• Six tips for preparing to attend a technical conference

    I've been going to technical conferences since YAPC::NA 2002, and next week I'll be at OSCON 2011 talking about community and Github. Preparation is important to getting the most out of the conference with the least amount of hassle. Here are some tips I've learned along the way.

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  • Toward ending RTFM marketing in open source

    Too many times I've seen a conference announced once, and then never heard about it again. It's what I call the RTFM method of marketing: Either you happen to know about the event, or you lose out. This year for YAPC::NA, the annual North American grassroots Perl conference, lead organizer JT Smith isn't going to let that happen.

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  • The touch command does more than just create empty files

    Beginners to Unix/Linux learn about the touch command as a way to create an empty file.

    $ ls -l /tmp/foo
    ls: /tmp/foo: No such file or directory
    

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  • Don't try to make things on your résumé sound more interesting than they are.

    Did you work a cash register at one of your jobs? Then say that in your résumé and move on. Don’t try to make it sound more exciting than it really is.

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  • Toot your own horn at work

    Do you think it’s bad to talk about what you’ve done? Do you have an aversion to self-promotion? Learn to get over that for the sake of your career. Remember the first rule of career management: Your awesomeness is not self-evident.

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  • You can’t take the easy way to writing a résumé

    I came across a horrifying thread at Hacker News: Can I use a LinkedIn profile instead of resume for my job applications? It’s a reasonable question, and the answer is “No, you cannot use a LinkedIn profile instead of a résumé.”  If the job ad asks for a résumé, then you give them a résumé.  If they want the résumé in Word format, you give them the résumé in Word format.  What the hiring company asks for, you give them.

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  • Résumé-building websites are worse than worthless

    We all want an easy way to get things done, and resume-building websites promise an easy way to put together a résumé for your job hunt. Unfortunately, using them does you a disservice by making you think that formatting is what matters, and helping you create bland, uninteresting résumés that won’t grab any reader’s attention.  You cannot create a good résumé by filling in a few blanks off the top of your head.

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  • Does your résumé have to fit on a single page? Roger Ebert has the answer.

    Every time I speak to a group of people, and people talk to me afterwards, the topic of résumés always comes up. And every time people ask about résumés, someone always asks "Does my résumé have to only be one page?"

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  • The worst way to start a résumé

    As I go through dozens of resumes, I'm amazed by how many people still waste the crucial top two inches of their resumes with drivel like this:
    Objective: A fast-paced, challenging programming position or other technical position that will utilize and expand my technical skills and business experience in order to positively contribute to an organization.
    You and everybody else, buddy. Why should I give it to you?

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  • The job interview is not about collecting factual information.

    There’s a common misconception in the techie community that you should make sure you don’t fall prey to. Here’s what it sounds like.

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  • How to explain past problems in a job interview

    In her recent US News article the always spot-on Allison Green of Ask A Manager answers the question “How do I explain in an interview that I was fired?” An example from the article is:

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  • Milwaukee JobCamp, a free all-day job hunting event, is this Thursday

    Thursday, October 7th, 2010 is the fourth Milwaukee JobCamp. This free day-long event takes over a huge amount of space at the Potawotami Casino conference. There will be sessions on a huge variety of topics related to the job hunt, as well as a resume help desk room and, of course, lots and lots of networking with others.

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  • Fifteen ways to kill your job interview

    There are hundreds of ways to ruin an interview, but here are 15 that are dear to me, or that candidates have pulled on me in the past.

    • Show up late

      • It's inexcusable. Drive there the day before to make sure you know you can get there in time.
    • Be unprepared

      • Your first assignment at this company is to show up prepared. Don't fail it.
    • Smoke, or smell like smoke

    • Have bad breath or body odor

      • Nobody wants to smell your smells. Eradicate them.
    • Shake hands like a fish

      • Don't shake hands with a death grip, but don't wuss out, either.
    • Come underdressed

      • If you find yourself asking "Do I have to do X?" for the interview, play it safe and do it. That means wear a suit.
    • Speak ill of anyone, especially past employers

      • If you complain at the interview, you'll complain all day at work, too. No boss wants to deal with that.
    • Complain; discuss your problems

      • Your boss has his own job-related problems to deal with. He doesn't want to hear about yours.
    • Bring up your needs, such as money or benefits

      • Your interview is all about what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you.
    • Lie

      • You'll be found out, and you'll be worried about it until you are.
    • Appear uninterested

      • No boss wants to hire someone who doesn't care about the job she's going to be doing.
    • Fail to ask your own questions

      • The best way to show that you care, and that you have a mind for business, is to ask your own questions about what you've discussed during the interview.
    • Appear desparate

      • Enthusiasm is one thing. Desperation is another.
    • Leave your phone on

      • There's no way you could be expecting a call that's more important than this interview.
    • Cut the interview short

      • Allocate adequate time for an interview. A longer interview is always better, so plan for the good. Don't try to squeeze in an interview on a long lunch hour. Make sure your kids are adequately covered and you don't have to say "Sorry, I have to leave, my sitter can only keep my kids 'til 4:00."
  • "I just slammed out 300 resume applications for which I am more than qualified for this week, I doubt I will hear from even one"

    A recent poster to reddit asked I just slammed out 300 resume applications for which I am more than qualified for this week, I doubt I will hear from even one.....any advice for [engineering] job hunting?

    If I'm hiring people, the slammed out resumes mean nothing to me. You want to know the number one way to attract my attention? Write a cover letter that says that you've actually done some research into the job for which you're applying.

    It's a buyer's market out there. You're putting your resume out there with, say, 500 other applicants. Wading through that much shotgunned resume crap is daunting at best. Give me something to grab hold of. Give me a reason to say "Hey, this looks interesting."

