Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Best Way to Polish an IT Resume

As in any field, there’s plenty of bad advice on how to create resumes passed around the information technology field.  One of the worst pieces of advice that IT professionals might have encountered is to just list out their skills.  While IT managers and IT recruiters want to be able to clearly see what IT contractors can do, simply listing things, particularly soft skills, isn’t the best strategy.  The IT consultants that get the jobs demonstrate their skills on their resumes, too.

How does one do this?  Look to the bullet points listed under each job in your resume.  If you are listing accomplishments and contributions you made to each company, you’ll find it easy to demonstrate your strengths.  If you’re a great communicator, mention how you used your communication skills to lead a key project.  If you’re a detail-oriented, mention how you used that strength to deftly de-bug a program.  Comb your resume for opportunities to show your worth, and before you know it, you’ll have IT staffing firms and managers knocking down your door.


3 Tips for Sparkling IT Resumes

For IT staffing companies and IT contractors, the Holy Grail is usually those pristine, attractive resumes.  While IT recruiters, IT managers, and IT contractors all tend to disagree on what makes the perfect resume, there are a few universal things to keep in mind.  These tips are especially useful if you’re looking to work with technical recruiters in the US.

  1. Forget the fanciness.  Don’t worry about a special format, border, font, etc.  Sometimes making your resume anything but simple will hurt you.  People may wonder if you’re overcompensating for something or it may just be generally distracting.
  2. Really edit your skill section.  Put it front and center.  Make it neat and make it comprehensive.  Don’t lie in it, no matter what.
  3. Consider the length of your resume carefully.  While in most other industries 2 pages is the maximum amount a resume should be, this guideline isn’t quite true in IT.  It is true that you should keep the resume to the shortest length you can.  Include what makes sense for the position(s) you’re applying to and leave off anything else.

Why IT Managers Can’t Be Friends with Reports

As in every industry, some IT professionals occasionally come across a moment when they have to make a decision: Can they be friends with their boss?  Or if they’re an IT manager, can they be friends with the IT consultants who report to them?  Whether you’re in information technology or zoology, the answer to this question is pretty much always a resounding no—both for the sake of IT contractors and managers.  Here are a few reasons why managers and their reports need to hold off on friendship—for the sake of their IT jobs and their own mental health.

  1. An imbalance of power.  The nature of friendship is usually that both parties are equal in most aspects.  Things get awkward and uncomfortable quickly when it feels like one person is better in a really significant way.  It’s pretty much guaranteed this will happen between managers and the people whose resumes they heavily influence and judge.  For your own sanity, then, it’s better to hold off on this kind of friendship.
  2. Friendship involves some vulnerability—something you don’t want to have with your manager or reports.  Friends help each other out in tough times or advise each other.  They’re also honest and open about most things.  As a manager or report, you don’t want any of this in the workplace. Managers should be resources, but pretty much only on work-related matters.  Reports should support their managers, but only on work-related matters.  Things will get confusing and awkward quickly when you add personal problems and vulnerability to the mix.
  3. Managers sometimes need to—and do—fire their reports.  Firing somebody or being fired are traumatic enough events.  Adding friendship to the equation makes an already unpleasant circumstance unbearable.  Don’t take that risk, even if things look very rosy right now.

3 Ways to Start Your IT Work Day Off Right

IT professionals from all over the Information Technology industry can agree that there are universally wonderful and terrible ways to start the day at their IT jobs.   Here are a 3 ways everyone from IT recruiters, to IT consultants, to IT managers can start their days.

  1. Get up right away.  Sleeping beyond one snooze button isn’t doing your body any favors and actually makes it harder to wake up.
  1. Check and update your calendar and to do list.  Making a plan for the day is helpful whether you’re one of the IT headhunters crowd or a programmer.  Being organized and having goals for the day will help you accomplish more by COB.
  2. Glance at email- but don’t deal with it yet.  If there are any glaring emergency emails, by all means, respond to them.  Leave the rest for later and get going on your actual work.  The more you respond to emails, the more you’ll invite.  And the more emails you invite, the more distractions you’re creating for yourself.  Start the day off with fewer emails and see how much more you can get done.

