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According to a lot of IT hiring managers, it’s difficult to fill job openings because of a perceived lack of skilled IT talent available.  On the other hand, there’s a ton of IT workers who want to strangle the next person they hear say that because they either can’t get work, or have been unable to get a better job because they don’t have the necessary experience for the position.  Quick, every support tech reading this who can’t get a network job, raise your hand!

The hiring managers will contend that there may very well be a disproportionate number of people trying to get into or find better jobs in IT, but very few of them have the skills needed for the positions they’re looking for.  The job seeking IT workers will then respond that it’s impossible to get that experience if nobody gives them an opportunity to do anything other than frustrating, repetitive support work. Let’s be fair: there’s two sides to every story, and it’s obvious in this situation that each side needs something the other side isn’t providing.  So where’s the disconnect?

Some make accusations that companies exaggerate the scarcity of skilled IT workers as an excuse to hire cheap H1-B workers, but I’m going to take the high road and assume for the sake of argument that such accusations are unfounded, and that companies legitimately can’t find the type of talent they’re looking for.

So what’s the problem?  Let’s start by looking on the job seeker side.

A lot of the advice I hear for people having trouble getting the skills they need makes me pull my hair out.  I haven’t talked to anyone since probably 2002 who said that getting a certification helped them get ahead, normal people with actual lives don’t have the time to do volunteer work for experience, and I don’t think many people who come out of four years of college with thousands of dollars of debt want to go dump more money down the toilet getting a Master’s or any other degree after their college degree didn’t turn out to be the golden ticket they thought it would be.

That said, I see a lot of IT people who have trouble framing their experience and other credentials in a way that casts them as an attractive candidate.  It’s common for people to have one resume that they cram every last job function they’ve ever had onto, along with every technology they’ve ever had some peripheral contact with, then spam it out to every job listing they see on Dice.  They don’t do a good job of customizing every resume they send out to the job posting, including working keywords from the posting into the resume they send out.  A lot of times, it seems like their frustration with their current jobs makes it difficult for them to accurately extract the ways their background would play into the position they’re applying for.

For example, if someone is going for a job that includes oversight of training functions, they may look at their day-to-day and see themselves as just getting a schedule of classes from the central training department at corporate HQ, dialing up the call and setting up a projector, and walking out.  Though that may be the part they notice themselves doing the most, they could be overlooking other training-related work like tracking trouble tickets to identify recurring trends that indicate a shortfall of knowledge in a particular area, and working with the central training department to arrange for an additional focus on those areas.  Maybe they’ve spent time offering remote access workshops ahead of potential office closures due to inclement weather.  There’s a lot of great things a job seeker might simply forget about if they’ve spent too much time obsessing over how unfulfilling their current job is.

When these kinds of job seekers go in for interviews, they also seem a lot more prepared to talk about why the job would be a good fit for them than why it would be a good fit for the company.  A lot of times, they have one sales pitch that they give to the HR Manager, the Office Manager, and the IT Director, when they should think about varying it up and having separate talking points for each of those people so they aren’t putting the HR Manager to sleep with a monologue about configuring SIP trunks.

But even as job seekers need to adjust their approach to their sales pitch, hiring managers really need to open their mind and be more willing to take someone with little or no experience and train them if they really appear enthusiastic enough, and not disqualify anyone who isn’t ready to hit the ground running. Everyone has to start somewhere, and people who have been told no for extended periods are going to be hungry and ready to do anything for as many hours as they need to if it means a step in the direction they want. They might be surprised by the work ethic they’ll get out of those people.

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