Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Most Admired Employees

FORTUNE magazine's Most Admired Companies list is the definitive report card on corporate reputations. The 2006 ranking has been released. The 1,000 largest U.S. companies, ranked by revenue, were included in the evaluation process. The Top 20 were determined by surveying 10,000 executives, directors and securities analysts.

The seven Most Admired Companies in Massachusetts were as follows (including location and
ranking within their industry):

Rankings were based on the following criteria:

  • Innovation
  • People management
  • Use of corporate assets
  • Social responsibility
  • Quality of management
  • Financial soundness
  • Long-term investment
  • Quality of products/services

Wouldn't it be interesting if we had access to a Most Admired Employees list! Workers who made the list would be prize candidates for the best assignments. Job satisfaction would improve. Recruiters would call. Compensation would skyrocket.

While no such list exists, Ajilon Professional Staffing offers these five tips to elevate your admiration ranking in your current position:

  • Manage up. The ability to communicate with your manager in his or her own terms is essential to help you reach your career goals. Be aware of your boss’ management style and goals and communicate your ideas or plans in a similar manner.
  • Make your boss your #1 fan. Your boss’ success is tied to your success, so work with your manager to better understand his/her goals – and help achieve them!
  • Work even harder when the boss is away. Complete jobs they assigned before they return and make sure other projects did not slip through the cracks. Stay organized and pay attention to details. Before they return to the office, send them an e-mail update on the status of projects. They will appreciate this report waiting for them in their inbox.
  • Track your accomplishments. Although sometimes it’s difficult to toot your own horn, make sure your boss is aware of your accomplishments and the times you go above and beyond the call of duty so he/she knows about your successes to reward you with time off, bonuses or a raise.
  • Be a team player. Every boss likes to have his team on his side. Demonstrate that you're committed to the company, not just to your own personal goals.
Set a goal this week to improve in one of these five areas, then chart your progress. By striving to become a Most Admired Employee in your current position your reputation will grow and Most Admired Companies will seek you out for more satisfying and better paying opportunities.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

It's Tuesday morning, the day after a three-day holiday. You are sitting at your computer reviewing your e-mail and maybe wishing you were somewhere else.

It's not that you hate your job; it's just that you don't feel appreciated and don't feel your talents are being put to the best use by your current employer. If fact, according to Marcus Buckingham, half of all workers will spend half of their workday doing things they are not particularly interested in doing.

So, you might spend part of your workday going online and casually searching for another job, being careful to pull up some "real work" should your boss stop by for a visit.

Why not consider a different strategy? Why not spend part of your day -- your lunch break perhaps -- developing your network of contacts? In this third installment of a series on Internet Recruiting we will explore the concept of social networking.

Fully 60% of 200 employers surveyed say they plan to invest in social networking technology to generate referrals to fill vacant positions. Social networking Websites have been in the news lately. If you have teenage child chances are you are aware of a Website called MySpace. A similar Website called Facebook is popular with college kids. Dozens of business networking sites have sprung up over the past year of so.

All of these Websites are based on the concept that by developing a network of like-minded peers who have their own network of contacts, you can expand your network exponentially. The concept has been made popular by the trivia game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Let's pick one business-related social network -- LinkedIn -- and explore it. Why LinkedIn? Because it's been written up in the popular press and it's the only career network I've been invited to join! Since this is a "club" you do have to be a "member" to see what goes on behind the scenes. Currently, I have one "connection" in my network -- the person who invited me. This "sponsor" is connected to three other people. These three other people have connections. All told, I am just two connections away from being in touch with 137 business professionals, all from one connection!

So, you can see that "working your network" can lead to introductions that you didn't think were possible. Even Kevin Bacon, Independent Motion Pictures and Film Professional, from Los Angeles is LinkedIn! Alas, none of my current contacts has a connection to Kevin, not yet anyway.

Two features of LinkedIn that I find particularly interesting:
  • job openings that are listed exclusively to network members, thus reducing competition and unnecessary weeding out of resumes from unqualified candidates
  • job openings that give preference to applicants with endorsements -- kind of an eBay system of obtaining references for a job well done from someone in your network, perhaps a previous boss or coworker, or a satisfied client
An increasing number of employers will use social networks to fill job vacancies. The time to start building your network is today, while the economy is good and jobs are plentiful. If you feel I am a trusted contact that you would like to continue doing business with, then by all means, visit my LinkedIn page and join my network today. It's free, it's easy, and it could lead to your next job, or better yet, an introduction to Kevin Bacon!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Who's Zoomin' Who?

As discussed in the previous blog, Internet Recruiting, companies looking for talent in today's marketplace are finding that employee referrals deliver the best results. In addition, recruiters are investing in social networking technologies to build their referral base.

Today's issue focuses on how you can create a Web presence, and begin establishing a referral network, even if you do not have your own Website. (Of course, if your career involves Internet technology, you should have your own Website!)

To begin, have you ever "Googled yourself?" That is, gone to a search engine like
Google and typed in your own name. Some interesting results can occur, like links to documents you never knew existed or links to people with your same name who are definitely NOT YOU!