5 Ways to Blow an IT Job Interview

IT recruiters and IT managers are admittedly hard up for IT professionals these days.  The information technology field is absolutely a job seeker’s market right now.  However, that doesn’t mean that IT consultants can’t perform well in interviews.  If IT contractors make any of the major mistakes below, they’re actively taking themselves out of the running for IT jobs. 

  1. Winging it: Not coming to a job interview prepared is a huge red flag.  It wastes everyone’s time and indicates a lot about the kind of employee you might be.  Don’t project that kind of future.
  2. Being too demanding:  Nobody would recommend being a doormat.  However, if you spend most of your interview or conversations with IT recruiters talking about what you want, you need to take a step back.  While it is a job seeker’s market, no employer wants a one-sided deal.   Making sure you’re coming across as worth something before you ask for it is key.
  3. Not putting your phone away:  It’s simple.  If you’re in an interview or meeting with a recruiter, your phone should be out of sight and on silent.  Not doing this signals less than 100% interest in a job.
  4. Talking too much or too little:  This is actually a pretty hard mistake to make either way.  It will be obvious quickly if you’re not giving enough information or too much.  If you get either signal, pay attention to it and correct yourself immediately.  Both are tough to overcome if you spend the whole interview doing them.
  5. Don’t bring anybody else into the decision.  Your parents, your spouse, your significant others, etc may hold weight in your decision.  However, you need to keep this information to yourself.  It’s extra information for recruiters or potential employers and it will absolutely hurt you if you complicate the process with more people than just you, your potential employer, and your recruiter.


3 Ways to Stand Out in Your IT Job

A recent Harvard study points to one overarching means to making yourself stand out (in a good way) at your IT jobs:  Dare to be a little different than the average IT consultants.  While IT recruiters, IT managers, and other IT contractors tend to believe that it’s best to try to fit in, Harvard’s recent study proves that IT professionals who are unabashedly a little different are likely to garner more respect.  Here are a few ways to make it obvious to IT staffing firms, managers, and coworkers that you’re a little different—and it adds value to any company you work at.

  1. Make it clear you are willing to think things through from alternative viewpoints.  In meetings or conversations, take a risk and play devil’s advocate once in a while.  Do be sure to state that you are in fact doing this, rather than leaving it up to others to guess.  The point isn’t to be obnoxious, but rather to show creativity.  Play devil’s advocate only to the point where it’s constructive.  The minute it starts hurting a project or meeting’s progress, it’s time to revert back to the conventional viewpoint.
  2. Edit yourself.  Everyone tends to want to fit in at work.  It’s how we’re wired as humans.  Consider holding back a bit on personal conversations or on what you say in meetings or over email.  Studies show that your words carry more weight when you say less overall.  You don’t have hit the mute button all the time, just consider holding back if you’re simply confirming something that’s already been said, or telling a story that’s not necessary background or info.
  3. Know the bigger picture and your role in it.  To be able to stand out a bit, you need to know what you’re choosing to conform to or differentiate yourself from.  Knowing the company’s goals, the status and timelines of any projects you’re working on, and general viewpoints on these projects will all help you to make a great impression—when you choose to act in accordance with the norm and when you don’t.  You only look uninformed and contrarian if you play devil’s advocate without knowing the other side of things.


Staying Relevant in IT After 40

Older IT professionals know that as you pass 40, suddenly IT recruiters are no longer chasing you in droves with IT jobs.  Though it’s a terrible practice, some IT managers instruct their IT staffing firms to seek out younger IT contractors.  You don’t have to become a victim of this practice, though, if you’re an IT consultant over 40.  Here are a few ways to deal with and/or avoid this practice.

