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By Katherine Spencer Lee, ComputerWorld.com,
Even under stable economic conditions , job searches can be frustrating. Networking nonstop, pursuing leads that don't pan out and keeping a constant watch on job boards can become draining and stressful. In the tech industry, an additional challenge is finding a position that takes advantage of your skills and allows for professional growth.
Whether you're actively seeking a new position or are just having doubts about your job security , a staffing firm can provide peace of mind as well as practical career assistance.
If you're unemployed, registering with a staffing firm can ease the pressure to produce results on your own (though you should continue pursuing your own leads). In most cases, you visit the firm once, register and take appropriate skills tests. Then, assuming you've chosen the right firm, a team of well-connected staffing professionals works to find you a suitable position. Because of their long-standing relationships with employers, they often can open doors to opportunities that haven't been advertised or announced. That gives you an advantage over the legions of job seekers scouring publicly available listings.
If you're employed, working with a staffing firm can improve your career's overall health. A good staffing firm doesn't just link you to a job -- it also provides free training to help you fill any gaps that may limit you now or in the future. For example, a recruiting professional might help you identify a key skill that employers seek, or help you revamp your r?sum? to showcase your most marketable strengths.
Avoid career dead ends
For IT professionals concerned about their long-term career growth , finding an attractive position is only half the battle. All too often, an initially appealing job reveals itself to be a career detour or dead end. By connecting you to part-time or project-based work that can lead to full-time employment with the same employer, staffing firms enable you to make better-informed career decisions.
In fact, the flexibility of consulting or project-based work is what draws many IT professionals to staffing firms. Such positions provide ample opportunities to broaden your skills and marketability by exposing you to new technologies, companies and work environments -- without making a long-term commitment. You're free to accept or decline assignments, so you have greater control over your work schedule.
Some staffing firms also provide access to health care benefits or offer paid vacation time, making it easier to forgo traditional full-time jobs.
Get the most out of the partnership
Be sure to choose your staffing firm carefully. The most helpful ones for many skilled IT professionals are those specializing in technology. Watch out for staffing managers who seem to lack a sense of what technology skills are in demand. Avoid any organization that requires you to pay even a small fee -- reputable firms don't charge you for job-hunting assistance.
Once you start working with a staffing firm, be honest and specific about the technologies and work environments you prefer. Keep in touch with your staffing manager and voice any concerns you may have. And after each interview, let him know how it went -- this information may ultimately help him find you the best opportunities.
While some job seekers may still think of staffing firms as primarily a way to find a job as quickly as possible, the potential benefits of working with a staffing firm are much greater than that. That's especially true in IT, where a position that meets your current needs as well as your long-term goals can be quite elusive. In essence, staffing firms can provide the support, connections and tools IT professionals need to build rock-solid careers that weather any economic condition.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology , a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services atwww.rht.com .
Copyright © 2008 IDG. All rights reserved.
Working with job recruiters
The explosion of information about job hunting hasn't necessarily made it easier for companies to find people who match job specifications. Many larger companies outsource this function for hefty fees. Search professionals add a new dimension to your search, even if they don’t hire you directly. They’re part of your research.
Have you worked for even a short time in an industry you like or in a position you’d like to have at another company? It may be time to expand your search to the middlemen bridging companies and job seekers. They’re called executive search firms and executive recruiters, both with offices all over the world. Their goal is to research candidates who are working, but even if you aren't or you are and you find them, they can give you information from them about the market that you won't find anywhere else. They're just one component of a successful job search.
Some search professionals work on contingency, which means that if they fill the position, the company pays them. If they don’t fill it, they lose. The more prestigious ones are retained executive search firms, which receive a monthly retainer to conduct a search. Companies give them an exclusive to fill the slot. When you’re established in your career, you’ll want to work with executive search firms. As your career unfolds, you’ll benefit from both types of people. Be certain to identify the ones you’re dealing with and do not under any circumstances go forward without making certain that you aren’t being charged – unless you’re willing to be. Some executive recruiters charge job seekers; some do not. Search firms don’t at all.
Where do you find these people? Start with the Yellow Pages. Then scour “The Directory of Executive Recruiters,” published by Kennedy Publications in Peterborough, N.H. Updated year after year, it lists firms by industry, recruiter specialties, key principals, firm name, geography and more -- a veritable goldmine of contacts. Some of them place people in companies locally, while others place nationally and/or internationally. The same information is available on disk -- SearchSelect.
Although it's estimated that your chance of being placed by recruiters may be as low as 8 percent to 20 percent, start building relationships with them now, because they might be helpful over the long-term. If the one you contact can't help you, but you have a friend he might want to meet, refer the person to your friend. Then, tell your friend to follow up. By doing both a favor, you may receive calls about jobs in the future.
Ask recruiters who don't place you for referrals. Tell them what industries and position types you're targeting and what skills you want to use. Some recruiters will know their industries better than others.
If a recruiter demonstrates some interest in you, send a copy of your resume. Call him
up to make certain that he received it and to get feedback from him. If possible, schedule a meeting. Whether you speak in-person or by telephone, assess his professionalism by listening very carefully to what he says. He should not promise t
- Secure you a job.
- Disclose the name of a client company before a second or third conversation about a specific job.
- Fail to give you a brief description of it, including its location.
- Ask you to submit your name to the company after the initial discussion.
Next, research the firm by asking for referrals. Although searches are confidential, the firm should be able to find one happy client company or former applicant, or some of its business advisors, to attest to its integrity.
If the recruiter asks for written materials, such as a resume or personal statement, ask what to emphasize, and meet the deadline. Don't be alarmed if the recruiter eventually asks you to sign a confidential search form, requiring you to stay tight-lipped. Non-disclosures are standard practice when you become privy to a company's plans. Even without them, you breach ethics if you disclose anything about a company, because you could risk its position in the marketplace.
You can increase your attractiveness to potential employers if you develop solid relationships with ethical search firms. Listen carefully to what recruiters tell you, and be discreet.