Now, have you ever "Zoomed yourself?" That is, visited a Website called ZoomInfo and typed in your name? ZoomInfo is "the search engine for discovering people, companies and relationships." Go there now,
type in your first and last name, and see what you find.

Even if you have never used this Website before, it's quite possible others have, looking for information about you, and perhaps finding mixed results. The difference between ZoomInfo and Google is that you get to control your Web presence at ZoomInfo. And if you want people to find you, you want to be in control of what's being said about you.

Setting up a ZoomInfo Web summary is FREE and easy to do. To join "the largest index of people in business in the world," you can start with a basic profile in just a few minutes. Over time you can add additional information such as education, past work experience and important Website links. You don't have to add sensitive information, like your date of birth or marital status. This is a business profile and should be treated as such.

Once you are registered here's how you can use ZoomInfo to position yourself in the marketplace:

  • When sending out an e-mail use a link to your ZoomInfo Profile as part of your signature
  • Research people and companies prior to an interview or sales call
  • Use the "Connect With . . ." feature to contact a former business associate or introduce yourself to a new one
  • Use the "Add to Colleagues" feature to begin building a referral network of colleagues and associates
Recruiters are using search tools like ZoomInfo and you should be too to give yourself a competitive advantage. Little did Aretha Franklin know when she recorded Who's Zoomin' Who? (.asx file) in 1985 that her song would take on a whole new meaning in the 21st Century.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Internet Recruiting

The score at halftime: Internet 51 Newspaper 5

Internet sources produced 51% of all hires last year, while newspaper classified ads generated just 5% of the new hires, according to a newly released study. The most popular Internet sources for new hires at leading U.S. companies were the following:
  • Corporate Employment Web Sites (21%)
  • General Job Boards (15%)
  • Niche Job Boards: (6%)
  • Social Network Web Sites (5%)
  • Commercial Resume Databases (4%)
Employers reported that they find the highest quality candidates and receive the greatest return on their investment from the following two sources:
  • their own corporate web sites
  • employee referrals
Most notably, employers report they will significantly increase employment related spending in the following key areas:
  • Corporate Employment Web Sites (74%)
  • Employee Referrals (68%)
  • Social Networking Technology (60%)
The trends are clear. If you are looking to upgrade your current job this year and do not have a presence on the Internet and do not have a network of professionals who can help refer you to opportunities, then you are at a competitive disadvantage.

The next several issues of Beantown Web will focus exclusively on this emerging trend of social networking and how you can utilize today's technology to maximize your potential for uncovering the business opportunities of tomorrow.

A press release of this report is available from DirectEmployers Association, a non-profit consortium of over 200 leading U.S. employers and operator of JobCentral.com. A more detailed summary, 2006 DirectEmployers Association Recruiting Trends, is also available in pdf format.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Databases: What to Know

Three truths about databases:

  • every organization has them
  • no organization can thrive without them
  • the more you know about them, the more valuable you become to the organization
The Big Three of databases are as follows:

  • Oracle
  • IBM (DB2)
  • Microsoft (SQL Server)

These three competitors combined control 85% of the $15 billion database market [1]. The marketplace provides a snapshot of their relative value. The number of job listings for each of The Big Three when searching by keyword are as follows [Monster.com listings]:

  • Oracle [ 995 ]
  • Microsoft (SQL Server) [ 506 ]
  • IBM (DB2) [ 93 ]

The common language of all databases is Structured Query Language (SQL). So, the more you know about SQL the more you'll be able to manage data regardless of which relational database management system (RDBMS) is being used.

According to a recent BusinessWeek article, Taking On the Database Giants, open-source database products are gaining ground. Of these MySQL appears to have the most momentum.

So, how does one get experience using these products? Here's a two-step plan:

Step #1: Learn SQL

Step #2: Learn one of The Big Three (SQL Server)

Why select SQL Server? Quite simply, I have not been able to identify any low-cost alternatives to learning Oracle or IBM DB2. Both products are expensive and so is the training. Microsoft, on the other hand, wants technology professionals to learn its new SQL Server 2005 product so that it can capture market share from its competitors.

[1] reference: Taking On the Database Giants
[2] note: The courses are designed for SQL Server 2005, not the Express Edition, so there my be some aspects of the course that may not apply to the 'lite' version of the product.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

SeaMonkey Internet Suite

August 9, 1995 is considered by many historians to mark the birth of the Internet Era. On that day Netscape Communications went public and countless Internet millionaires would be minted over the next five years.

Most early Internet users experienced the World Wide Web for the first time using Netscape's Navigator software. In short order Microsoft launched Internet Explorer and today maintains a commanding lead in Web browser utilization.

Netscape's original concept was to bundle the Navigator browser with other software including Web developer tools. This design package has been resurrected by The Mozilla Foundation and has been renamed SeaMonkey Internet Suite. (Mozilla was Netscape's early mascot and the organization is also the keeper of the open-source Firefox Web browser.)

