Permanent Job Search Top 10 List
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW (but were never told) regarding Permanent Job Searches and Career Truths
Nothing is "100% true" in life, but here are observations that are "mostly true" when it comes to changing jobs.
1. Companies hire people who have been doing the last 2-3+ years whatever it is they want that person to do. This makes getting a job offer very tough when you have been out of work (or doing non-IT work) for a long time or if you are trying to "switch gears" and do something different (i.e., programmer trying to get a DBA job or Project Manager trying to get a Director job). "Known entities" get the chance at those career-elevating jobs (either an internal promotion or someone who knew someone while working with them at another company). "Unknown entities" from the outside are not hired into career-elevating IT positions.
2. Resumes should be 2-3 pages long, but even 4-5 pages is not too long. So given #1, hiring managers are most interested in details for years 0-2 going back, only mildly interested in what you've done going back 2-5 years (should have progessively less detail to match the importance to the job being applied for) and then they are only passively interested in anything more than 5 years old (just use high level overviews with very little detail). For anything over 5 years old, hiring managers really only want to see where you worked and how your career progressed over time. Understand that you will not be hired for any experience that is more than 5 years old.
We've seen 10-20 page resumes and that of course is ridiculous. The way to shorten a resume is to dramatically curtail the description of duties on jobs held more than 5 years ago. Consider just listing Employers with dates and titles for jobs held more than 10 years ago. Even with 50 years of experience, you can get all that on 5 pages or less by cutting way back on the old job duty descriptions.
3. Trying to relocate? Finding a job in a different city is very difficult. Many people find they have to actually move to the new area in order to "be local" and get interviews. Many employers will only interview people if they are already local. Some potential employers will interview candidates that come into the area for trips, so you may have to schedule multiple trips (long weekends or better yet entire weeks) in order to get any interest from hiring managers. Our experience is that it's very hard to get hiring managers to do phone interviews first so that you can then schedule a trip to the area if the phone interview went well (logical, right?), but the way things seem to work in reality is that if we tell them you are going to be local on certain dates and available for interviews, then hiring managers are much more likely to pull the trigger and schedule the face-to-face interview.
4. When will a company pay for your relocation? Only in two situations: 1) the skill set they are looking for is very hard to find and they are willing to pay for a relo in order to get it; 2) the company is not in a large IT community (city) and the company has to pay for people to relocate to their location.
If companies don't have to pay relocation, they won't. Very few companies in Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, NYC, etc. will pay relocation expenses because they have too many local candidates to pick and choose from.
5. Want to telecommute? Good luck! Probably not going to happen. This goes back to "known entities". Companies don't trust people they don't know. Once you work for a company for a while and they begin to trust you, then you might be able to get into a telecommuting position. We get this requests all the time for telecommuting jobs but companies don't engage people that they don't know in such roles.
6. Technical skills "sell" at all levels. No matter what level in IT you are (programmer to Director), hiring authorities want to know the technical environment you did your work in and they want to see that information embedded in the duties/accomplishments sections by company/job. That means languages, operating systems, packages, methodologies should be mentioned by 99% of the people in IT. VERY FEW IT careers are such that you can exclude what technologies are being used where you work. It's IMPORTANT!!!
7. Industry experience matters. Except for certain IT areas that tend to be the same across industries (networking, PC Support, some DBA work), industry experience becomes more important and "sticky" the more overall experience you get. Project Managers and Directors that are brought in from the outside almost always have the same industry experience as that of the hiring company. It gets harder and harder (and at some point impossible) to switch out of an industry as your career matures.
8. What's a good job history? If you are searching for permanent employment, ideally you want to show 2-3+ years per job. One or two shorter job stints won't have a significant impact, but more than that signals you are a "job hopper" and you will find yourself being ignored (not chosen) for interviews. The best predictor of future job performance is your past performance and if you constantly leave jobs before 2 years are up, then a potential employer will assume you will also leave his/her job within the same time frame. The #1 reason potential employers pass on a resume that shows the right skills is bad job history. Think twice before leaving a job sooner than 2-3 years into it. Career longevity will eventually depend on your individual job longevity.
9. Contract vs. Permanent employment? Before you jump from permanent to contract, consider this: It's easy to go from permanent employment to contracting, but very hard to go from contracting to permanent employment. No one ever told you this, right? (Do your own research with hiring managers - ask them how many times they've hired someone with a lot of contracting in their background for a permanent position. We have and it doesn't happen often!) Hiring managers think contractors have different mentalitiesthan permanent employees. They believe contractors will not stay in permanent jobs for very long because they are used to: switching jobs frequently, working on short-term projects where they don't have to stay around and actually live with the long-term results of their work, making more money than permanent employees. And guess what? Our research does show that long-term contractors don't stay with companies for very long when they switch from contract to permanent, so these hiring managers are in fact right. Taking a contract from time to time is fine, but a steady diet of contracts will get you on the contract train and you won't be able to get off because no one will hire you into a permanent job.
Pro's for contracting: make 10-50% more money (if you can stay working), more work variety, oftentimes more challenging work, technical skills more likely to stay current, many contractors work only part of the year (taking 1-2 months off each year).
Con's for contracting: constantly looking for the next new projects can be mentally draining, lifestyle promotes a lack of balance between home life and work life, chances of progressing to upper management very limited over time (see next paragraph), lack of health insurance and other benefits can eliminate the extra money you thought you would be making as a contractor, no place to hang your hat and develop loyalty to (which is important for some people to have career satisfaction).
Contractors reap more money in the beginning but lose out in career progression over the long term because they get stuck in technical areas or only have short-term project management experiences and never have a chance to grow their careers and their thinking from inside company cultures. Many sr. level career paths inside companies can only be accessed as long as you stay on a career path from within companies as a permanent employee.
Many times people get into contracting because there aren't other opportunities available. If your personality is not suitable for contracting, then having to take a contract can lead you into a life that will make you miserable (we've seen it happen many times) because one contracting job can put you on the Contractor Merry-Go-Round that you can't escape from. Contractors who want to work as permanent employees should go into a contract by making it known to the company that they would like to become a permanent employee, if a job becomes available. Become an employee through contract-to-hire and be conscious of working 2-3+ years as a permanent employee from that day forward so as to solidify your permanent career path.
10. Maybe 9 is enough - can't think of a #10.....yet!