Career Coach - 12

Career Coach is a column that gives IT professionals a chance to pose questions about training, certification, salaries or any other career-related issues to eWEEKs panel of IT managers, hiring and training experts.

Dear Career Coach: I am a 29-year-old professionally trained programmer (C++, VB, COM) with a Project Management Professional certification and a bachelors degree in computer science, with some graduate school work under my belt. I have been groomed through the ranks for the past 10 years, beginning with small development projects and progressing to larger, more complex enterprise projects.

Recently, I was laid off, and I am now looking for a new job. In my new job search, I have noticed that human resources staff—and, quite frankly, most hiring managers--do not appreciate the combined experience that comes with project management experience and development skills.

My concern is whether or not I should completely drop one skill set or the other from my résumé and job search. Development houses dont care if you have project skills. Management teams think that you dont have enough management skill if you have technical info on your résumé. Whats your advice? --Wes Tapp

Brian Jaffe

Career Coach: BRIAN D. JAFFE

The first thing you need to do is figure out what your own career objective is. Do you want to be a hands-on developer? Or, do you want to be a manager? Once youve decided that, you can re-write your resume so that it supports your goals by showcasing your experience and skills in that area. Of course, if youre undecided, you can do what many other people do by having two different resumes and submitting one or the other depending on the job posting youre interested in.

Dont overlook the possibility that your existing resume is confusing the human resources staff. Very often, they are the first people to see your resume, and will do the initial screening. They may not know a thing about the field of IT, but they are deciding which resumes get rejected immediately and which get passed on for further consideration. If the HR person is looking for a developer, it is entirely likely that any resume that isnt obviously a developer is promptly moved to the reject pile. The HR person may be making these decisions by doing nothing more than looking for a few key terms, phrases and buzzwords that were provided by the hiring manager.

It would seem that an ideal pursuit would be for you to aim for a position as a manager of development projects. This incorporates the experience, skills sets and expertise you currently have. If you follow this course, you will want to include some reference to your technical background, but you will want to soften it. Such a resume should not have a laundry list of technical terms, listing every version of every development tool youve used. Instead, reference a few key technical terms in describing the projects youve worked on. And, phrase those project activities in the perspective of a project manager, not as a coder. For example, instead of coded an API for an ODBC driver used by a C++ routine, you could say managed a project team to develop an interface to integrate legacy databases with newly installed ERP system.

When youre searching for a job, youre essentially selling yourself. If the potential buyer cant figure out what youre selling, theres no way hes gonna buy it.

Brian D. Jaffe is a contributing editor for eWEEK and can be reached at brian@red55.com.