Why Career Advice Sucks and What You Can Do About It

You may have noticed that every time we post job-hunting advice, we get pasted. Sometimes I think we could provide the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of every person hiring in the top 100 tech companies, and someone would lob mortar shells at us because we didn’t include #101.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. The point is no one is ever completely satisfied with the advice they get, whether it’s from us or from somewhere else.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because in the last few weeks I’ve talked to several people trying to get entry level jobs in IT, even while they’re paying off student loans, holding down a full-time job elsewhere, and facing things like mortgages, credit card debt and an out-of-work spouse. If they’ve got a computer science degree, they have few nuts-and-bolts skills but plenty of knowledge about theory and math.

Then, I went to CompTIA’s Breakaway and listened to employers grouse about finding too few candidates with the skills they need, and lamenting the fact that computer science degrees leave people with a lot of theory and math but precious few job skills.

So there is one of the biggest disconnects in the tech job market, and all the resume advice in the world isn’t going to help you bridge it.

My conclusions:

  • Advice only works if it’s customized for your approach to each individual employer.
  • Career advice is great on paper, but not so great in the real world
  • Despite the number of blogs, books, workshops and the like, there’s only so much advice out there. I mean, how many articles can you read about organizing a resume?

All that begs a question: How can you handle it when you need help figuring out what to do and how to do it?

The answer, I think, lies in understanding and accepting the realities of looking for work. Some of these float at 40,000 feet, others at 15,000 and others are on the ground. If a job hunt is about flying, remember there’s this thing called gravity and you have to take it on its terms. If you don’t believe in what’s going on at 40,000 feet, you’re going to plunge to 15,000. If you don’t believe what goes on at 15,000, you’re going to crash.

So, today let’s talk about the 40,000-foot stuff (we’ll descend later). Up here you’ll find Mark’s ten things you have to accept in order to find a job. They are:

  1. You must network.
  2. You must network.
  3. You must customize. It’s better to send 50 customized resumes and cover letters than it is to send 500 identical copies.
  4. Despite #3, job-hunting is a numbers game. The more jobs you apply for, the more likely you are to find one.
  5. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get a job you’re not qualified for.
  6. If your skills haven’t evolved with technology, you’re going to have trouble.
  7. Accept the dynamics: HR’s not going to respond if you don’t make the first cut. Hiring managers aren’t going to say “aha” when they see your resume. You have to smile whether you like it or not and convince them you’re the right person for the job.
  8. Managers aren’t stupid. They know the business and if you think otherwise, it’s going to show.
  9. Job hunting takes time. A lot of time. If you’re working, it’s like having a second job.
  10. There are three other options: You can start your own company, become a contractor, or be the child of, or marry the son/daughter, of the company’s CEO. And even that doesn’t always work.

Yes, there are exceptions. You’ll hear from the guy who sent out 1,000 resumes on Tuesday, had an interview on Friday and got an offer the following Monday. Or the guy who was hired despite spending his interview pointing out all the flaws in the company’s strategy. Or the kid who posted pictures of himself body painted at the nude beach, only to discover HR thought he’d be a great cultural fit. But these are exceptions. They’re like playing the lottery to pay off your house.

These ideas are tough to swallow, especially when you’ve spent, say, a year sending out resumes that don’t get answered, interviewing with managers who make it plain they’d rather be doing something else, hearing you’re a solid candidate and then never hearing from the person again, and finding it harder and harder to believe you haven’t wasted the last X number of years on a career you turned out to be not very good at.

Let’s put that last notion to bed. Even if more companies are hiring — and they are — it’s still a tough job market out there. A lot of talented people, big names in their fields, are sending out resumes, too. What these ten things are about is maximizing your chances of getting in the door, convincing the managers you’re the one, and finally getting to work.

So let’s get into all this. Consider this the first post. I’ll write some more every Friday.

52 Responses to “Why Career Advice Sucks and What You Can Do About It”

  1. Fred Bosick

    It’s not as if the advice is bad. It’s that employers are unreasonable. And advice which may not be all that useful on this site or others isn’t what we’re grousing about, it’s the excessively rosy view of the job market. Because it makes the unemployed feel as if they’re utter morons for not being able to take advantage of it.

