Make yourself known
"Give yourself the opportunity to become known, through a number of different channels. You could speak at industry events, you could hook up with your own internal media or PR folks and let them know you want to get your knowledge out there, and a third thing is if you have the ability to write, become a letter-to-the-editor or op-ed writer in trade magazines, letting people know what you think," Lanzalotto said.
Lanzalotto gave some other ways outside the traditional work cycle IT professionals can get their names known.
"This is my irreverent advice: Go find an opportunity to do pro bono work. You could do this a number of ways in IT, through a nonprofit that needs IT expertise, as nonprofits almost always need technology help. If you are less experienced, many Chambers of Congress have business and arts development programs that can connect you with philanthropic organizations that can help get you trained on doing lower-level pro bono work," he said.
Aside from the satisfaction of helping groups that need it, such experience broadens a workers skill base, making him or her a more appealing candidate.
"All of this will make you a better technologist, as it puts you in a different environment than you are used to day to day. Plus, you get to show that you are a little more diversified than the average candidate," Lanzalotto said.
Refresh your personal connections
If you know someone at a company where you would like to work, this is the time to give them a call.
"The holidays are a great time to position yourself for the next opportunity. Go out there and make sure that youre extending your network through systematic and periodic communication. Talk to the people that have been important in your career and when you connect with them, find out what the market is like and where the opportunities are," said Sean Ebner, vice president of professional services with a specialization in technology, for Spherion, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Ebner noted that the right references can carry a lot of weight when a worker is lined up against equally worthy candidates.
"Its increasingly important to have excellent references. Nowadays, interviewers ask to speak to not just people you have worked for, but people who have worked for you, so keep in touch with these people."
Focus your search
Most recruiters and hiring agents agree that sending resumes in blindly to companies gets applicants the least amount of attention, if any. Using a personal connection to get introduced to the right people, on the other hand, makes a lasting impression.
"Just sending in a cold resume doesnt help that much these days. When resumes come in, they usually end up in a drawer somewhere, but if someone makes an introduction, if someone can make a third-party referral for you, first, the monkey is off their back and second, it also shows that you have a focused interest in that company," Andy Zaleta, a partner at Boston-based Battalia Winston, told eWEEK.
A second way to focus a job hunt it to find out who is looking.
"Reading all of the trade magazines [and] newspapers will help find out whats going on in the industry. Too often people go into the job search game and they dont know whats going on because theyve been out of the hunt for five to seven years. If so-and-so company is implementing SAP, odds are, theyre going to need help," Drum said.
Finally, even something as simple as getting to know some recruiters who work with key companies can help IT professionals get in the door, and even get a job hunter the first call when something opens up.
"I know this sounds biased, but candidates should know who the people in the industry are that hire for these companies, and which recruiters they work with," Drum said. "We try to create opportunities for strong candidates. If we know a client is trying to build global SAP and they may not need [an applicant] yet, but they will in the future, we ask them to keep this person in mind," Drum said.
Your resume should always be ready
When that call comes in about an opening for a perfect job, the worst response is, "Sure … er, can I get you my resume, er, tomorrow?" If the job hunters resume had been frequently updated, the response would have sounded like this: "Ill have it in your inbox in 5 minutes." Which candidate sounds ready for the next big thing?
"Dont just dust it off," Zaleta said. "Resumes should be updated once a year, whether you are looking or not. You should look back and say, What have I accomplished this year thats out of the ordinary? What sets me apart? When did I go above and beyond? and incorporate it into the resume or cover letter. People tend to overlook this regular updating, and just grab the old dusty one and send it off," he said.
Its even better to look beyond resumes, and be able to quickly reel off your skills, selling yourself in an interview, experts said.
"Put together a skills inventory, everything you know how to do and every program you have a proficiency in. In the end, resumes are just pieces of paper, but if youre proactive, youll know just what to say when called into interviews," Drum said.