just no way that most IT professionals will complete all IT jobs without a single conflict- whether with IT managers or coworkers.  Below are a few ways IT contractors can handle conflicts well at work.

1. Start by framing things from the other person’s perspective.  Consider their values and priorities.  Using somebody else’s priorities to sell them on your own opinion will always be slightly more successful.  (Don’t close yourself off to the possibility that you may want to change your opinion, too!  Sometimes reframing things can force you to notice something your opponent was correct about.)

2. Make yourself vulnerable and pose the other person as expert.  If somebody’s idea is creating an issue for you, your team, or your work, try posing this problem to them—but as a special issue you find them uniquely qualified to fix.  Giving them the ego boost, placing yourself as vulnerable, and posing the issue as a question nearly eliminates the air of conflict.

3. Don’t use the word ‘but’ in your negotiations.  Use the word ‘and.’ It seems like a small thing, but when you say ‘and’ it tells the other person you’re taking their view into consideration too.  Saying ‘but’ tells them you oppose their view and are negating it.  You won’t get anywhere if the other person feels like you are completely negating what they say.


Training IT Employees to Be More Self-Sufficient

Information technology is fast-paced and can require a lot of efficiency from IT professionals at every level within the industry—from IT recruiters to IT contractors to IT managers. One way to achieve that independence is to train IT consultants to act as self-sufficiently as possible, thus taking burdens off IT managers so they can focus on their own IT jobs.  There are a few ways IT managers can help their reports to begin to act more independently.

  1. Give them confidence: Assert out loud that you trust your employees and you believe in their work product.  Help them find pride in their work so they both hold themselves accountable for their results and have the confidence to move forward without checking in with you constantly.
  2. Create pre-determined check-in points when possible.  Doing this means the employee feels your trust in them, but everyone can check a project through various stages to make sure it’s progressing well.  The check-in points de-personalize your request to check an employee’s work (because it becomes just another deadline on the project), and thus underscore your initial implication that you trust them.
  3. When employees do have questions, ask them what their first instincts and thoughts are.  Encourage the correct responses and gently and constructively correct the responses that aren’t right.
  4. Praise employees when they get things right.  Emphasize that they accomplished something big- on their own.  They’ll want to re-live that feeling again soon.


Researching Companies Before IT Job Interviews

Most IT headhunters will advise their IT contractors to research a company before they go to interviews for IT jobs.  And for most IT contractors, it’s certainly not the first time they’ve heard that advice.  What IT professionals don’t often think about before interviews is how to research an information technology company.  IT managers aren’t simply impressed if IT consultants can throw out a few random facts.  There are a few things that should guide the research one does before interviewing with a company.

1. Focus on the big picture. Get a bigger sense of the company.  Consider looking at it from the 5 questions a journalist uses: Who, what where, why, how.  Who does the company serve, who are the big players there?  What are the company’s core values, future goals, etc.  Where are the major locations for a company: its headquarters, its clients, markets it hopes to grow into.  Why does the company do what it does?  How does the company achieve its goals? And so on.

2. Ignore the stuff that’s too personal.  Social media, Glassdoor, etc all make it far too easy to learn the gossip and scandals of a company’s employees.  Pay attention to things that will affect you as an employee but forget the rest.  It won’t help you to know it and it will probably hurt you.

3. Check the company’s presence online.  In the news, on their website, in the press room of their website, and with a general Google search.  Being able to give the company back some of the image they’ve created for themselves will definitely earn you some brownie points. Focus on the positive, of course.

Finding a Job in IT When You’ve Been Unemployed for a While

In a market as hot as information technology, IT recruiters and IT managers tend to be very suspicious of IT contractors who haven’t been employed for stretches beyond 6 months. Of course, for IT consultants with big gaps on their resumes, there is certainly hope for getting IT jobs.  For these IT professionals, it’s all about selling yourself carefully to IT staffing agencies and employers.  Here are a few things you can do to deftly repackage yourself after a long stint of unemployment.

1.      Be prepared to explain your reason for unemployment and what you’ve been doing during that time.  It’s important that either you have a good reason you’ve been out of the workforce (like taking care of a family member, maternity leave, etc).  If you don’t, the next best thing is to make sure you’ve been busy during that time doing things that still increase your value to the workforce.  Classes, volunteering, and an active job search are all great things to be doing during this time.

2.      Even if you’re desperate, don’t let it show.  Employers don’t want to hire just anybody for their job.  They want the best candidate with the most interest and passion for the position.  Focus on these points, rather than how much you personally need or want the job.  Selling yourself as the best fit, not the one what wants the job the most, is the only way you’ll succeed.

3.      Dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s.  If you’re unemployed, you have absolutely no excuses left for errors in your job application materials, your interviews, etc.  Technically, you have an advantage over your employed competition.  Make sure you use the time you have to your advantage and be prepared and polished.  It could eclipse your employment gap!


Snow Days in IT

With a particularly brutal winter this year, IT Staffing companies (particularly IT recruiters Boston), IT contractors, and IT managers have all been dealing with a few more snow days than usual.  Though there are not a lot of concrete, universal rules about how employers will handle snow days, there are a few things IT consultants, and IT recruiters can pretty safely assume when it comes to snow days.

1. If you’re warned to stay off the road, your employer probably won’t hold it against you to ask to work remotely or stay home that day.  If you’re an essential employee, however, you should make plans to make sure you can still be at work in unsafe conditions.  (Stay over the night before, stay over after your shift, etc.)

2. You will be paid for the full week if you’re an exempt employee, even if your office closes.  You won’t be paid if you’re nonexempt.  Of course, if you worked from home during a snow day, you should get paid for the time you worked.

3. You may be required to use a vacation day if your office closes for a snow day.  While this is a massively unpopular move by employers, it is legal.