    There are some real dynamics out there that influence whether one gets a job that has nothing to do with competence or cultural fit. One of the key words has two letters and a number in between. It would be nice if job and career boards acknowledge this and offer information that job seekers might not otherwise have.

    Thank you.

    • —–It’s not as if the advice is bad. It’s that employers are unreasonable. —–

      I agree, and in fact, Mark touched on that in this op-ed.

      I have given up on ever using my Math & CIS degree, at least directly (meaning a tech job). I just don’t have the financial wherewithal to spend MORE money on classes, then YEARS of time working at unpaid internships–all so I can qualify for an entry-level job that pays $12.00/hour. (Meanwhile, illegal immigrants who have no education and can’t even speak English can earn that much the moment they arrive in the U.S., doing unskilled manual labor.)

      Heck, even if I did have the financial wherewithal, that would be a horrible investment. I wouldn’t even break even, let alone make a profit. I would be much better off spending that money and time building a marketing business. If I ever do “work in IT,” it’s going to be *marketing* IT.

      I have a lot more to say about this; I may Tumblr this later.

    • Marcus Griffen

      Fred I could not have said any better. Most companies want to hire people who are already employed, or replace a person who left, who was hired after he graduated college and gained on the job experience, with someone who has that exact skill set.

      • Marcus Griffen

        “I went to CompTIA’s Breakaway and listened to employers grouse about finding too few candidates with the skills they need, and lamenting the fact that computer science degrees leave people with a lot of theory and math but precious few job skills.”

        I have a radical ideal for employers, hire entry level Computer Science graduates, who have the “Nuts and Bolts” and train them. Like companies, like Microsoft, are training Indian College graduates in India. Companies used to do this, in fact many of the so-called desirable candidates were trained this way. They were ‘trained on the job’ and given an opportunity to prove themselves. Instead of Companies trying to poach expensive employees from other companies they should try training college graduates or people who have experience in other areas of IT for the position they have. For example a Lotus Notes Developer could easily be trained to be vb.net developer within weeks, because LotusScript (Lotus Notes Scripting Language) is structural the same as Visual Basic with only a few changes in syntax.

        • HI Marcus,

          Okay, this is going to sound like I’m picking a fight, but really it’s an honest question: Shouldn’t someone who knows they skill (ie, lotus Notes) has fallen off the mainstream be looking for opportunities to get training on newer tools and environments himself, at least in the area he’s focusing on?


      • Hi Mr. Feffer,

        I had to respond to your comments to Mr. Griffen. BTW, thanks for writing this article and I appreciate that you directly engage via these comments. I would love to pick your brain, but that’s off subject.

        Yes, your expectation that a resourceful job hunter will seek appropriate training seems reasonable, but it is not sufficient. Employers want to see a track record of utilizing the skills in a professional environment, even for junior and entry level positions. I am attempting to re-enter the workforce after some retraining, but employers don’t seem to care. Nor do they care that I’m part way through a masters in sw engineering program. The fact is, employers are really not interested in investing in the capabilities of their workforce.

        Case in point, the masters program I’m in was created by academicians who engaged the local engineering organizations to understand their challenges with finding quality talent. To meet this need, the university created this masters program. Unfortunately, the program is now being phased out because it’s funded completely by student tuition (it’s expensive). Companies used to reimburse their employees for enrolling in this program, but that isn’t true anymore. Companies seem to be interested in externalizing costs where possible. Apparently that includes the costs to keep their employees viable/competitive.

  2. Regarding #10. Becoming a contractor is not an alternative. Contractors have to go through the same resume blasting and interviewing process that regular W2 employees go through. Even worse in some cases, since, while a contractor may be a lower risk because it’s expected to be short term, at the same time he’s expected to be an EXPERT IN EVERYTHING and actually be able to solve every possible problem in that short time.

    Hah, you think you can join a consulting company, and they’ll do all that work on your behalf? Think again. The first time they submit you to a company who says “No,” you become Persona Non Grata. You’ll never hear from that consulting company ever again.

    But there are still three other options: 1) start your own company, 2) marry the CEO’s kid, or 3) you can always contract a debilitating disease, go on permanent disability, then move to a state or country with a low cost of living.

