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That Guy’s Tips for Job Seekers October 14, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Getting Fired, Tips for Corporate Success.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

cc-licensed photo by Dani Lurie

cc-licensed photo by Dani Lurie

Yesterday I mentioned a friend of mine who was having trouble finding a job. The short explanation of her problem was that she was poorly qualified for a lot of jobs out there — not because she’s uneducated or unintelligent or unwilling, but because of the exact opposite: she’s very smart, she’s very educated, and she’s very willing to work.

So are a lot of people. A lot of people who are getting out into the job hunt for the first time in 10, 20, or even 30 years. A lot of people who are smart, who have advanced degrees, who need to work because their companies raided their retirement accounts and failed miserably at putting the money back.

I wish I had good advice for job-seekers. I really do. I have some advice… whether it’s good or not is completely up to you.

  1. Find a recruiter. This is the biggest one. Recruiters get paid when you get hired, so it’s in their best interest to find the best job for you. I can’t guarantee the jobs will be there, but if there’s a perfect job for you, your recruiter will know and will send you for an interview. Plus, recruiters can get their feet in the door much more skillfully than you, unless you used to be a recruiter yourself.
  2. Treat the job hunt as a job. Don’t just dink around on your computer for half an hour a day. Sign up for as many job boards as you can. Get alerts via e-mail or RSS. Apply for jobs. And if you come across a position being represented by someone else in your recruiter’s group, don’t just apply; go to your recruiter and ask for information. Spend a lot of time trying to find a job. It’s hard work.
  3. Learn a technological skill. I recommend learning web programming — specifically JSP. At least where I live, everyone seems to be looking for people who can code JSP.

    Commenter Alphager says that JSP is pretty complicated and really can’t be learned properly by just picking up a book. As I am not a JSP programmer, I can neither refute nor confirm his statement, but it looks pretty good to me. So, perhaps you shouldn’t learn JSP right away. Instead, read on for other suggestions. I still recommend learning at least one web-based programming language, although know that you will need to spend more than just a few days to get it right (I’ve been building websites, doing both design and development, since 1995).

    If you’ve never done any programming, start with PHP, which is a pretty easy language to learn. Build websites, play around in APIs (Twitter and Tumblr, for starters), get good at CMSes (WordPress to start, but Joomla and Drupal are the biggies these days), and shell out for the good books. I recommend O’Reilly Media — the white books with the animals on the cover. The red ones from Wrox are fine too, but O’Reilly, in my experience, is a little more accessible.

  4. Don’t sell yourself cheaply. You may not get as much money as you used to make, but don’t lowball just to ensure you get the job. Make sure you’re paid fairly. You’ll probably get the low end of the pay scale no matter what, but you definitely want to be somewhere on it. Also, remember that people are willing to pay for things they perceive to be high-quality, even in a down economy; if you’re a high-quality human resource, you can still ask for a good salary and you’re likely to get it if you’re worth it.
  5. Be prepared to wait. I’ve read that you get one callback for every 50 resumes you send out (not necessarily an interview; just a phone call), that it takes six months to get a new job, that there are a ton of qualified candidates and very few jobs overall, that the only fields hiring are education and medicine… I’ve heard it all. Some of it’s true. Just be patient; it’s going to suck while you don’t have a job, but believe it or not, absence really does make the heart grow fonder and once you get that new job, you’ll really appreciate it.

So, y’know, good luck in your job hunt. It took me 18 months to find my last job. I was employed at the time, and I know it’s harder now than it was, but I waited long enough and I got the right job — it pays well, it’s in a good location, I’m doing stuff I like, and the company is a great one to work for (trust me, if I told you the company’s real name, you’d know it… it’s that well-known). Even in a down economy, there are good jobs to be had. You just have to work hard to find them.

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1. Alphager - October 14, 2009

Four of your five tips are great, but the thing that went through my head while reading tip #3 was “No no no no, pleaso no, for the love of god please no!”.

While learning a technological skill is great and i would recommend it to everyone, “programming JSP” is not a skill. “Programming” is a skill and it needs to be learned and perfected over *years* – it’s not something you will be able to learn just by reading some books!
And specially JSP is not something you just pick up (there is a reason JSP-programmers are in such a high demand); you have to understand MVC, datamodels, persistency, taglibs, etc.

I earn my salary by fixing applications written by people who thought they could just learn it with a book at home. I am very expensive and yet my biggest problem is finding time to go on vacation because i am overbooked (I’m currently on my first week off this year [for reference: european with 28 paid vacation days/year]).

So, for your own sake and for the sake of the industry, which is wasting enormous amounts of money re-implementing existing applications, learn a technical skill related to what you did before. If you were an accountant, learn to create reports in SAP. Courses in MS Office are also a great idea. If you were a designer, get into Flash.

2. That Guy - October 14, 2009

I understand your point. I guess I was writing from my own personal standpoint — since I’ve done some programming, though not in JSP, learning JSP looks attractive to me. I’ll make a note in the article that perhaps JSP isn’t the place to start.

My question would be: if you have a degree in microbiology, are just coming out of college, and are waiting to get into a graduate program, what skills would you learn to try and get a better job? Or a degree in something else that isn’t really apply-able until you have a graduate degree or a doctorate?

3. Alphager - October 14, 2009

Thanks for clarifying your point. JSP itself is pretty easy (basically PHP with a slightly redundant syntax), but you usually don’t use JSP by itself. Instead you use it as the web-facing interface of a JEE-application with the whole crazyness of “enterprise-programming”.

Coming from IT i never had to face those questions; whatever i did was beneficial to me.

I would (caveat emtor: i have no knowledge of microbiology whatsoever) recommend something around data-visualisation and hard number-cunching to the microbiology hopeful. The amount of data modern sciences generate grows each day and *someone* has to make sense of whatever the experiments generate. I know that there exist several very domain-specific tools for this; choose one and learn it.

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