Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Salaries and Interviews

I ran across this post from Ask the Headhunter, where a reader is asking what to do when they revealed their previous salary and got a low offer. First, I agree with Nick. Never reveal your salary. If someone asks, it’s in range they’re paying.

I’ve never had anyone ask me for a paystub, nor would I provide one. Most companies won’t reveal salary, so there’s really no change that an HR person will be able to check on your salary. However, I have always been of the view that a company pays me to do a job. They value that job at $x. If I do the job, pay me $x. Evaluate me on my merits and make an offer.

The rational for previous salary is shown in the post, and is essentially so that the current company can negotiate some lower value for themselves. That’s a capitalistic view that benefits the company in the short term, but likely creates more instability and distrust later. I’d expect this type of company will end up looking to fill this position more often then necessary as the person hired will find out they can make more at another company for the same work.

The other side of this is that if you tell them you make $75k and the job is a 65k job, they might not hire you because you’re overqualified and they assume you’ll leave as soon as you find another $75k job. That’s fair, but it’s also short sighted. I may need a job now, and be willing to work for less. I may enjoy this job, or like aspects of it (short commute, benefits, etc) that are worth some money to me. I don’t want to knowingly remove myself for consideration.

I don’t reveal salary. That’s between me and the IRS (or your government agency of record in countries outside the US).

I always ask the range for the job early. I want to know. The company should provide that, and know it. If they don’t, or they say they haven’t decided, I’ll ask for more than I expect. If I think this is a $75,000 job, I’ll ask for $80 or $85. You won’t get that number if you don’t ask, and if you’re confident, maybe you will. If that’s too high, they’ll tell you and you can decide early.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Half Life of Knowledge

Some of us are in industries that are changing over time, and the core knowledge we’ve had in an industry changes over time. Actually, most of us are in an industry that changes. Carpenters still have plenty of jobs, but the way we erect structures is changing and there are better jobs for those that better understand insulation and thicker walls.

If you are in an industry that is changing more rapidly, some portion of your knowledge becomes less useful. Certainly in technology there are changes that many of us should learn if we want to drive our career forward. However, there’s another side to this.

Over time, some part of your knowledge becomes less valuable. It’s not that you might never use it, but in terms of driving your career, those items are not valuable. Let me give you an example.

I used to work with SQL Server 6.5. In SQL 6.5, if you need to track the growths of your databases in case you need to restore in a disaster. That was a cumbersome, painful process. I learned it well, but since SQL Server 7, that knowledge isn’t relevant. I used it into the 2000s, but then it wasn’t something I needed. I might still run into a SQL 65 instance, but for the most part that’s not valuable knowledge.

To continue to find good jobs, or find new jobs if I lose my current one, I need to learn more. I need to spend time on a regular basis keeping up with different areas of my industry.

You should as well. Some of you might prefer intensive learning, maybe a week long class. Some of you might like reading a book every few days. Some might like working through an online tutorial every night. No matter what you choose, set up some schedule and keep to it for a few months. Pick a manageable slice of time in your life and commit to it.

If you aren’t learning and improving, over time, more and more of your knowledge decays. I don’t know how much and that will vary by your career area, but some of it goes away. Try to get at least an hour a week  (on average) of learning.

These days of shorter employment terms mean you might want to always be prepared for a new job.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Longer Resume

I get the Ask the Headhunter newsletter as one way of keeping in touch with job and employment trends. Recently they had a post about resumes, and whether a 3 page resume is too long.

The post is really good, and covers some of the advice I’ve given in the past. Networking is your best resource for finding a job, and a resume doesn’t get you the interview.


There are times that resumes do help. Some hiring people (HR, managers, recruiters) do struggle to get referrals, so they count on resumes. You shouldn’t, but be aware the resume does still matter.

What about Length?

The traditional advice in the US is one page. That has grown to two pages, but is three pages too long? As in the post, what I’d say is that the important thing is that you deliver some value to the reader. Let the hiring manager, or hiring filter person know right away that you are a good fit.

Don’t put keywords first. That’s a waste of the six, 30, or 60 seconds I might give you.

Keep your resume up to date. If I want to hire you, I want to know your current skills and status.

Keep formatting clean.

Tell me what you can do, what you want to do, and give me a touch of evidence to support this. You want to communicate that quickly and easily. Providing supporting information later in your resume, or in some digital profile, is good.

The one thing I’d note is that some individuals get annoyed by long documents. I’d stick with two, but you can do something else if you’d like. There are probably other people that don’t like to see something too short.