SeaMonkey 1.0 is now available for FREE public download. It's Web developer tool is called Composer, which is primarily an HTML text editor with support for JavaScript debugging. SeaMonkey is ideal for students and other budget-conscious designers and developers who want to learn the basics of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS and are not in position to purchase industry standard tollkits such as Dreamweaver, which retails for $399.

I used the SeaMonkey Composer tool to edit and upload my Recent Training section of the Web Apprentices Website and it works quite nicely for simple edits.

Designers and developers in training can download SeaMonkey and start practicing with the following FREE tutorials available from WebDevelopersNotes.com:
By the way, Netscape hasn't gone away. Netscape 8.1 is available for download and there are rumors of a Netscape 9.0 version in development.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Open Ajax Project

Ajax is an evolving set of tools and standards for creating interactive Web applications. The Open Ajax Project is a collaborative of organizations that has been formed to focus on establishing universal compatibility for Ajax among computer hardware, operating systems, and other software programs. A few of the companies that have lent their support to the project include the following:
  • IBM
  • Google
  • Yahoo!
  • Oracle
Ajax is an acronym for "Asynchronous JavaScript and XML." It is a technique used to create a "rich internet application." Web design innovations that can be incorporated into a website using Ajax include the following:
  • updating portions of a Web page automatically
  • checking information submitted (order form information, for example)
  • dragging-and-dropping objects inside a Web browser
Web designers and developers are invited to attend a FREE Ajax seminar hosted by IBM at their Cambridge office. The seminar is Tuesday, February 7 at 6:30 pm. To attend you must register at the PHP Boston Chapter Website.

Since JavaScript and XML are languages used to create this technique, they should also be in the toolkit of every Web designer and developer who wants to stay current on emerging design and development trends. To get started with XML, you can sign up for Introduction to XML, a FREE online course conducted via the HP Learning Center. The eight-lesson course begins Thursday, February 16.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Big Demand, Big Pay

Which job-hunting workers are in a solid position to negotiate better pay in 2006? According to CNNMoney.com, in coordination with Spherion, a national staffing and recruiting firm, the most in-demand workers are concentrated in five arenas as follows:

  • Accounting
  • Sales and marketing
  • Legal
  • Technology
  • Manufacturing and engineering

So, what is the one skill that is most in-demand in the technology arena? "Developers who are expert users of Microsoft's software programming language .NET can make between $75,000 and $85,000 a year in major cities when they're starting out," according to the author of this staffing analysis.

Here is a six-step, zero-cost plan to introduce yourself to Microsoft .NET:

  1. Review What is .NET? [FREE]
  2. Complete the Microsoft .NET Tutorial [FREE]
  3. Review Why ASP.NET? [FREE]
  4. Download ASP.NET Web Matrix [FREE]
  5. Take the Web Matrix Guided Tour [FREE]
  6. Complete the ASP.NET Tutorial [FREE]
The average IT worker spends $2,200 on training and education annually and invests approximately 11 hours a week to learn new skills and technologies, according to a recent survey by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). The 12 hours a week you invest (you are better than average) developing your .NET skills will be handsomely rewarded.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Boston Market -- February

The Monster Employment Index hit another all-time high in January -- its ninth new high in the last 13 months -- indicating strong job demand. "Online opportunities for white-collar workers in accounting, IT and legal professions surge, demonstrating broad strength in business services," according to a Monster press release.

Businesses are actively acquiring technology talent, but only professionals with the right skill sets and requisite experience. One way to gauge the current demand is through a keyword search on specific technology skills at selective online job sites. Beantown Web monitors two sites: BostonWorks and Monster.

Skills sets are grouped into four categories: Tools, Acronyms, Containers, and Knowledge (TACK). A few of the common keywords associated with Web design and Web development jobs include the following:

Note: the numbers in parentheses indicate the number of job postings that list that keyword in the job description. [ First number: BostonWorks.com ][ Second number: Monster.com ]

Tools (software)

  • Photoshop [ 77 ][184]
  • Flash [ 48 ][ 36 ]
  • Dreamweaver [ 31 ][ 57 ]
  • Visual Studio [ 25 ][ 70 ]

Acronyms (languages)

Containers (databases)

Knowledge (certifications)

  • The demand for certified professionals varies by discipline. All things being equal certification helps to distinguish you from your competition. An appropriate certification entry point for Web design and Web development professionals is Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW). For a complete listing of all technology certifications, along with links to the appropriate certification Website, be sure to check out the Web Apprentices Career Center.

A few quick observations:

  • Monster.com consistently lists twice as many opportunities as BostonWorks.com
  • Acronym (language) skills are in greater demand than Tool (software) skills
  • Container (database) skills are in greater demand than Tool (software) skills
Web designers and Web developers who want to advance their careers should focus on one Acronym (language) and one Container (database) and set a near-term goal to obtain additional training and experience. Feel free to check out my "Tour Dates" (right-hand column) for training opportunities in the coming months. You have a choice of attending a traditional "classroom" workshop or beaming me directly into your PC for a "virtual" training session!