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Stories, insights, and tips on how to stay balanced (and get ahead).


IT Well Paid in 2008. Was that the Top?

With President Obama working this week to limit ridiculous compensation for financial execs I cringe at the news from Dice’s annual IT salary survey that paints a rosy picture of IT salaries in the recession. The WSJ reports, “The average information-technology pro made $78,035 last year, a 4.6% increase from 2007.” According to the press release, salaries were up 5.8% in New York, 3.8% in Chicago, 3.6% in both Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.

Is it possible that while sales plummet (and commissions for sales pros along with it), somehow companies value their IT operations and talent enough to dole out raises? According to the WSJ, the study found, “Overall, IT managers had the highest salaries, raking in $111,998 in 2008. Database administrators made $89,742, and network engineers took home $72,496. System developers were the only group tracked by to get a pay cut in 2008, with the average salary dropping 1.3% to $87,211.”

Maybe we are getting to a point where the heartbeat of an effective enterprise, its technology, is finally getting its due. Perhaps the top brass is saying "Let's examine everything, but don't touch anything that would keep the computers from running and the billing systems from humming. In fact, let's invest." This doesn't sound right. Is anyone in IT not experiencing pinched budgets, hiring freezes, and delayed projects? Maybe 2008 is the lag year for salaries still built on prior year success. If IT is a good place to go in 2009 for a salary increase, let's agree not to tell anyone. Otherwise we may awaken the scrutiny of a higher authority.

Photo by stuartpilbrow.


Spell Chek? Don’t Close Your Career Door Before It Opens!

As someone who regularly hires marketing and communications talent, I am stunned at the regularity of typo's, grammatical errors and other sloppy mistakes in resumes and cover letters from these so-called "pro's."  Today's short-hand texting must be one of the culprits!

My IT recruiter colleagues confess that the ability to clearly write, organize and proof resumes is not necessarily a common trait of the technical experts they find for clients.  At the same time, those silly, avoidable mistakes can still knock a talented developer, business analyst or project manager out of the running before serious consideration of their skills and competencies.

So, as trite as it may sound, make sure that:

  • Your resume and cover letter are crisp, clean and grammatically correct,
  • You do not rely on an automated Spell Check, and
  • If editing and proofing are not your strengths, find a friend who does them well so you give it your best shot!

You simply cannot afford to slip up on this basic screening criterion, particularly in the current environment.

photo by adonis hunter's 'stuff'


Set Goals for the New Year

QUESTION: Did you turn your calendar from 2008 to 2009 as fast as you could?

You can only answer my question with a "yes" or a "no", but you could have hundreds of reasons for your choice.

If you answered yes, it may mean you wanted to say goodbye to a horrible 2008 and start fresh in 2009. Also, it might mean that 2008 was so positive for you that you wanted to keep it going into the next year. If you said no, it may mean you did not want to face another year of uncertainty and possible despair.

Moving into a new year is a major event all throughout the world. Generally, the New Year provides a sense of hope and optimism. We say "out with the old, and in with the new." If you had a good year, let's see if we can make the new one great. If you had a poor year, let's forget it. 

Whether you had a great or challenging year, I strongly believe you must have goals.  Goal setting is a simple task. Below are 6 quick tips to get you started with goal setting. If you haven't established any goals for 2009, it is never too late to start. 

Goal Setting Tips for the New Year

  1. Reflect on your previous year's goals if you had them. Are you pleased, excited, or disappointed in the results?
  2. Establish any new goals into four key categories:
  3. Develop a tangible action with each goal.
  4. Check your progress at least monthly, but I prefer weekly.
  5. Reflect frequently on what is going well and what is not. Make necessary adjustments to your plan.
  6. Reward yourself for exceeding a goal/category.

The New Year is the official launch of a new budget, and some might say, a new you. While changes in your strategic direction will not occur just because you've flipped the calendar, why not make 2009 the year you focus on a few key goals?

image by a_ndriy


Video Resume How-to: Selecting a Camera

Today I'm kicking off our series on video resumes. Let's start with the most important ground rule: we aren't going to use a professional. This is all DIY baby. If you are actively in the job market, do you have a lot of extra funds hanging around to go pay someone to shoot your video resume professionally? If you did, you wouldn't be checking out this blog posting. In the tech spirit, we'll go look for advice from professionals and do our best to apply it.

I spent a few days figuring out video blogging enough to post my first YouTube video (which required its own camera selection). So, here's my first video

Use What You Have, or Can Get Your Hands on Inexpensively

So, if we aren't going to pay a pro are we going to spend just as much money on a righteous camera to do the job? Well, that would be pointless. The 3 options I present here all cost me under $200. You should seek out the best camera you can to get high quality video of yourself into your computer. Look for a combination of image and sound quality. If you need to borrow from a friend for a few days, so be it.