4. If  there are no warnings to stay off the roads, consider how often you’ve been absent lately before calling out for the day or asking to work from home.  If you’ve been absent frequently, it may be best to bite the bullet and deal with a long commute.


How IT Contractors Can Hit the Ground Running at New Jobs

IT professionals, especially IT contractors, tend to start new IT jobs often.  It’s helpful, then, for them to really impress their IT managers and IT recruiters by getting a running start in their new positions.  Here are a few ways IT contractors can knock the socks off their technical recruiters and new managers.

1. Make a plan.  Get clear on your manager’s goals, your company’s goals, and your team’s goals.  Set a broad plan on how to achieve what you can within these lists and consider submitting it to your manager for feedback.

2. Come in with a great attitude.  It may sound obvious, but coming in with a positive outlook and demeanor will do a great deal to bring you into alliance with coworkers, managers, etc.

3. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  To a certain extent, it’s good to find ways to work efficiently and effectively.  However, when you are faced with a choice between the way your current company does things and the way your old company did things, try to adapt to the new way.  Your new manager and coworkers will deeply appreciate it if you respect the way they already do things.  Suggesting new ideas for improvement isn’t bad, but showing respect for current protocol is imperative.


Keeping Workers Productive in IT: It’s About the Big Picture

IT recruiters and IT managers are always on the lookout for IT contractors that are self-starters, focused, and productive.  Sometimes the burden of making sure an IT consultant fits that bill might fall upon the IT manager, though.  In order to be truly effective as an IT professional, or really a professional in any field beyond information technology, somebody needs to have a good understanding of the bigger picture. 

So what does this mean exactly and how can it achieved?  To make sure workers understand the meaning of their IT jobs, they need to understand the goals of the company and how their individual job fits into those goals.  To know the significance of one’s daily tasks gives them a greater sense of urgency.  If managers are clear about the greater effect of somebody’s work upon the company’s productivity, they can really appreciate why their work is important and why they need to stay focused.

Knowing the potential impact of having an understanding or the way one’s role fits into a company’s larger goals, how can managers provide this for their reports?  There are a myriad of ways, but the most effective ones can be very small.  Adding an extra sentence into an email about a project, taking an extra minute to mention the relevance of a task when training, or even forwarding an appropriate email about company-wide goals can help.

The key in providing this info is to make it empowering, not to leave employees cowering.  The message should be ‘you and what you do are important to our company,’ rather than ‘messing up this task will have serious ramifications for you and the rest of this company.’


How to Network Better in IT

Even in a field largely populated with introverts, like information technology, it’s important to know how to network.  IT contractors need to be able to network with IT recruiters, IT managers, and other IT professionals.  There are ways for even the most introverted IT consultant to network effectively, though, whether with IT recruiting agencies or other IT professionals.

  1. Make your networking goal-oriented—towards the right goal.  Good networking is done to help others, not oneself.  If  you have a purpose in conversation, mainly to see how you can help somebody else, you will have a far less awkward and uncomfortable conversation.  The payoff will obviously come later when you operate with this goal, but it will come in spades.  People will remember you fondly and be eager to return the favors you’ve done in the future.
  2. Focus on the quality of your connections, not the quantity of them.  Don’t spread yourself too thin.  Have a manageable number of contacts that you can reliably offer to help once in a while.
  3. Find venues that you enjoy.  You don’t have to network at ‘networking events.’  Meeting new people who are in your field can be done anywhere.  Keep business cards on you even when you’re off duty.  Be open to small conversations in unexpected situations.  These will make for the best connections anyways—they will be the most memorable.


How to Get your Ideas Heard in IT Meetings

IT recruiters, IT contractors, and IT managers alike all have to attend plenty of meetings.  Getting through them is easy enough, but making yourself heard can be a challenge.  For technical recruiters and IT consultants, the most important challenge of any meeting is making sure their key ideas are heard.  Below are a few ways that IT professionals can ensure their ideas are presented in the most powerful format possible:

  1. Try to give your ideas in the beginning or end of a meeting.  Humans remember firsts and lasts best.  Make your idea one of those two.
  2. Frame your idea in a way that appeals to your listeners, particularly your most important listeners.  Framing your idea as a solution to your managers’ biggest problems, for instance, can make it that much more memorable.
  3. Strengthen your idea—don’t attack it.  It’s a natural impulse for IT recruiters and IT professionals, particularly women, to start an idea with qualifiers like ‘This may not be on the right track, but…’  Don’t do this if you really want your ideas heard.  Similarly, try to test an idea before presenting it.  Suggest why it defies objections that you can anticipate coworkers and managers raising—before they raise them.  Even just raising and defying a few of these as you present an idea will give it a very rosy presentation.


How Older IT Consultants Should Job Search

Since the recession started back in the early 2000’s, IT recruiters and IT staffing agencies have seen an influx of older IT consultants looking for IT jobs.  Though the information technology market hasn’t suffered quite as badly during the recession, older IT contractors seeking jobs have certainly had a harder time getting hired (while the field was not at its peak).  There are a few reasons why the older IT professionals get their resumes tossed off the pile first, but with a little attention, they can get around this and get the attention of technical recruiters and IT managers alike.

Focus your search appropriately: There are some fields that will always value older workers.  These include health care, education, government, and nonprofits.

Limiting your resumes: You may look a bit older than 35, but your resume doesn’t have to betray that right away.  Hold back on the impulse to make your resume more than a page.  List the most relevant recent experience, so it’s still powerful, of course.  Just limit your experience listed to the relevant stuff-  you can talk about the other experience if needed in an interview.

Keep your skills current: Even if you aren’t young and fresh, your skills can be.  You may really impress IT recruiters and managers if you do this, because you’ll be exceeding their expectations.