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Getting Ready for Your Next IT Gig

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

If you're considering pursuing new job opportunities in IT, start with this checklist of six things to do to prepare for the job hunt.

With a year of nearly 200,000 new jobs being added monthly to the workforce, and things looking up in IT, it's just a matter of time before some go-getters start thinking long and hard about the next job they might pursue or take on. But before you dash out the door looking for your next big thing, it's probably a good idea to go through some preliminary preparations first. And remember that you don't necessarily have to leave your current job to improve your situation or your salary. Part of the negotiation process should include going to your current boss and giving him or her a chance to top other offers before making any kind of exit. Read: Stuck in a Dead-End IT Job? Here's What You Can Do

How to Prepare for an IT Job Search

Let's say you've been in your current IT job for two, three, or maybe even four years. The economy has been tough, so there haven't been too many raises nor opportunities for advancement or promotion. And maybe the training budget has been a little light, so you haven't been able to get much (or any) support in maintaining current certifications or pursuing new ones.

Needless to say, if your situation fits this bill, you are probably considering some kind of exit options -- as you should be! But before you start posting your resume online, and getting the word out to your network that you're ready to make a move, consider this checklist of things to do to get ready to hunt for a new job.

1. Update Your LinkedIn Profile

Get up on LinkedIn, or update your existing profile. This is where professionals interact, and one of the first places recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals go to check out prospective candidates. Make sure your LinkedIn page reflect your goals, accomplishments, work history, education, and so forth. This should be a thoroughly professional online presence, so you may even want to spring for some professional headshots from a reputable portrait photographer (or arm-twist one of your pro photog buddies into upping your t-shirt and shorts look into something more buttoned-down). LinkedIn is also a great resource for job search tips, interviewing advice, best workplace practices, and a whole lot more, so it's worth putting plenty of time in to explore what's on offer, and dig into what catches your fancy.

2. Check Your Online Presence

Maybe it's time to take down some of you party photos and less mature funnies and frolics from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or wherever visual or digital evidence of your wild side may hide. Your online presence should offer prospective employers a professional look into your life.

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3. Update Your Resume

Dust off your resume and bring it up to date. Run it in front of at least half-a-dozen people you know and trust, and make sure it's clean of spelling and grammar errors, unwanted word choices, funky punctuation, and so forth. Keep it at or under two pages at all costs (one page is best). Consider dropping your headshot onto the first page, unless you've got reason to be concerned that the image might be harmful rather than helpful. Be prepared to tune and tweak your resume on a job-by-job basis, so that prospective employers will know you're thinking about them in particular, and not just carpet-bombing the Internet with the same resume for all positions.

Check out: The Secret to IT Resume Success: More $ and % Everywhere!

4. Share Your Publications

If you've published any articles, written any books, posted regularly to a blog, and so forth, consider creating a list of publications. This goes double if your job search includes positions that require writing work of any kind. Make sure titles are accurate, items are dated, and provide links for online materials (or to purchase pages on sites that sell books like Your LinkedIn profile now includes an area where you can include your publications and if you have the space on your resume, it might be worth listing the most notable works in there as well.

5. Practice Interviewing

Find yourself a mentor (or three) to help you prepare for and conduct your job search. Practice your interviewing techniques with them, and make sure they ask you lots of tough questions. Keep practicing until you can handle even the toughest encounters with a smile, and remain able to hang onto both your interest and self-confidence, and as much of your enthusiasm as the circumstances permit.

6. Research Prospective Employers

For any interview you land, learn everything you can about your prospective employer. Look for them in the recent news, especially financial news sources like Bloomberg, The Economist, or The Financial Times. Visit their websites to learn what kinds of products and services they offer, who their customer base is, and how they interact with those customers. Think about ways you can contribute to this mix, and always be ready to explain what you know, what you can do, what problems you've solved in the past, and what skills you possess that can bring value to their particular needs, situation, and customers. Prepare some questions for them based on what you learn, so when they ask you if you have any questions -- and they always will -- you can ask some really good ones.

Once you've knocked off this to-do list, then you can start spreading the word that you're ready for some new workplace opportunities and adventures. Having done the prep, and your homework, you can concentrate on working your personal and professional networks to let people know what you're looking for, and why you think hiring you makes sense for the jobs that interest you.

The old saying usually goes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the job hunt, that can easily be reworded to read "an ounce of preparation makes excellent bait to land pound after pound of good job offers." Good luck and have fun -- but please do your due diligence first!

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