  3. Now employers don’t want new people with Computer Science or Math degrees? Last month they were whining that there was an extreme shortage of people getting Computer Science and Math degrees. It never ends.

    • Marcus Griffen

      You don’t need a Computer Science degree to work at a helpdesk, Install Software or a Network, trouble shoot computer problems or be a System Administrator. You do need a CS degree to design software those other professional will be using to do there jobs.

  4. Mark, this is a great article and a subject certainly worth exploring.

    As one who also provides advice, both here and on my website, I can agree with your ten points.

    While it may seem there is no good, new job advice out there, I’d note that many, if not most, job candidates are not up to speed on what it takes to find a job today. Finding a job is the least used job skill by a person because the skill is used so infrequently. A lot of people, in fact, don’t even consider “searching for a job well” as a job skill at all.

    Even though there are only so many ways to organize a résumé, that information is still new to many, many candidates — I can’t tell you how many poor resumes I’ve helped to change for my friends and former co-workers that has immediately resulted in more interviews and more job offers. These are very bright people — but they have never been taught the job skills needed for a job search. Nor have they been able to practice those skills much until recently…

    This lack of job search skills is a tremendous competitive advantage for those job candidates who have worked to perfect their job search skills. They have the business network, focused resume, customized based on research on the target company, stories to show their results to the employer — this kind of work will consistently give the best possible positioning to get hired. It’s what I call “employment security”, not “job security”.

    Employers have their own sins to solve of course. You or I can’t change what they do. What we can control is learning to do the effective job search and perfecting it as a job skill so we are putting ourselves in the best position to stay employed.

    • Marcus Griffen

      “Employers have their own sins to solve of course. You or I can’t change what they do.”
      But you can report the on those sins Employers instead of blaming the candidates. I have followed all of the advise you mentioned above. And I’ve found:

      1. Many of the people in my network are in the same position I am in.
      2. I might meet 70% of job requirement but not 100% which most employers want.
      3. I have customized 100s of resume(s) to fit the position as much as possible with lying
      4.Candidates aren’t stupid either.

      Why don’t you follow a a real candidate, either a new graduate or a person who has been out of work for 6 months, and actually see if the advise DICE gives actually works. It only works if you are working already and the people you network with are not in the same position you in, and that is unemployed.

      • Great points, Marcus.

        I cannot afford to attend expensive “Networking Nights” held at bars. I can’t even afford to attend an event at McDonald’s, let alone at a bar in a city where parking alone costs at least $10.00. The people I already know are either unemployed, self-employed and/or work in an industry that has absolutely nothing to do with IT (the painter two doors down and my petsitter, for example).

        I don’t meet anywhere near 70% of the requirements of even “entry-level” IT jobs. If I’m lucky, I’ll have one or two of the 24 required skills in a typical job ad. I cannot afford to pay for MORE classes and/or spend years working for FREE. Further to this, there is no way for me to “customize” or “tweak” my resume if I’m not qualified for any tech jobs.

        The “advice” I have been given, from multiple people, is to spend MORE money taking MORE classes, then spend YEARS working for FREE…all so I can qualify for an entry-level gig that pays $10-$12/hour. Not only can I not afford to do that, I maintain that it would be insane for me to do that. I just accepted a clerical temp job in that same wage range whose only requirements were a high school diploma and the ability to type and use a computer. They don’t pay much, but they also aren’t DEMANDING a degree, plus additional classes, plus several years of unpaid “interning” just so I could qualify for this gig. (Frankly, they are by far the most professional of all of the companies I’ve dealt with since getting out of college in May; I’d much rather work for them than anyone else I’ve had the displeasure of interviewing with so far.)

      • Well, I don’t agree with a lot of this. And, I’ve been talking to people who are out there looking and those conversations are what led to this post in the first place.

        One thing is, no one’s blaming the candidates. But what IS true is there are people out there who just don’t follow through in a lot of things that would help them increase their odds of finding a job. (Heck, if I focused only on people who are conducting the world’s perfect job search I wouldn’t be doing MY job.) And regarding your four points: Well, yeah, that’s why I say career advice often sucks.

