I don't know everything about it, but here are a few lessons I have learned from long experience. I have mentioned some of this before. Of course, this is oriented toward tech jobs.
1) Typically, these three things have nothing to do with one another:
- the job that is advertised
- the job you interview for
- if you get the job, the job you actually do
2) Many advertised jobs do not really exist. Big corporations, and staffing companies, routinely troll for resumes just to keep their databases updated. They want to know who is available, what positions companies hire for, what technologies companies use, and so on.
3) The "wish list" of credentials you see in job ads is not always all that meaningful. The list creators just throw in everything they can think of.
4) When it comes to staffing companies, I have found: the more they want to jerk you around, the less likely they are to actually have a job for you. The best jobs that I have got from staffing companies are the ones where when they called me at 8:00 PM Friday night, and wanted me to start at 8:00 AM Monday morning. When they want to hire, they hire. When they are just fishing, they jerk you around with "skill assessments" and "meet-and-greet" interviews.
5) Often, the jobs, for which, you seem the least qualified, are the jobs you get. And vice-versa. Employers often ignore your application for the jobs where you nail every requirement.
6) Because of the reasons stated above, I try to avoid lengthy job applications. With the exception below . . .
7) Government jobs require a lengthy application, and take a long time to hire (long as in months, or even years). But, the jobs may be worth it anyway. The federal government tends to be less ageist than most civilian employers. The feds also put a bigger emphasis on affirmative action considerations than other employers. However, a big part of the what the feds consider “affirmative action” is about military service.
8) To many employers: your last job matters more than the rest of your employment put together. The pay that you are offered often depends are what you were paid on your last job. If you made $10 an hour on your last job, they will probably offer you $12. If you made $20 on your last job, they will probably offer you $24. Taking a lower paying job can hurt your future salary for years.
9) In technology, recent experience matters much more than experience you gained two, or more, years ago. If you have a valuable skill, but your experience is not very recent, all that valuable experience goes to waste.
10) Many employers are reluctant to hire you for a job, when that job pays less than you were earning on your previous job. The assumption is: you will not be happy with the job they are offering, and you will leave as soon as you find a higher paying job. An exception to this is very short-term contract jobs.
11) Similar to 10 above: no matter how qualified you may be, many employers assume that will not be happy in doing something substantially different from what you were doing at last job.
12) There are few things employers hate worse than "training somebody for their next job." Be aware: training does not necessarily mean any kind of formal lessons. To employers, the time it takes for you to get yourself up-to-speed on your job is considered "training." For example, let's suppose your job involves involves using MS-Excel. Once you get good at that, you become more valuable, and may demand a raise, or leave for another job. Because of this, a stable work history is valued. Employers avoid hiring job hoppers.
13) Usually, experience trumps all other credentials. But, the experience has to recent, professional, and verifiable.
14) Often, credentials that are sought by employers for a particular job, do not make sense. For example, some employers may ask for a degree in Computer Science for a PC tech job. Computer Science is very theoretical, and mathematics oriented. CS involves stuff like algorithm analysis, discrete structures, combinatorics, and the like. That stuff has nothing to do with being a PC tech. Employers may also ask for experience, and certifications, that make no sense for the job being offered.
15) Certifications do matter, and they are a training credential bargain. Even when the certs are not specifically required, or even mentioned. In many cases, employers do not really understand what the certs are about. From my experience: the return on investment (ROI) from certifications is *far* greater than the ROI from college. A few certs, that cost a few hundred dollars each, and take maybe 50 hours of study each; can do more good than a college degree that takes years, and tens of thousands of dollars. You can study for certs on your own, which means you can collect unemployment while studying. Certs combined with experience can be a very worthwhile combination. If the today’s certification environment existed way back when, I would have never wasted my time going to college.
16) Some entry-level IT certs that I might recommend:
- A+ : when it comes to being a PC Tech, this cert is *it*. This cert is an actual legal requirement for some jobs. Not an especially difficult cert to get.
- ITIL : one of the easiest certs to get. A requirement, or a prefered credential, for many IT jobs - especially at the larger companies.
- Security+ : like the A+ can be an actual legal requirement for some IT jobs. More difficult than the A+, but not that difficult. Security is a BFD with many employers right now. IBM being one such employer. The Sec+ is more valuable than the A+, or Network+.
- Network+ : like the A+, and Security+, can be a legal requirement. This is easier to get than either the A+ or Sec+. Does a decent job of covering the basics of networking. The stuff you learn studying for the Net+ is very useful for other certs, including the Sec+.
17) Skills acquired in an IT job are often not transferrable. Even when the skills acquired in one job are similar to skills required in a job that is being advertised. For example, skills acquired as an AIX UNIX sysadmin, may mean nothing to an employer looking to hire a Solaris UNIX sysadmin.
18) Many skills are too specific to a particular job, at a particular company, to be of much value anywhere else. Still you can claim experience in “tech support” or whatever. Which is better than nothing.