Editor's Desk

A Tale of Two Guys

A common theme: What does my certification get me?

Weekly, I hear from readers and Web site visitors sharing their struggles to find the next job—or even the next project. A common theme is this: What did my certification get me? Take Dwight Jessup, an MCSE+I in Burlington, New Jersey. When his company decided to close its New York office after Sept.11 and after anthrax scares hit hard, he lost his job as the manager of application specialists for the eastern region. Jessup has worked on mainframes, Unix and PC networks. He knows SQL Server, Oracle, Informix and Sybase; most of his career has focused on pre- or post-sales for software manufacturers or resellers.

This guy knows how to go about a job search. He compiled a list of 4,500 companies from the Internet by using industry type and SIC code. He sucked that into Microsoft Access and selected those with more than $75 million in revenue, which gave him a list of 330. Of those, he identified 80 companies that he thought he’d like to work for and sent off resumes. Next, he picked out candidate firms in the $50 million to $75 million range and did the same thing. Now he’s working on the smaller firms. As part of his database, he includes the Web site so he can click over to check out recent news, the management team (“you never know when you might see a name of someone you worked with in the past”), and what impression the firm makes online.

Robert Zane, who lives in Dallas and holds multiple Microsoft credentials, was laid off as a senior systems consultant for Winstar Professional Services in April. A few months later, an old colleague from Texas Instruments called and asked for his help on a project. That job, which he contracted through Matrix Resources, an IT job shop, led to other work that’s kept him satisfyingly busy.

Zane and Jessup have advice for others in their straits. First, don’t burn bridges.

“The old adage: ‘It’s not what you know but who you know,’ rings very true in these times,” says Zane. He points out that personal recommendations are advantageous and adds that candidates should be prepared to give detailed answers about any skills listed on their resumes. No fudging. Hiring managers, who can be picky, will see through it.

Jessup agrees with the networking angle: “This is a great time to contact people you lost touch with years ago. Don’t ask for a job, but tell them your situation and they will offer to help you.”

Both say to stay upbeat. Jessup is convinced that the company did him a favor, because “you can always find a better job than the one you had.” He plans to show his former company what a “big mistake” they made in letting him go.

Zane advises keeping skills sharp. “Study and take one or more of the newer...exams. This will show the potential employer that you are still highly motivated and dedicated to your career in the industry.”

Maybe, in the end, that’s what a cert really brings you: It’s a reminder that you know how to learn, how to grow, how to do your best to survive the hard times.

Are you suffering from the great layoff of 2001 or 2002? Share your story with me at [email protected]. And if you’ve got work for either of these two guys, contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.


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