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Looking for some career advice. . .(10 posts)

Looking for some career advice. . .js5280
Sep 3, 2002 9:33 AM
Well, coming up on 5 months of being unemployed. While it's been a very enjoyable 5 months, much like summer break when you were a kid, it can't go on forever. Fortunately I should be able to make it to January before I have to start raiding savings and/or credit cards. Still I don't want to wait till the last minute, particularly because in the last 5 months of searching, I'm yet to hear back anything positive from a single application. On the positive side I'm at least finding jobs to apply for. I think the market is flooded with System Analysts like myself. My 8 year career has been centered around application installation, migration of legacy data, and project planning (e.g. gap analysis, spec'ing customizations, process flow evaluation, etc.) in a variety of industries. Unfortunately my experience isn't with some of the big players like Seibel, SAP, JDEdwards, etc. I've mainly worked with smaller software companies and my tech skills center around SQL Server, MS Access, VB, and a little web development. I can pick up new technologies very quickly at a functional level though. Now if I were a guru programmer, I'm sure finding a job would be much easier. However, I have no desire to become a hardcore programmer. I need the personal interaction. My last job I was working 99% on the computer in more of a programmer-analyst role and I really disliked that line of work. At the same time, I do enjoy working directly with technology (perfect job would be a 60% tech/40% project management) so I'm afraid a pure project manager role would get me away to far away from the technology aspect and my tech skills would quickly dry up and become obsolete. I really enjoy this line of work, the pay is great, and I'm good at it so I would like to stay in this field if possible. Trouble is, I think that this is a bad time to be in this line of work, most companies are scraping to get by, not going out and spending 100k+ on a new computer systems and consulting services.

So, that's my vocational background. While work is very important to me and I work hard, it is not my top passion in life. As many of you know, I'm a cancer survivor (coming up on 6 years since diagnosis, just over 5 years of finishing treatment, I'm 31 right now) and that experience has radically changed my perspective in life. I feel a deep obligation to help those fighting and surviving cancer. Currently I do this by belonging to an email support group and through various bike rides, runs, triathlons, etc. which help raise funds for cancer research and other worthy causes. Cycling is definitely a passion in my life but it's really part of keeping an overall healthy lifestyle and not taking my health for granted that is most important to me. So, what would be perfect for me is opportunity that melds my career with my personal passions in life. I'm even willing to give up (but prefer not to) the technology side of things to do so. That has led to me thinking about careers in pharmaceuticals, medical research, cancer research advocacy, or even cycling advocacy and the bicycling industry. I have 2 good friends who have gone into pharmaceutical sales recently despite not having strong sales or medical backgrounds. I know the pay is good and you travel a lot, but I like to travel. I don't have a spouse or kids so that doesn't present a conflict at least right now. I have another friend working for a company working on new cancer drugs so I'm keeping my eyes open for opportunities there. I live in the Denver/Boulder area. I'm not really willing to move although I would consider moving up to a mid-size mountain town (e.g. Durango, Steamboat) but finding any decent job opportunities is difficult at best. My salary requirements would need to be in the 50s, I've made considerably more in the past, but realize that changing careers frequently means a pay cut. So does anyone have any ideas of jobs or companies I might also want to consider? Also if y
Part 2 (original cut off). . .js5280
Sep 3, 2002 9:34 AM
. . .Also if you have any contacts in these industries you'd be willing to pass along? I am more than happy to continue discussions personally/off-line if so. You should be able to get my email from the "email" button or my profile (click the "head")

