Back to Basics: How to Find an IT Job

by Anya Jennings on December 22, 2009

Ten years ago, a recent IT graduate waving a shiny new degree was in great demand, as much so as an experienced programmer with a history of responsible behavior and an impressive portfolio. You faxed out your resume and waited for the phone calls…and they would come. In fact, during the great Y2K scare of 98-99, even high school kids could command an impressive salary. Companies scrambling to fix their systems before the new millennium kicked over and planes fell out of the sky hired anyone with a pulse who could demonstrate the ability to fix what was, to most, incomprehensible gobbledygook code.


The halcyon days of the dotcom bubble are long gone, and things have changed. Of course, the good news is that if IT people weren’t adaptable, they simply wouldn’t be IT people. IT is all about adapting. Here are 12 things you must do today – that you didn’t necessarily have to do yesterday:

  1. Social networking. More jobs are won and lost today on social networking sites than on traditional job searches, especially for freelancers. The more contacts you have, the more likely you are to hear about openings before they become public knowledge.
  2. Expand your parameters. Widen your focus to include related jobs and apply for those you barely qualify for, even if you think it’s unlikely that you’ll get them. You could be the most qualified applicant in the immediate area, and employers are less willing today to pay relocation expenses. So go for it.
  3. At the same time, expand your search methods. If you’re only searching online, you may be missing valuable local sources that aren’t savvy enough to advertise online…the companies that need you the most. Don’t discount the old fashioned methods of knocking on doors and going to local networking groups. Face to face meetings are still powerful.
  4. Make every application personal. Don’t fax out your resume until the company sees its reflection in the words. Determine what they are looking for and use the very first section under your contact info as a billboard to tell them why you are exactly what they are seeking. Don’t lie or go overboard in embellishments, just use that space to highlight any experience you can claim that closely matches what they are looking for.
  5. Do the same with your cover letter. Too many people skip the cover letter and just include an email note, to their own detriment. Even if it’s written in the body of an email, make the cover letter count. Make it professional, add the headers, research the company and write a short but compelling letter about why you are the perfect fit for this company. Sell yourself, express interest in the job, and show them that you know who they are as a company.
  6. Target your market. Sure, it’s a numbers game. But you’re wasting your time if you’re sending resumes to inappropriate jobs. Yes, I said expand your parameters…but stay within reason. Stretch, don’t leap.
  7. Follow up. Way too many job seekers neglect the follow up. If you want the job, call the company, verify that they received your resume, and ask for an appointment. If you’ve already had an appointment, call back. Make contact within a week or two of initial application to bring your application back to the top of the pile.
  8. Build your portfolio. Build programs, code snippets, etc. Write articles about what you do and seed the web so a job search turns up your name with fresh, career-related writing or code offerings. People with a body of work online are more likely to be considered experts and sought after.
  9. Stay on top of trends and education. Don’t let your education stagnate while you’re searching. Look for certifications you can earn and ways to expand your knowledge base. Anything you learn makes you that much more marketable.
  10. Treat your job search like a job. That’s what it is. Right now, your job is to find a job. It is not to watch the entire series of Firefly back to back, play WoW, or chat with codemonkey friends in the UK via Skype. [Not that I would know anything about those things personally…] Set aside time and focus. Make a game plan. Search every job board you can find, update your resume and cover letter to fit any jobs you find, look for local networking opportunities, do some social networking to remind your twitterverse that you’re still looking, and do some followups. Every day. Procrastination is the number one reason people with talent can’t find a job.
  11. Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm. Telling a prospective employer why you would be excited to work for his company is memorable. Your goal is to stand out from the crowd, and this is a great way to do it. (Just don’t get cocky. Nobody likes cocky.)
  12. Lastly, contact a recruiter. Putting a professional job hunter to work for you could prove to be your ticket to the career of your dreams, or it may just provide you a stopgap measure of temporary work until you find that job. Either way, recruiters have access to information you don’t have, and they’re full of great advice as well. It’s a win-win situation, especially in this kind of economy.

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