Make Me Want More

The idea of a resume is that when I look at yours, compared to others, I’m interested. I want to know more about you. I think you’re a good fit and worth examining closer. Your resume draws me in.

That’s your goal. Remember that plenty of people will submit resumes for the same opportunity. Yours should be relevant and to the point. I don’t have time to review them all, so I’m looking for something that catches my eye and gives me a reason to spend more than 10 seconds examining the page.

Give me that reason at the top.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Format Your Resume for the Manager

I once received a resume from an individual that looked like this.

2017-03-21 13_13_34-crowded resume - Google Search

It was even worse than this, with smaller type, designed to fit the most characters on a page possible and still have paragraphs. There were lines and boxes all over, ostensibly to separate sections.

Perhaps that doesn’t look to bad to some of you, but for me it’s too crowded. Especially as I age, I struggle to read small, crowded type.

The Reviewer

Who will glance at your resume, and give you the 30-60 seconds to decide if they should learn more. They may be young or old, but if they struggle with reading your resume, they may not decide to keep looking.

Even as a 30 year old, I disliked crowded resumes with small fonts. I look at enough computer screens. I’ve seen plenty of websites full of content with lots of ads and small boxes. I am less enamored with small type every day, as are others.

For the 25 year olds that might look, perhaps size isn’t an issue, but why take the chance. These days there’s a trend towards uncluttered, spread out displays, not the newspaper view of days past where white space was considered wasteful.

Use larger fonts, spread your information out, and most importantly, choose those items that make the most impactful statement about your career, or your goals. You pick one or the other.

You can always include links to other places, your website, LinkedIn or some other digital profile. These days, most people have access to learn more about you if they choose to.

Give them a reason to want more by limiting your resume to the best of you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Titles or Skills

When you look for a job, are you most concerned about the title or the actual work? Do you limit your search to a particular job title, such as C# developer, or do you look widely for jobs that just require C# skills?

My advice here is that you look for both.

A skills fit is more important than a title fit. This will ultimately be a better match for you and hopefully be a better long term fit. There are certainly other considerations with finding a position, but I’d hope you want to do the work that interests you or that you do well. The last thing any of us wants is to work at a job that doesn’t use our skill set or asks us to do work we don’t want to do.

In many industries, a job title does imply certain duties and responsibilities. I would tend to apply for those jobs that match may last title, or maybe the one I think I am ready to grow into.

Keep in mind a job title can mean one thing to organization A and another to organization B. Ultimately, your decision to search out positions is a wide net that should help you find multiple options. As you learn more about each opening, you’ll get the chance to move forward with the process. Eliminate some, and keep others, according to your desires and needs.

Whether you are looking at a position based on the skills required or the title, I hope that you find the position that’s a great fit for you. Just don’t eliminate positions early because of a title.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Keep in Touch on LinkedIn

Everyone should have a network of business contacts. When I began my career, this would have been a small phone contact book I carried around. Maybe a rolodex. These days, it’s LinkedIn for me, though there are other ways to keep a network alive.

Ultimately, your network is your best chance of finding a better job, or just a job, when you are ready. That means you should have a network in place.

I suggest LinkedIn since so many people are already using the platform in the US. I accept all invitations, but you can choose to do what you want. No matter which platform you choose, separate your connections. It’s easy to do, as you get acceptances or invitations, quickly categorize people.

Then post items on LinkedIn. I tend to put my blog posts out there, sometimes adding other items. The key is interaction and touches with your network. For those in your “A” network (the closest group), make sure you reach out with email, lunch, something every few months.

Keeping a healthy network is the best way to help with job searches and ensuring you will have help finding your next position.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Touch Your Resume Today

How long has it been since you updated your resume or CV? If it’s been more than 4 months, take 30 seconds right now to look at it and see if there are changes you can make.

If you’ve completed a project, attended an event, written a blog, changed a contact email/phone/address, or something else, update your resume, CV, or online profile now. Take the five minutes to fix things right now.

Tomorrow might be the day that you need to look for a job because of a change at work, or perhaps you’ll hear about a fantastic position next week and they want your resume immediately.

Note: After you update things, send a copy to a friend for proofing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Leaving Jobs

In the Brent Ozar newsletter recently, there was a post about the right reason to leave a job. It’s a short, interesting read, and one that I like.

