How Marketable Are Your Skills?

Emmett scours a popular job site to determine what employers are looking for the most.

It's my firm belief that every so often, you should look at the field you're in and evaluate your position in it. Do you have the skills that are expected of you? Are those skills current and in demand? If you lost your job tomorrow, would you be able to find another position that's similar or better than this one in a short period of time? Is there some skill or knowledge that you could add to your resume now that would better prepare you for the future?

Often, it's that last question that requires the most scrutiny. What are employers looking for that you don't have? Is the cost of obtaining that skill (in terms of time, money, commitment and opportunity) worth the effort? Is this a skill that has a short span of worth (meaning, it will be replaced by the next new development), or is it something that will be valuable for years to come?

There are many ways to come up with a list of relevant skills. You can talk shop with your managers and co-workers or attend a convention, for instance. One of the best ways to start developing this list, however, is to look at current job postings. These identify what employers are looking for and what they're willing to pay.

To that end, I went to Monster.com and began searching for IT jobs that included some form of the word "integration." My results are not scientific for a number of reasons; for instance, not every job is posted on Monster (though it's the largest job board). Moreover, I looked only at the current job listings and didn't factor time into my analysis.

But though they probably wouldn't stand up to any extensive scientific scrutiny, the results are quite revealing. I tried to place my findings into broad categories, and here's what came up:

Operating Systems
In terms of Linux operating systems, a lot of employers did not list a specific distribution, but simply listed "Linux." Of those who did list a distribution, by far the most popular was Red Hat, with SuSE coming in second. That didn't surprise me.

What did surprise me, though, was the fact that Red Hat was listed three times more frequently than SuSE. There was the occasional employer asking for "migration experience from Red Hat Linux to SuSE Linux," but that didn't seem to be a trend, and most of the time Red Hat was in the network to stay. Not surprisingly, since integration is the field, Windows administration experience was the most in demand, with UNIX experience not far behind.

Programming
C/C++ remains popular, but you don't want to miss C#, .NET, Java (including JMS), ASP, XML and HTML. More listings included Perl than PHP, but there were many listings which asked for individuals with experience in a lot of lesser-known languages, as well.

Databases
For sheer numbers, you have to bow to SQL and Oracle. These two terms, in combination or separately, appeared in more listings than any other terms in this list. They were often combined with at least one other requirement from the following: CRM, warehousing, XML and shell scripting. Sybase also remains very popular.

Virtualization
Citrix topped VMware -- that surprised me a bit. More surprising, though, is that one-third of the postings for VMware also included Citrix. The fact that a company would require knowledge of both caught me off-guard. There were very few postings for noncommercial products (XEN, for example) in this category.

Certifications
The most popular certification requested, by far, was Microsoft's Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). After that, Microsoft and Cisco bounced between each other in popularity with Cisco's Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA), Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) and Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP), intermixed with Microsoft's Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA).

Others certifications making the list were Novell's Certified Network Engineer (CNE), Red Hat's Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Novell's CLP Certified Linux Professional (CLP).

Miscellaneous
In descending order, here are the companies whose names popped up in the job postings most frequently:

  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • Sun

Here are the technologies that popped up the most (again, in descending order):

  • Microsoft Exchange
  • TCP/IP
  • Active Directory
  • LDAP
  • DNS
  • VoIP
  • DHCP

Security skills remain in demand, with firewall and intrusion-detection experience at the top of the list.

In this sampling, I found some confirmation in a number of topics and a handful of surprises. I encourage you to run a study of your own to see if your results are similar. My search looked at all listings regardless of geographic location, but I would suggest that you limit yours to the area in which you live -- or the area in which you want to live -- to add more relevance to your findings.

About the Author

Emmett Dulaney is the author of several books on Linux, Unix and certification, including the Security+ Study Guide, Fourth Edition. He can be reached at eadulaney@comcast.net.

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