        But let me go on. My first cup of coffee is kicking in. Job searching IS a numbers game even when you’re doing things right. It comes down to this: All the advice in the world really only raises the odds, which is important in a market like this one. I don’t agree it only works when you’ve already got a job. Even if you are already working, you’re not guaranteed a new job though there’s no question it raises the odds significantly. When I talk to people who’ve been out of work a long time, it’s clear they’re often locked in a vicious circle: Can’t get the job without the skills, can’t get the skills without the job. I think more agencies and tech groups are starting to focus on ways around that, but I’ll get into that separately. But if nothing else you should ask around the trade and professional groups that fit your skills/career and see what help they can offer.

        And, if you want to talk more about this — especially to share your stories — email me. mfeffer at dice.com.

  5. Mark,

    Quoting part of your blog:

    “I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because in the last few weeks I’ve talked to several people trying to get entry level jobs in IT, even while they’re paying off student loans, holding down a full-time job elsewhere, and facing things like mortgages, credit card debt and an out-of-work spouse. If they’ve got a computer science degree, they have few nuts-and-bolts skills but plenty of knowledge about theory and math.”

    There is another, large(r), group out there as well; those with experience and (perhaps) degrees. Their situation might be they have considerable experience, but not THE specific skill(s) the employer wants. They might, or might not, have a degree in CS. They might be “old”, and consequently are set in their ways and seen as can’t learn new stuff. They might have been making “big” money and are seen as unwilling to take a lesser job. The excuses used by HR, recruiters, etc. are legion and BS.

    • Hi Mike –

      As Marcus pointed out, not every job needs a computer science degree. But there is a feeling among some employers — and note I said SOME employers — that some people out there have good basic skills, but they haven’t evolved them to keep up with the technology. I think many companies would train a new employee of their background and skills showed expertise in the area in question. As for the “old” question, I do think that happens, unfortunately, though I have this feeling it happens more in larger companies than smaller ones, though I can’t say I’ve done any research you’d call scientific about that.)

      • Mark,
        Agree with your comment about larger vs smaller companies. Start-ups, especially are focused on ability to deliver, not age… And that’s from personal experience and observations.

  6. I’ll have to agree whole-heartily with the original poster. Finding out what career is right for you is essentially finding YOUR path. The only way to find out a suitable career is through experience, preferably on job. I’m a big proponent of on-job training, however, now-a-days the “field” is so specialized it’s getting increasingly difficult to seek out these opportunities.

  7. David Pratt

    Mark, I like how you touched some on why the 1-10 steps might not land you a job. Could you expand more on less-known reasons hiring managers may pass over a candidate or some more common mistakes made by prospects?

    • Hi David –

      Thanks for your note. I’m going to start writing about each of the ten steps over the next few weeks, and I’ll be sure to get into that for each one. If I miss anything you’d like to know, just holler. (Or, post a comment.)



  8. A+, Network+, Security+, MCSE, CCNA, CISSP, GCIH and a B.S. in Information Technology.
    Twenty Five years of experience working at a Fortune 500. Three years out of a job.

    Cover Letter: I understand that I have been unemployed for a long time and I am willing to take an entry level position at a competitive salary.

    HR: Hmmm…. this guy sound old. Resume to the trash.

    CIO: We do not have enough qualified applicants!

    CEO: Layoff the network administrator and save us $80,000 so the executive staff can go golfing in Hawaii this Winter. I am sure the tech support guy can take over his duties. If he does not want to do it, I am sure he can go find a new job too.

    • Carlo,
      If you have all the certs you’ve mentioned, then it’s hard to imagine why you haven’t been able to locate work. Could it be you’re in a geographical area where there simply aren’t any jobs? I guarantee, if you have a track record of getting along with others and you’re worth your salt ( you’re able to do what those certs imply and you’re not simply a good test taker ), then you can definitely find work in silicon valley ( Bay Area in California ) and salaries are phenomenal…

      • Carlo,

        I can relate about the certs and the degree feeling like they’re never enough, but J is right about location. I “expanded” my geographic preference out of my area and got a lot more responses. True, many many interviews where the end result was “We’re not sure that you want to relocate here” but I did get one job offer (after 8 months). Now just waiting on a background check so that I can start a move across country – but I’ll be working again soon. And that’s what matters.