Quality is Key

I know from our recruiters that IT people don't spend a lot of time formatting their paper resume and making it look pretty. Don't have the same attitude with your video resume. YOU ARE AN IT PROFESSIONAL. People think you have some knowledge of high tech things. If you can't master a video camera should we trust you to program the next financial billing system? If you don't care enough to compose your shot and get the sound right, do you have the attention to detail it takes to manage a complex web project? I'm not saying my first video blog post is high quality. What I am saying is that by the end of this, my video resume is going to look good.

Camera 1: Kodak Zi6

This camera was the easiest to capture high quality video. The video was simple to get into the computer to edit. However, the sound was of marginal quality due mainly to the editing software used. With better editing software, this would likely be my winner. By the way if you want a geek review of this camera check out Chris Pirillo's review of the Kodak Zi6.

Camera 2: Logitech QuickCam Pro for Notebooks

With its finicky light settings I'm just not sure I could create a video resume that didn't have a webcam look to it. It captured adequate sound, and the native file format is easy to edit in Windows Movie Maker.

Camera 3: Sony Handycam (DCR TRV-30)

This is the camera that kept me up til 3am. The actual image capture was a breeze. With a remote control, a tilt LCD screen for viewing myself, and a great lens, the camcorder is the way to go for video quality. I spent quite a bit of time testing the Radio Shack lapel microphone. After swearing at and breaking its cheap plastic clip, I tried to figure out why I was capturing only mono sound. Using a lapel mic definitely reduces that echo chamber feeling you get when listening to most video resumes. I'm just not sure if it is too distracting to hear my voice out of only the left speaker. I'm just curious if a stereo lapel microphone will work with my camcorder. More investigating to do.

The editing adventure took me to iMovie on a Mac this time, as my PC would not recognize the FireWire connection from the camcorder. Re-learning how to use a 3rd piece of editing software for this series proved time consuming, and I still don't feel I have the ultimate right answer. None of what I've tried so far puts out HD and I don't think its fair to all of you IT Pros out there that I use anything Mac for this project. IT is a Windows world, and I'm going to make my video resume on a PC so help me God.


Kris's Video Resume How-to Project

I challenge you to find a more approriate time than now to focus on marketing yourself. The slow economy will mean increasing competition amongst job seekers in 2009, and everyone will be looking for an edge. As I reflect on how I might be able to assist the job seeking world, I turned to my own bag of tricks and I found one tool that's missing. The video resume. We've discussed video resumes before on this blog. Some people think they're a great idea and others find them irrelevant. I think that the power of video brought on by the advent of cheap digital image capture and fast Internet distribution is undeniable. Even the mighty Google tweaks its Universal Search algorithm to promote video content. So, when you are looking to build your personal brand, no less when you need to find a job pronto, I'm going to bet that having a web video on your side could be a huge asset.

I would also guess that the vast majority of the job seeking world has yet to consider doing a video resume, especially if you aren't in the YouTube generation.{C} If you are like me, the thought of putting together a video about yourself comes with all sorts of questions, not the least of which is "won't I look like a total idiot?". Well, I'm going to take one for the team here. If my boss can get on stage and sing, then certainly I can chronicle the process of creating a video resume.

A DIY Video Resume

Over the coming weeks I'll go through the video resume building process in depth. I have a ton of questions as I'm sure you do too. I'm going to use this post to document all the burning questions I have so far, and then I'm going to use further posts in the series to explore those questions and get some answers. Sure, I can just Google a bunch of advice and spit back some links for you, but that has no credibility. I need to try this - experience this process and show you what it takes. The end result will be my video resume for all of you to critique. Oh, and this is for all you DIY'ers. There are professionals out there to help you do this, but I want to know what it takes to do it yourself.

Initial Questions About Video Resumes

Right now I'll have to admit, I'm pretty intimidated. Like many of you, I have a paper resume and some limited experience shooting home videos of my kids. I don't even have a decent webcam. There are some basics I need to understand before I even get started:

  • What kind of camera should I use?
  • What should the background be?
  • What kind of clothes should I wear?
  • What should I say?
  • How long should the video be?
  • How can I get good sound?
  • Should there be titling, music, flaming logos?
  • What should I use to edit the video?
  • How should the video be edited?
  • Where should I host the video when I'm done with it?

Ulterior Motives

No. I'm not actively seeking a job. I see this as a great opportunity to add some video content to the blog, and for me professionally to learn some new tricks. I know that how-to content is some of the most sticky there is. So, I'm hopeful that this series becomes a useful tool to help thousands of job seekers get out of the paper world and into the video world. If the series sucks, or I'm not cut out for video I'm sure you'll let me know about that too. Stay tuned.

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