Employment (and Unemployment) Take Center Stage at OCEAN

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With California's unemployment rate at nearly 12 percent, finding a job means sharpening up your technical skills and knowing how to present yourself during an interview.


As usual, the OCEAN User Group meeting Wednesday night was interesting and well-attended, particularly for an August meeting. Both Bob Langieri and Carole Comeau got a round of applause from the members, who undoubtedly were expressing their appreciation for the work they, Margaret Matthews, and the other board members did that resulted in the highly successful OCEAN Technical Conference last July. Following that, it was on to more serious business, and the pair opened a few eyes and minds in the audience, describing what it actually takes today to get a job.


Both Langieri and Comeau are recruiters who have their fingers on the pulse of the Southern California job market. It's rough out there, and their advice is, if you have a job, keep it. The unemployment rate is over 9 percent in Orange County, California, and 11.6 percent in California overall. One rural county has an unemployment rate of 27 percent.


If you're looking for a job, they offered up a few tips that could be helpful:


  • If you still have a job, try to make your work integral to the strategic goals of the company, and don't be afraid to toot your own horn.
  • In either case, go beyond just RPG and familiarize yourself with other technologies, such as PHP and Web Services. Langieri noted from an analysis he did of the Dice job board recently that RPG was second only to Fortran--which is in last place--as far as job openings nationally. The most-sought programmers, he said, know C and C++.
  • When presenting yourself, have a generic resume and then tweak it for a particular job, emphasizing the skills that fit the position. Be careful not to fabricate anything, however, because you'll almost certainly get caught. Make sure the first third of the resume has the most impact, since employers lose interest as they go down the page. Forget experience over 10 years old (unless it's unique to the desired position), and include months as well as years when describing employment terms. If you've been out of work for awhile, take a class or two to fill in the gaps.
  • If you're lucky enough to get an interview, find out first how people dress at the company and don't wear a suit and tie if everyone there wears business casual. Whatever you wear, make sure it's clean, crisp, and sharp, with shoes polished to a military shine. Though the employer may invite you to blather on about yourself, instead politely answer the question, then turn the conversation back on the interviewer and invite him or her to talk about what the company is looking for in a candidate. Use what you hear as material for building a case for how you can solve their problems and meet the needs of the company. The interview should be a balanced two-way conversation and not one person dominating the entire meeting. Don't talk too much, and know when to shut up.
  • The most important thing to remember during an interview is never to criticize a former employer.


The good news that came out of the meeting is that two people in the room just got jobs last week, Comeau announced. This brightened the spirits of the attendees, most of whom have been shocked by the difficulty in finding a job. One data processing professional said he had been out of work for a year now and before this recession had never spent more than two weeks looking for a job.


Both Comeau and Langieri said that, while this recession will end eventually and the economy may be showing signs of picking up, job losses are still occurring, and it will be many months before employers start adding back the jobs that have been lost. In the meantime, they suggested honing your skills and watching market trends to see what skills are emerging as being those in demand.


To give members a taste of what they should be learning in the way of new skills, OCEAN board member Jorge Sanguinetti of Perot Systems at Apria gave a talk on Web Services--what they are, what they do, and where to find information about means of deploying them. He offered to come back and give a more detailed presentation to the group at a future date.


The world has changed in the past year, and no one seems to think it's for the better. Harry Truman once said, "It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours." We're not at 25 percent unemployment the way they were back during the 1930s, but we all know a few people who are out of work and who have been looking for a long time. Those of us who are working should be attuned to upcoming job openings in IT and elsewhere in our respective companies. If you know of a job, be sure to post it in the MC Press Forums Career Center. And if you're looking for a job, there is a forum there where you can post your resume for employers to review.