Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Good Week: The Job Hunt

I’ve had a good week. After the separation anxiety passes, a euphoric feeling of freedom emerges from the constraints of the past job, and an enthusiasm for the things to come. This is exciting even when the outcome is not yet known.

I haven’t been job hunting in over twenty years. That process has changed as have most business processes due to the web. Consolidated job sites enable one to submit a resume once to a series of forms then use job jars to search among the various client companies and submit to all of them. In some, you can set up ‘bots to track new listings and send email to inform you in case you want to add these to the jar. The same technology that powers shopping enables us to shop ourselves. This evolves toward a means to continuously shop one’s services to find the highest bidder, I suppose. Pretty neat, really.

At other sites one discovers the practice of web design is still done by inexperienced programmers. The most common mistake I’ve seen is phone number entry fields that need a specific format and error out without informing the user what the correct format is. The best sites enable one to load in the digital resume one has carefully constructed using the templates provided by word processors. Otherwise, it is a cut and paste process.

The web is fast between the hours of 4AM and 6AM. Since you may have the time to nap in the afternoon, getting up early and doing the online work during these hours is a good idea. The house is quieter too and if you are using a dial up line, you aren’t holding the phone hostage during the day when prospective employers call to arrange interviews.

Interviewing techniques have evolved but I’m not too sure if these have improved. There is less emphasis on discovering the job skills and more questions aimed at discovering the fit of the potential employee. Some of this is amateur psychology but it cuts both ways because one learns a lot about the potential employer. They seem to come in groups of three playing good cop/bad cop with one silent observer. It’s worth going on interviews just to practice this game. Nervousness is normal. I do suggest that when you are called for the interview, you get the job posting number and find the web listing. It usually has enough information to start a web search that reveals enough information to prepare answers and questions. Since practically all of the interviews end with an opportunity to ask questions, you should prepare. Where I feel like I’ve not done a good job are the “Do you have questions for us?” and “Here’s a chance for you to tell us why we should hire you.” Most of us don’t think about selling ourselves, aren’t that practiced, probably have developed a distaste for people who do that as a habit, and may feel that it is too easy to scare people. Get over that but this is why it is a good idea to prepare.

Because of the consolidation of software around web services, there are a lot of jobs where the languages and experience are virtually identical. ASP.Net is the big winner here. I’ve seen one listing for ADA and one can easily predict what that job is about. There are still plenty of Java and C++ jobs but in the area where I live, Microsoft rules. If you know a bit about my hometown, there is an emerging and obvious trend there. If you are someone who got stranded in a legacy language (say Foxpro, C, and even C++) it is time to move on with the training, and if the job situation at your current employer is still legacy work, move on from there.

As the insurance ad says, life comes at you fast. Life is not about sitting around; it’s about getting around.


Anonymous said...

You've noticed the changes in how interviews and contact with prospective employees is handled. To understand where it's coming from, do a search on th eweb for "targeted selection". I'm sure there are other brand names out there, but that's the one my company 'trained' me in.

It's just another in this incomplete list

Structured Programming
Total Quality Management
Matrix Management
Targeted Selection

len said...

I really appreciate that reference.

I looked up targeted selection and that does correspond to what I am experiencing. I see that it pays to understand this and practice.

"Oh the games people play now, every night and every day now, never meaning what you say now, never saying what ya mean"

from an old song by Joe South

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