      • Thanks guys, and I understand what you are saying, but with my 401K and other investments having been nearly wiped off and the value of my house going down by nearly 50% in the last three years, I am stuck here in Chicago.

        I could do what many others are doing, walk off my mortgage and declare bankruptcy, but that is not what my parents taught me to do.

        ps. I was in the mid 90s salary range, so I did know what I was doing. I have even applied to $13 an hour tech support positions and I either get no responses or simply do not hear back from them.

      • I’ve tried applying to jobs in other areas, jobs I’m actually qualified for (administrative and marketing work). The overwhelming majority of employers never respond. Whenever someone does, the phone call *always* goes like this:

        EMPLOYER: Can you come in for an interview tomorrow?

        ME: I’m not able to come in for a face-to-face interview. I live in [insert city hundreds or thousands of miles away]. I can do a phone or Skype interview.

        EMPLOYER: Oh. [very, very long pause] Well, why don’t you give us a call when you’re actually living here? (Alternatively: “Well, we’re doing interviews tomorrow and making a decision this Friday, and the person will start next Monday. If you aren’t available to come in tomorrow and start next Monday, we can’t use you.”)

        Employers do not want to be bothered with applicants who live hundreds or thousands of miles away. And why should they be? They have hundreds, maybe thousands of applicants who live right in the area, can interview tomorrow and and can start work next week. Why should they bother with someone they cannot meet in person (few unemployed people can afford to just jet around the country) and who might need weeks or months to arrange a move?

        The only way to get a job in an area where you are not living is to (1) be working for a company that transfers you to another location or (2) be in the military, which is really a subset of (1). Claiming otherwise is just like claiming that unicorns exist: everyone says they do, but nobody has actually seen one personally.

      • Relocation is not an option, I’m willing to drive further within reason (even driving 25 miles from home is painful). My house is paid for (I inherited it from my parents) so as long as I have the money to pay the house tax, then there is no way I can lose the house, even if the utilities get shut off.

        All I want is a very simple basic office support position…that’s all.

  9. The point you made about the disconnect between degrees and job skills is interesting, and I’d like to point out it’s not a constant. I have two certs myself, but have been given the cold shoulder by multiple companies because I haven’t yet completed my Associates yet. Some people want that degree, and they won’t talk to you without it.

    Other employers want experience, solid, in the field experience. But whatever happened to “on the job training”? Where are you supposed to get experience if no one will ever hire you? And why are perspective employees the only ones who are required to “think outside the box” in the interviewing situation? Personally, I think it’s more than a little narrow minded for a hiring manager to look at my resume, which shows clearly that I have a 3.89 GPA in MATHEMATICS (just got an A in Calc III), and all my previous and varied work experience, and not realize that I’m intelligent and flexible enough that they can quickly train me to do just about anything they want or need.

    As far as schooling focusing on theory rather than hard skills, well…. honestly, the person who understands theory better understands how hard skills should be used, and more importantly for companies looking to hire, has a better chance of coming up with a new and creative way of using them. If you want to have a chance of creating something bleeding edge, you need people who have a very good grasp on theory.

    All in all, I say that employers need to get out of tunnel vision mode and stop acting like the resumes they’re looking at are spec sheets for automatons, and their task is to just find the right model. That’s just a plain inefficient, needle-in-a-hay-stack approach. And We’re NOT automatons, we’re intelligent people with a lot to offer if they’d just give us a chance and look at us as living beings with growth potential, rather than fixed-use tools.

    • I wish I were seen as an automaton. Because I didn’t get my degree until middle age, I’m seen as ghetto trailer trash with a fancy degree, an uppity slave who dared try to escape the corporate plantation, who doesn’t know my “place.”

      Thug Life!

  10. Mark:
    I like all 10 of your suggestions. I particularly like number 3 — “You must customize. It’s better to send 50 customized resumes and cover letters than it is to send 500 identical copies.” This is great advice that I give to my coaching clients. However, most of them are too lazy to follow it. Thanks for suggesting it here in such a forceful way.

  11. I have read, unfortunately, too much information and advice on how to land a job. So much, that often it is either conflicting or just outright inconsistent. Unfortunately, the end result is that you get more confused and bogged down rather than focusing on the objective.

    My question is, whatever happened to finding a decent job for someone who has had very valuable experience, even if it was abroad, but does not seem to fit into any category or niche?