Lastly, something I always struggle with is being public about being a cancer survivor in the workplace. Normally I don't publicize it because my past lines of work had nothing to do with the subject. However, if I start interviewing with companies and organizations doing cancer research, am I going to be viewed as someone who has a strong and vested interest in furthering cancer research because I'm a survivor or that I'm potentially a risk to their insurance premiums. Since I've made it 5 years without a relapse, even the doctors say I'm cured (and they're a conservative bunch) so in reality, I represent very little risk over the average person. However, that may not be a prospective company's viewpoint which is what really matters. Thanks advance for you're your suggestions, words of support, flames, haiku, etc.
The boat is getting biggerTig
Sep 4, 2002 11:39 AM
Unfortunately you are in the same boat as myself, as well as many others who have been layed off. Your technical background is fine, especially the SQL Server, MS Access, and VB. The problem is that there are more skilled people than job slots, and it is getting worse with each corporate layoff and the downward spiral of stocks. Citrix and Oracle are still in high demand, but it isn't easy to plunk down the cost for classes when you don't have a decent income. Availability of jobs is constantly changing from one location to the next. I've seen plenty of IT positions I'd fit into perfectly, but 1000+ miles away. Relocation isn't an option for me.

The economic picture looks grim. The press is finally taking notice of just how bad things are. I think some heads are popping out of the sand. Too bad our Washington "leaders" don't really care. No one has said the "Depression" word since technically we aren't there, and even saying it could cause severe panic. However, the jobless problem, which is secondary to the many corporate failures, will only cause other problems down the line. The continuation of financial decay will come round robin and worsen the decline of the economy from top to bottom.

I have resumes on 10 job search boards and have pumped out countless applications to positions that match my background, yet have received almost no calls. The resume is excellent, as are my credentials. I've utilized every network and personal connection I know, yet there aren't many jobs available out there. One person said they've seen as many as 700 applicants for one IT position. If they list 20 skills, they won't even bother with anyone who has 19 or less.

Yes, times are tough and they don't appear to be getting better anytime soon. Washington likes to say everything will return back to normal soon, but we aren't buying it. I'm not trying to sound so negative about things, but the truth is, there isn't much good stuff to report after being unemployed for 6 months. All we can do is keep on giving our best and not give up. I wish I had a lead to give you, or at least some good news.
Thanks Tig. . .js5280
Sep 4, 2002 1:46 PM
Just knowing I'm not the only one does help. Wish I could get into Oracle, but I've worked with it and it sucks from a administrator friendly standpoint. I find it hard to believe so many companies use it because it's a bitch to staff for and you pay top dollar for those people. I doubt many of them actually need that tunable of a database. Denver's big into telecom so we've probably worse off than lots of other cities. Oh well. Been thinking about other alternatives besides the ones mentioned above. My cousin said that European ski resorts like to hire english speakers, that would be fun. I'd love to get back overseas. Could be a ski bum/employee here at home too. UPS and FedEx usually hires seasonal help around the holidays. Of course, I could just go back to school (MBA most likely) although it would mean taking on student loans but at least it would be an investment. So have you been having any luck with the job boards? I've been on Monster, Flipdog, and Dice. I am finding good positions but not hearing anything back despite posting for about 3-5 well-matched positions a week. Been staying TOTALLY away from recruiters because that makes you even less attractive becausee now a company has to shell over a big finders fee. Good luck in your search! Keep us posted. . .
Thanks Tig. . .SLB
Sep 4, 2002 2:39 PM
A bit more on databases. . .I'm an Oracle DBA. And while I believe it offers better-than-average job security, I don't know if I'd encourage anyone else to try to get into Oracle. Oracle is definitely the way to go for large (100+gb)OLTPs and Data Warehouses. But for anything smaller, SQL is better.

Oracle owned the market because they got a big head start and an aggressive sales force. Their installed base keeps them going, but new sales have really slowed down. And now SQL doesn't suck and is a lot cheaper to implement in terms of hardware, software and manpower. Especially in this economy, if there is a choice to be made for a small to mid sized dbs, you will see a lot more SQL servers.

I really wish I could give you more than a few words of encouragement. But don't let being unemployed affect your self-esteem. Just don't forget to ride your bike.
Exactly. . .js5280
Sep 4, 2002 6:33 PM
That's awesome, you Oracle DBA deserve the high pay. It's a tough and very challenging job. Kind of like the hard-core programmers. Personally, I love technology but can't dive that deep into it and it's a constant struggle to keep on the cutting edge. Thanks for the lift SLB, I'm doing good so far. This time off has given me time to do some things I've long wanted to do and rethink my life plans.

