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How does this job thing work, anyway? Once you've decided that you're underpaid, overworked, or just plain fed up, what next?


It starts with your current environment. You're not being paid enough. You aren't getting the training you want. Your skills are not as sharp as you'd like them to be. Your company just cut benefits back to the bone. Your co-worker just got a huge raise - by jumping ship to another company. Moreover, the person they just brought in as a replacement is making a whole lot more than you are. Your boss promised you a variety of duties that are not materializing. Newer staff are getting the plum assignments. You've gone out to salary survey sites and don't even recognize the technologies that are being rated. Your skills are good, but you keep being passed over for promotions. The work was challenging when you first started, but now you've completely mastered the environment and your job is boring and routine. If any of these things have happened, that's OK. They've happened before and will happen again. If it's time to move on, accept that and know that you will do what you must. It benefits no one to force a bad situation.


If you wish to be elsewhere, then have a rough idea of what it is you are looking for. "Something different" is probably not enough. Do you want to be at a company that offers greater stability? More money? Better benefits? More training? Can climb the corporate ladder? Make sure that you have a clear idea of the kind of boss you can't stand, and the kind of group that you do want to work with. Personalities are important. It is also important to start looking long before you think you will need to. It takes a considerable amount of time to land that "right" opportunity, when you take into account the lead time to update/rewrite the resume, get it distributed, interview, negotiate salary, etc. You never have better leverage than when you don't need the job. So you should try to avoid waiting until you are downsized, fired, laid off, etc. to look for that new opportunity. If you smell something on the horizon, even the faintest of rumors, it never hurts to post your resume to job sites (discreetly) and start looking in a low-key manner. If the rumors do not turn out to be true, you can simply deactivate or delete your resume from their systems. However, getting a head start of even a month on your competition can make all the difference in an environment of heavy downsizing. Have your mind made up, and be serious that you are looking for better employment.


First, you assemble your resume. If you don't already have one, you go through the steps outlined in the Resume Help section. You can use the template included to organize your information. Next, you need to assemble a keywords list. This is a whole lot easier than the resume. You just go through the resume, and find the most important skills. For instance, if you were looking for work as a project manager, you would want to put the words, "project, manage, organize, supervis, work, break, down, struct, estim, cost", etc. Notice that some of the words are truncated. That's OK. A job description can contain many variations of the key word, like "supervisor, supervise, supervised, supervision". You want to make sure that all potential jobs come up under such a system. This can be in text format, using Notepad. Keep it in the same directory as your resume, for frequent reference when you're either looking for jobs or noting on the job boards what your key skills are.


Now that you're ready to advertise yourself, where should you do this? JobFairy.com provides pages of links on the Job Sites page. But it's not enough to simply provide you the links and tell you to get going. How? To start with you should have your own Internet connection, and own e-mail. Surfing job sites from work, or using your work account for personal e-mails, especially job hunting, is a big no-no. It can be traced - and will be. Once you have the basics established, like a free e-mail account from Hotmail or Yahoo, you will go to job hunting websites. You will provide them a name, contact information, your job skills, etc. They will probably ask you for a Word copy of your resume, or you'll have an opportunity to copy a plain text (ASCII) version into a text window. You may also want to select the confidential setting, so that your current employer cannot see that you're looking for work. It is also a good idea to have a pager, a cell phone, or both. Employers can contact you more quickly this way. You must have either voice mail or a reliable answering machine. However, since some answering machines don't have the ability for you to check your messages remotely, they're worthless and should be scrapped in favor of voice mail. If you can't think of a professional (i.e. boring) message for your machine - nothing cute or risqué, then you should leave the standard message on your voice mail that came with the service, stating that you have reached 555-1234, please leave your message after the tone. You never want to give a potential employer a reason not to call you back or screen you out.


You should be following the steps outlined under the Job Search section. That's why it's so important to get a head start on your job search, at the first stirrings in your gut that there may be trouble. The first week, you may not hear from anyone. By the second or third week, you should. Mondays generally have the least calls; Tuesday is when most recruiters tend to call if you've re-edited/re-activated your resume on Sunday. Never renew, always make a modification and then reactivate. Here's a quote about salary negotiation, "Don't be the one to name the first figure. Unfortunately, almost all companies play a nasty little game -- they innocently ask you how much you want. Time and time again, job candidates fall face first into that trap. They say and/or write on the job application "$9.00 an hour." In 1.3 seconds, they have sabotaged themselves because the company will almost always try to get away with paying less. And who knows? Maybe they were planning to offer $10.00 per hour! The way to steer around that land mine is to GET THE INTERVIEWER TO TOSS THE FIRST FIGURE. A truism in the game of negotiating is this: the first person to name a figure puts himself at a distinct disadvantage. Don't let it be you." - Deborah McGeorge. For more information, see the Salary, Negotiating and Interviews section.


In the Salary section, or under All the Articles, (I & II), there are several suggested letters of resignation. Whatever you do, never accept a counter-offer. Why do companies even bother? All they do is search for your replacement, find one as quickly as possible, and then fire you. Does every company have dysfunctional control issues? They must... If you've gone to all the trouble of finding another job, take it. As long as you give appropriate notice, you will probably be eligible for re-employment with your old company later on. But chances are greatest that you will never work for them again, so don't sweat it. Now that you're at the new job, take a look at your skill set. Are there things they want you to do at the new job that might require training? Make sure to ask for it right up front. Were there skills you noticed during your job search that companies seemed to be asking for frequently? Are there software packages or hardware platforms that used to be exotic but now everyone expects you to have them? Even if your company doesn't help you obtain training on those skills, pay for it yourself if you have to, but take those classes as soon as you can! For more information, visit the Training and Career Path Planning pages.


Even though you have a job, you should look at five or so major job boards every week or two in order to see what skills are most in demand. You should subscribe to newsletters like Information Week's, or read the tech news on cnet.com. Visit several salary information sites on a monthly basis - these boards can tell you what skills are worth what amount of money. In order for you to obtain the best compensation for your skills, you should be taking an average of one training per quarter. That's four technical classes a year. You can substitute three free vendor seminars plus two - four user group meetings for one technical class, if strapped for money. Unfortunately, taking into consideration Moore's Law, you practically have to run just to stay in place! Make sure you add all these classes and seminars to your resume as soon as they're completed.


By the time you've been on the job three months, you should have a good handle on your job duties. By six months, you should be comfortable. At nine months, you should have acquired new skills by then. At this point, you check the salary sites to see what others with your skills are making. If there's a 10% differential or more, start looking (but not seriously, unless you hate your job). At twelve months, you should have your first full review and raise. If that raise is 5% or less, you're losing money by staying in place. Start looking for real, unless you are receiving or about to get costly technical training. If, after a year on the job, you have not received any technical training or gotten a formal review, or even the promise of a formal review, start looking ASAP. You'll never get anywhere with them. By the time you've been on the job eighteen months, you should have greater job responsibility (not necessarily supervising others though), such as projects with more challenge, an increase in the scope of your work, or opportunities to train and mentor others. You might have had an opportunity for promotion by now. If these things are not happening for you... you're back to where you started on the roller coaster - with dissatisfaction!

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