    Moreover, why is work experience in a foreign country looked down upon? I was told that experience that could not be accounted for was considered a “gap” in the resume. Gaps often are interpreted as almost like being either unemployed, or in jail! (Can you imagine?)

    What advice would you give to someone who has degrees, served in the military, was part of the Big-6 consulting firms, who took up an assignment in Europe for 12 years and returned with a “gap”? (Thinking that all work experience had value.)

    • Successful IT Consultant

      Peter, by your description you DO have valuable skills. Therefore (as painful as it seems) it may be time to recognize that it’s a self-promotion and/or marketing problem you have. The job hunt is as much about marketing games as it is about interviewing well and proving you are “as advertised”.

      In your case, since you’re having such a problem with the European component of your resume (experience which SHOULD earn you bonuses for international experience — not getting branded with a “gap”), I’d focus on how you position your work history. If you worked for a Big-6 firm, list their US parent as your employer and then HIGHLIGHT the European/international experience you picked up while there. After 12 years, you hopefully became semi-fluent in another language (assuming you weren’t in the UK) so mention that as well.

      Anyway, that’s my two cents. But I was in your same boat after spending 2 years in Latin America and have carefully finessed how I position my experience, language skills, and underlying IT expertise, and have been successfully working my own IT consulting business for nearly 8 years now.

  12. Juan Rodriguez

    I recently finish a master degree in a field that I have absolutely no experience beside the work done for my collage course. Doing job search I found there are plenty of job I can qualify for, but must employers are asking for the super expert whit 5 to 10 years experience that know everything related to the field. How can I find a job in a field were I do not have experience only education?

    • That’s the perpetual catch 22…you have to have a job to get the experience, and you have to have experience to get the job. This is true for any position, in any field. College and entry level (I’m mid-career myself).

  13. Choundra

    Great article Mark!
    I wholeheartedly agree with your statements:
    1. You must network!
    2. You must network!
    3. “What IS true is there are people out there who just don’t follow through in a lot of things that would help them increase their odds of finding a job.”

    My thoughts:

    A. Networking DOES NOT mean hanging out with your UNEMPLOYED buddies complaining. There are many IT Webinars, seminars, and conferences that are FREE to attend, participate in roundtables and NETWORK! Take advantage of NETWORKING via a webcast or phone conference. Market your name.

    B. HEALTHCARE continues to thrive in this economy. No experience? VOLUNTEER! If you are unemployed, what do you have to lose? Nothing, excepts the gaps in your resume. Free labor looks better on your resume than a gap. Volunteering demonstrates your willingness to INVEST IN YOURSELF much more than an additional class/certification.

    If you have the IT credentials then volunteer in a Health Information Management Department on the weekend/night shifts to learn the EMR processes and familiarize yourself with hospital operations and medical terminology. If you are lucky, you will find a healthcare facility that is preparing to implement a new EMR (i.e. HPF, EPIC, CERNER). Your participation (albeit as a volunteer) in an EMR implementation will become a valuable but budget-neutral asset that will provide the “hands-on” experience and knowledge transfer that your resume lacks.

    C. Free newsletters, Webinars and ePublications are available to keep you current. Just sign up to receive them on your smartphone. Read them as you commute or sit in waiting for your next interview. Many of ePublications contain a schedule of events. Read the small print. Most of them will “sponsor” you by paying for your food, travel, and lodging accomodations in return for your participation in roundtable discussions. Try FREE Fierce ePublications and HcPRO eNewsletters.

    D. The ONC has awarded millions of $$ in grants to several community colleges to offer FREE Health Information training to IT folks and FREE IT training to Health Information folks in preparation for Meaningful Use. This 6 month course is FREE! Free Books and on-line courses.

    In this economy there is no space for complacency… even the EMPLOYED must position ourselves to continuously learn and evolve as we are all getting older and “at risk” for UNEMPLOYMENT.