I'll be back on the bike once my damn leg heals up, crashed hard on Friday mt. biking. Sucks to not ride when you have the whole day off.
It's a numbers game.Len J
Sep 5, 2002 8:46 AM
I also have been looking for work for around 5 months now but my experience is a little different from yours. I have had a steady stream of job inquiries as a result of my resume & cover letter. Unfortunately, while I still have several active things in the pipeline, I have not yet been offered a job that I thought was a good fit for me (although I have turned two down). Based on this, I would offer the following advice (You probably know most of it but it never hurts):

-The purpose of your resume & cover letter is not to get a job, rather the purpose is to separate you from the 1000's of others so that someone picks up the phone & calls you. This is a simple concept that most people forget. Some implications of this are as follows:
--Write the resume from the view of the reader. Make it so that they want to know more. Bullet points should not just say what you did but also what affect it had on the company (Users, finances, response time). Quote tangible data where possible.
--A Unique selling point for a MIS person is the ability to translate user requests into programmer-speak and work with both parties to deliver a solution that works the first time. Believe me that if someone claimed they did this, I would talk to them (as a hiring manager resp for MIS). Can you do this? Does your resume say this?
--You have three different audiences for your paper, HR, a recruiter (possibly) and the MIS manager. Each has different needs & perceptions about your Paper. Does your paper talk to all three?
---The more of the job requirements you can address in the cover letter, the more likely you are to get a call.

I assume that once you get the call you know what to do. It sounds like your problem is that you are not getting the call.

More below
It's a numbers game.(Continued)Len J
Sep 5, 2002 8:59 AM
Networking is the single most effective way to find a job. Most people either don't know how or feel like they are imposing when they network. Lucht's book (Rites of passage for $100,000+) has a great section on networking that applies to any salary level. If you haven't read it yet I would suggest it.

Some comments on networking:
-You are not calling up all your friends looking for a job. Instead, you are taking a very professional approach to having a target list of companies as well as a target list of targeted types of hiring managers (CFO's, MIS Directors, HR managers etc) that you are asking people in your network if they know anyone at those companies or of these hiring types. (Assume that if they knew of a specific job, they would tell you).
-Start with those people who know you as a competent worker first (They will be your best sales people).
-Be clear on your goal. You are attempting to identify decision makers at companies that may need your expertise & then garner a phone or face to face where you can shine.
-My goal is to make 5 to 10 new contacts per week that generate 15 to 20 more contacts.

As far as your question about your Medical history. I would not mention it if I were you until later on in the process (if at all). The reason is that you are giving someone a reason to screen you out. I know that it may not be a legitimate reason but nontheless, someone will use it that way. Remember, the poor HR person or hiring manager has a pile of resumes. Their first job is to narrow it down to a mangeable level. The screening process will be arbitrary so you want to shine. After they select the 10 or so to phone interview, the process is one of elimination again. They only want to bring in 3 to 5 people so they need to eliminate 5 to 7 more. Don't give them a fear at this point. It sucks but it's true.

It's a numbers game.(Continued)Len J
Sep 5, 2002 9:01 AM
As far as contacts go, put together a list of targeted companies and e-mail me your targets as well as your resume & I'ss see what I come up with.

I'll be home on the weekend and I'll check then.

Good Luck

Great advice Len. . .js5280
Sep 5, 2002 12:04 PM
I'm going to reevaluate my resume, cover letters, etc. based on your suggestions. Particularly cover letters. Thanks for offering to look things over, I will take you up on that and truly appreachate your offer. I've take a bit of a non-traditional (but I think more effective) approach on my resume. I curious to what your impression is. Unfortunately I don't have many peers in my field to get feedback from. Most of my co-workers or friends have left the industry in the past couple years. Still I've been trying to utilize them for advice and contacts when it makes sense. Well got some jobs to apply for here, I'll drop you an email by this weekend. Thanks again for taking to time to help me. I'm sure many others here will benefit from your advice as well.