This site isn’t about leaving an employer. It’s about building a brand to help you get the job you want. Maybe that’s a way to alter your current duties by showing you can do more. Maybe that’s about a promotion inside the company, or just a raise in your current slot. Maybe it’s because you want/need a new employer for some reason.

It’s up to you to decide, but I want you to be prepared when you choose to leave. That’s why it becomes important early to network, blog, learn, share, and do plenty to show you’re a great employee as a part of your current job. You never know when you’ll want to leave.

Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.. That’s the motto to keep in mind.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Manage Your Hours

One of the things that I try to do with this site is help people better market themselves for their next job or review. There are lots of ways to do this, but one way I wouldn’t suggest is to overwork yourself.

I note that it’s you doing this as you make the choice to work 60, 70, 80, or more hours a week. Very few jobs require this (there are exceptions), but many employers will gladly press you to work more if you allow this. I see far, far too many people that seem to be unable to push back when asked to work more and more.

There’s a BBC study that shows that working much more than others doesn’t pay off. I’d agree. Rather than work an extra 10 hours, what if you declined and spent that 10 hours learning, writing in a blog, practicing skills on a project? I think in a year you’d see a much greater return on your time.

You work for you. You should consider yourself a contract employee, even if you get a salary as a fulltime worker. Employers are not necessarily looking out for your best interest and can replace you easily. Many companies are loathe to replace workers, which is another reason you should not work an excess of hours as a general rule.

Always remember. Life is short and you work to live, not live to work.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Getting Started Blogging

It’s a new year, and the perfect time for you to start blogging about your SQL Server work. I think blogging is a great way to showcase your knowledge, and over time, this can become as important to your potential employers and clients as your resume or CV.

This post won’t look at what to write, but rather, how to get started. I’ve divided this up for people that might have written some technical articles and those that haven’t. If you have, feel free to skip the next section.

Starting From Scratch

If you’ve never really written a blog or technical piece, I recommend do this:

  1. Create a folder on a shared drive
  2. Open Word (or another WYSIWYG) editor
  3. Begin Writing
  4. Save the post you’ve worked on as 1_SomeTopic.
  5. Repeat, incrementing the number so you get files such as 2_OtherTopic, 3_ReallyInteresting, etc.

That’s it. Just begin writing. Don’t worry about publishing, don’t worry about anything else. Just get in the habit of putting some thoughts down on paper that talk about the work you do.

When you get 10 posts, you are ready to move on.

I would recommend you calculate the average time it takes for you to produce a post. This would be the rate at which I’d look to schedule my posts.

Choosing a Platform

The next step when you are comfortable with your writing is to choose a place to publish your work. There are lots of choices, and a good comparison of sites is listed in this article.

I like Wordpress.com myself. This site uses Blogspot (for now), but I will likely move it to Wordpress. Blogspot works, but it’s basic and the scheduling and editing tools are more of a pain than those at Wordpress.

I also recommend OpenLiveWriter to write with. I can easily draft posts in a WYSIWYG way, keep the drafts private (and on a OneDrive folder) and then publish to my platform at will. I find this easier than trying to work online. The project looks slightly abandoned for now, but it is stable and useful on the Windows platform.


How often should you blog? I think this is a hard question, but I’d blog at the pace that works for me. If you are a new writer, you should have written 10 pieces and tracked the time to produce those. For most people, this is between 2 and 4 weeks for a piece. Some might do 1 a week, but whatever is possible in your busy life is the pace I’d stick with.

My goal is to blog 3 times a week. Sometimes I can do more, but I don’t usually try to do more. It’s better to schedule out posts and ensure I can maintain some level of consistency than I get my posts out right away. Most of the time I have a couple of posts scheduled a few weeks out because I’m not producing news. I’m showcasing knowledge.

My advice is to schedule less frequently than you think you should. It’s easier to add in most posts later than try to maintain some pace that causes you stress.

This should be fun.

Post Reviews

No matter what topics you choose or the frequency of your posts, it is important that you do a good job in producing them. That doesn’t mean you need 3 peer reviews and a copy edit, but you should take the time to get some feedback from others on your work.

If you aren’t an experienced writer, or you worry about the impression your writing makes, then ask a friend, spouse, co-worker, etc. to review a few posts and help you with your grammar, spelling, and the way you communicate the concepts.

Communication is a skill, and you will get better if you work at it. However, the best way I have found to do this quickly is to get feedback from others.

Take the Challenge

Challenge yourself and start blogging today. Even as little as 15 minutes a week can really help you showcase your knowledge, and give you an edge for your next interview.