    • Marcus Griffen

      I am networking, I’m complaining on Dice. Seriously I volunteer for a homeless shelter and was able to network with someone who did help me get a part-time job as a math instructor at our local junior college. So at least I’m the burn of my savings. However I did try volunteering at a hospital and the only positions they had was patient transportation. You cannot just volunteer in a Hospital Heath Records Department, because of HIPPA and security requirements. Besides right now Hospitals are hiring people with clinic and technical experience, look at Mark F. video “http://insights.dice.com/2011/08/02/healthcare-it-certification-and-managers-talk-hiring/#comments”

      Now you may have something on following free news letters and webinars to keep up on the latest and greatest technology. Also I’m looking to SourceForge for an opensource C++ project to cut my teeth on EMR application development, so there things to keep you busy, as long as your money holds up.

      • All, I pretty much disagree with all this:

        1. Many, many types of tech volunteer work can be done remotely. You don’t have to show up at someone’s office all the time to create a website, a database, etc.
        2. I can’t imagine any not-for-profit requiring a volunteer to go out and buy any kind of wardrobe. They’re more interested in getting things done.
        3. You’re volunteering, remember, not taking money from them. No one’s going to object if you put the volunteer work behind paid work.

    • I was a considering a career in healthcare, then the conscience protection was taking away. That eliminated just about that field altogether.

      I have virtually no network, I don’t know anyone who knows anyone who can give me an interview let alone a job. There are no job fairs for admin/office support. I want to step away from customer service if I can for a while. All I want is to go back to very simple basic office support (if there is a such a position anymore), then work my way to administrative assistant.

      Volunteer work (and I am a volunteer for a local political candidate), but it does not earn me an income to pay the bills. If it wasn’t for the person whom I am volunteering for, I wouldn’t do it…period.

      My resume is more or less standard for most positions, with a few quirks, but it covers most clerical/office support positions without changing one thing.

      I had open heart surgery in 2005 and a broken ankle in 2008. Both jobs prohibit me from jobs that require physical labor.

    • I think the number one focus for us in IT is to kick out all the H1b’s and make it illegal for US corporations to hire any more of them.
      That will make getting a job a far more sane process.
      Right now it is completely insane and corporations will literally not respond to resumes unless the worker is on an H1b visa and even then they prefer upper-caste, Indian males.

      Do doctors, pharmacists or any other type of profession need to “network” to obtain jobs? Or anyone in any other profession for that matter?

      The answer to the problem, and this has always been the answer, is to kick out all the H1b’s currently here, end that H1b program, and go after employers who choose to outsource.
      If the likes of Ballmer don’t like it, they can go live in India !

      • Although I feel that H-1B visas have no place in a free society (you should just be able to immigrate here or not, period) I disagree with the notion that ending H-1B’s would solve the problem. Even if the program were ended tomorrow and every single H-1B visa holder immediately deported, these companies still wouldn’t hire Americans. They would simply turn to OFFSHORING….or just pick up stakes and relocate the entire company to India or another 3rd world nation.

        These companies are he//bent on not hiring Americans (or even green card holders). Nothing–and I mean nothing–will change their minds.

      • Mark – To answer your question: Yes, doctors, pharmacists and other types of professionals need to network to obtain jobs. This isn’t something you’ll hear only about IT people. Doctors get formal training through internships and they like which results in…. networks. They go to conferences and again…. networks. Once they’re done with their training, they have to find a job like anyone else, and the same dynamic applies.

  14. michael

    Excellent article all around. This stuff works. Network, customize, relate to your interviewer. Don’t claim to be able to do it all but instead to be willing to always learn more. In 3 months I sent 20 resumes. 1 interview 1 offer. 3 months later I sent 1 resume and was interviewed and switched jobs again. I don’t ask for tons, but I’m quite comfortable. Raises come once you prove yourself. Just let them know you mean business and expect to work hard. The rest is a matter of choosing well. 90% of the jobs you find aren’t for you. Accept that.

  15. Hi iam richa , i have problem in deciding what all options can i have …
    i did my btech in Information Technology in 2007 , then i was placed in a company which unfortunately got closed after 6 months , i left the comany in feb 2008 ….and due to recssion i didnt get a job in my field so without any option i switched to customer service in a Bpo sector…due to some reason i got stuck in this sector for more than 2.2 years …now i want to settle my career in my IT sector , and with 3.5 years of gap iam not getting job in my field ….

    can u help me what all option can i have?