    Don't waste your time applying for 300 positions. There are not 300 positions out there for which you are qualified, and that you would be happy doing. Instead of shotgunning them, work on two or three or five and really get into understanding the job. Research the company. Research what they need. Find out everything about the company that you can, and spend the time figuring out what you bring to the table that will help the company the most.

    Finally, those 300 applications came from where, Monster or some job site? Less then 10% of jobs get filled through job boards. Personal networking accounts for about two thirds of job placement. Instead of wasting time with shotgunning resumes that are obviously shotgunned, work to talk to everyone you can and find pointers to other people who can help you find a job. The jobs are out there, but you have to know where they are.

  • How to do a web resume right

    I'm amazed checking out the web resume for my friend Julian Cash. It hits all the right buttons.

    • Catchy domain name, hirethisgeek.com.
    • Strong bulleted overview of his skills on the front page.
    • Links to key points in the margin on the right, and at the bottom of each page
    • Subpages about important areas of interest (project management, programming, etc)
    • Contact information at the bottom of every page
    • Testimonials page, although I'd put some information about each person to give weight to their words.

    If you can get your web resume to be even one tenth as interesting as Julian's, you're way ahead of your competition.

  • When was the last time you were thanked?

    Seth Godin's blog entry today sums up so much of my frustration with much of what I see on the Net:

    Yes, I know you're a master of the web, that you've visited every website written in English, that you've been going to SXSW for ten years, that you were one of the first bloggers, you used Foursquare before it was cool and you can code in HTML in your sleep. Yes, I know that you sit in the back of the room tweeting clever ripostes when speakers are up front failing on a panel and that you had a LOLcat published before they stopped being funny.

    But what have you shipped?

    What have you done with your connection skills that has been worthy of criticism, that moved the dial and that changed the world?

    Go, do that.

    Right on, Seth. To that list of "so you can..." I'd add

    • You're a master debater on Slashdot and Reddit
    • You're quick with a link to letmegooglethatforyou.com
    • You correct people in the ways in which they ask questions in IRC

    The tough part is that most of the things that you do "with your connection skills that has been worthy of criticism, that moved the dial and that changed the world" require you to get off your ass and get out from behind a keyboard.

    Ever given a talk at a user group meeting? Ever organized a conference? Or lined up a speaker for a user group meeting? Written an article or blog post where people say "That's changed the way I look at things?" Or created software where people say "I don't know how I lived without this?"

    When Seth talks about "moved the dial and changed the world," I'll even set the bar a bit lower. When was the last time someone thanked you for downvoting someone on reddit, or being an oh-so-clever snark poster on Slashdot? Ever received appreciations for pointing out what you perceived as someone's shortcomings in a flame war?

    Which is more likely?

    • "Thanks for telling that guy your negative opinion of him."
    • "Thanks for that presentation on Ruby modules."
    • "Thanks for reaching level 75 on Farmville."
    • "Thanks for putting together this group. I learned a lot."

    Get out there from behind your keyboard and do something that builds rather than tears down.

  • Don’t confuse "qualifications" with "skills assumed of everyone"

    When employers are looking for candidates, the fact that you can tie your shoes and not pee in your pants are just assumed. You’d never see a job for a computer professional advertising:

    • Able to get to work on time
    • Knows to go to bathroom and not wet self
    • Can tell ass from hole in ground

    So why do candidates put these sorts of filler bullets at the top of their resumes in sections called “Summary of Qualifications”?

    • Able to work well with others
    • Strong work ethic
    • Attention to detail
    • Quality-oriented
    • Dependable
    • Responsible
    • Results-oriented
    • Problem-solver
    • Interested in improving efficiency
    • Able to find innovative solutions
    • Proficient in Microsoft Office and the Internet

    If you are a professional in the computer field, every one of those bullets is assumed . Those are the price of admission, not selling points. Putting such vague mundane “qualifications” as the first thing in your resume says to the reader “I am completely average.”

    Read on →

  • What schools should be teaching IT students

    This past Friday, I spoke at POSSCON on what schools should be teaching IT students. Here are the slides from the presentation.

  • Use Google Alerts to monitor your online presence

    Next time you apply for a job, the hiring manager is going to Google your name and see what she finds. Do you know what people say about you? About things you've written? You should.

    Google Alerts is a fantastic little tool that I don't hear people talk about enough. Google Alerts lets you enter a Google search once, and Google will update you whenever the Googlebot finds new matches for your search, often within only an hour or two of the page's publication.

    The most obvious Alert search is your name, as a phrase in double quotes, but that's just the start. Here are some more ideas:

    • Your name ("Andy Lester")
    • Your nick ("petdance")
    • Your email address ("andy@petdance.com")
    • Your company's name
    • Resumes related to your job market in your area of expertise (I have an alert for "resume Perl Chicago" (but without the quotes)
    • Titles from blog postings you've made
    • Links to specific blog postings you've made using the link: syntax

    Keep an eye on the results. It's not vanity, it's understanding your personal brand.

    For more of my suggestions of how to improve your working life in 2010, see the January 2010 issue of PragPub magazine. It's a free download in three different electronic formats: PDF, ePub and mobi.

  • How to keep a job you don't love

    You wouldn't think I'd be advocating hanging on to a job you don't love, but in today's economy it may make the most sense. In the latest issue, #6, of PragPub, the free magazine from Pragmatic Bookshelf, I talk about how to make the most of the time you're spending in a job that you have to keep. It's also the first in my new monthly column for the magazine.

    PragPub is published every month in three different formats, so you can read in the format that works best for you. I admit, I print mine out. Sorry, trees!

    Finally, from last month, there's an article with me in the blog Interview Mantra.