  1. Update your resume so it looks fresh.  Take out the objective and the sentence ‘References available on request’.  Both are outdated and unnecessary.  Add in links to social media profiles (more on that below)
  2. If you don’t already have them, create good, functional social media profiles for yourself in LinkedIn and Twitter at least.  Maintain these as a way to enhance your professional presence.  They take minimal effort and will go a long way in changing employers’ perceptions.
  3. Stay up to date on news for your industry and technologies for your industry.  If younger job candidates are desirable for their fluent command of new technology and trends, you can be too.  You already built some of your worth in your years of experience on the job.  Now it’s time to enhance that.


What You Shouldn’t Bring to IT Jobs

It’s common knowledge that sparkling resumes and references make IT consultants very attractive to IT headhunters and IT managers.  Sometimes it’s what IT contractors don’t bring to the table that makes them so easy for IT recruiters to market, though.  Here are a few things IT Professionals should never bring to their IT jobs.

  1. Limits to your job.  Strike “that’s not my job,” or “I don’t have time for that project” from your vocabulary if you really want to stand out.  Even if either, or both are true, finding a way to do them will eventually pay off.  You’ll gain new skills and some truly glowing references when you leave the job.  If you’re worried about being taken advantage of, start documenting these extra projects.  Use them to ask for a raise at an appropriate time or a reference when you leave.  Make sure you add them to your resume, too!
  2. Personal conflicts.  It’s fine to want to avoid certain people outside the office or to actively disagree with people.  At work, it can be the kiss of death.  Work on your ability and willingness to work with and engage well with all types of people in the office environment.  Being easy to work with is a special attribute, especially in IT.  Stand out as a diamond in the rough with some outstanding interpersonal skills.  You won’t regret it.
  3. Concepts of fairness.  It’s easy to find little injustices all over some offices.  But the truth is, you can’t do anything about them.  The sooner you let the concept of fairness go, the sooner you’ll feel better and be able to focus better on your work.  Complaining about injustices won’t change them. It will only bring negative attention to you.  When you stop noticing or caring about these things, your silence will speak volumes because managers will understand that you have the same priorities they do: getting the work done!


Complaining about IT Coworkers Effectively

IT professionals in every corner of the Information technology industry—from IT consultants to IT headhunters—have to deal with the occasional issue with a coworker.  The best case scenario is to have to avoid bringing the issue to IT managers.  However, sometimes IT contractors and IT recruiters have no choice.  For those unfortunate times, here are some strategies to complain about a coworker with minimal damage to your reputation or theirs.

  1. Assess the situation first:  Is this an issue that impedes your ability to get work done, or is it merely irritating.  If it’s irritating, you may want to shelve this issue for now and try to avoid it.  If it impedes your work, try to pinpoint for yourself exactly how it does so and what the effect is for the company and/or your team.
  2. Write down your grievance and try to brainstorm a few ways that your manager could resolve it.
  3. Bring your grievance to your boss at a time when they’re neither busy, nor upset about something else.
  4. Present your issue and brainstormed options to your manager in a calm way.  Try to mention a few things the person does well beforehand to cushion the blow.  Keep the conversation away from the realm of personal vendetta.  This is a work issue and your boss will likely want to help you solve any work issues.  Personal issues are a waste of their time.


Creating Accountability in IT Teams

In a field like Information Technology, the ability to build accountability among reports is crucial for IT managers.  While IT recruiters and IT staffing firms will provide IT contractors who work well independently in their IT jobs, there are a few key strategies that managers should employ.

  1. Start a tradition of sharing major achievements with everyone.  This might include awards or simply recognizing employees for accomplishments via company-wide emails.  Whatever it is, you’ll create incentive for IT consultants to raise their own work-level to match that of their peers.  If positive recognition is obviously up for grabs, people will always work for it.
  2. Have reports document their own progress each day or over the course of a project.  Consider checking it on at least a quarterly basis.  That documentation will be enough to create accountability without you actively micromanaging them.  This will create accountability that’s not born of fear or resentment, which is key. (These things as motivation tend to hurt productivity.)
  3. Consider having meetings to start the day or week in which team and individual priorities are laid out.  The best meetings will be the ones in which team members report their own priorities and plans, rather than a manager meting them out.  Reports will feel empowered and may even get excited about their to-do lists as they tell them to the group.