  16. Answer Seeker

    Hi Mark Feffer,

    I can see that you are an expert in getting an engineering job. I have a couple questions.

    1) What school did you get your Engineering/Computer Science degree from?

    2) List the engineering positions you have held in the past.

    I await your response.

  17. Nicholas Bretagna II

    >>> Then, I went to CompTIA’s Breakaway and listened to employers grouse about finding too few candidates with the skills they need, and lamenting the fact that computer science degrees leave people with a lot of theory and math but precious few job skills.

    They get what they deserve, I’ve been searching steadily for over a year, have recent SQL experience, and have been working for over 30 years with computers. I’ve not been stuck in a single job, have a wide array of experience in a range of disciplines, and rarely even get interested contacts. One company I directly applied had an HR manager who openly told me they wouldn’t consider me for ANY position because I didn’t “have a college degree” (I’ve taken all the IT coursework, just not some of the random non-degree requirements, like “a year of a foreign language”).

    HR people want bits of paper that say you know EXACTLY what they want. Actually WORKING for a living — talking to people and feeling out how well they know about the general subject — is too much effort for them.

    Another problem is the length of time I’ve been “officially” out of work — despite it being in a very down market. Companies apparently think that if you haven’t had a job in the last year then you clearly don’t know anything worth knowing any more.

    Prior to my last job — similar circumstances (substantial off-the-experience record odd jobs from various sources for a couple years) I had a similar problem. Despite clearly no longer knowing anything worth hiring someone for, I picked up SQL from total scratch to intermediate usage (non-biolerplate code writing) within less than 8 weeks. I also picked up Rational Robot and within 6 weeks was able to use it substantially more effectively than a pair of recent college grads who had been using it for more than a year each (comprehensive usage of poorly documented constructs allowed me to write far more effective and useful regression tests).

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll ack that some of my skills are dated (SQL is the only currently heavily-used language I’m up on), but I pick up stuff from scratch better than any recent college graduate — once you’re familiar with a few word processors, you can pick up just about ANY word processor and use it pretty quickly, because you know what to look for. The same applies to languages and various sorts of tools. You can, from prior experience, know what a tool OUGHT to be capable of: you just have to figure out the magic words and mouse gestures to make it “do that thing”. And when you’ve programmed everything from down to the bare metal all the way up to small project management, you’ve got a good overview of all of computing.

    Yet somehow I have a hard time even getting to the interview.

    Employers get what they deserve in the employees because they hire lackwit HR “professionals” who can’t be bothered to do their jobs.

  18. Nicholas Bretagna II

    >>> Agree with your comment about larger vs smaller companies. Start-ups, especially are focused on ability to deliver, not age… And that’s from personal experience and observations.

    LOL, again: Point me to one, and then I’ll believe in these unicorns.

  19. Nicholas Bretagna II

    >>> Shouldn’t someone who knows they skill (ie, lotus Notes) has fallen off the mainstream be looking for opportunities to get training on newer tools and environments himself, at least in the area he’s focusing on?

    Really? And exactly which one of five hundred possible technical alternatives do you suggest he spend his time on, hoping that THAT is the magical one for which he’ll find an employer who needs it?

    For example — when employers are narrowly focusing their job-experience demands — if you take the time to update your “c” skills to c#, what good is it when an employer is looking for vb skills? Since VB is old hat, perhaps they should instead work on learning python…. or would ruby on rails be better?

    There’s a million different possible combinations of knowledge, and you should be searching for employees who have a wide array of skills so it will not take them that long to pick up some new ones specific to the job. As I mention — I picked up Oracle PL/SQL in less than 8 weeks from total and complete scratch. That was simultaneous with me picking up all the other industry and company-specific stuff required to do a functional job for that employer. I can certainly do this with virtually any version of SQL in less time… but companies don’t look for “SQL” experience, they want MySQL experience, or Microsoft SQL experience, etc., — they are looking to poach an employee from someone else doing the exact same job. And that narrows their employee pool by a factor of 1000, easily.

    I repeat — companies get exactly the type of employee applicants they deserve.

  20. Just ran across this and curious…
    Now that it’s been two years since the postings, how are you all doing?
    Did anyone find a job? Are you still there? In your opinion, have things gotten better or worse? Any additional advice for those recently on the hunt?