Ask Dave: I can’t find an IT job!

A user  messaged me on SpiceWorks about a job the other day. Overwhelmed here has a super-common problem. He’s working and wants to move up, but he’s having problems getting the next gig. This is usually due to an all online job search, which according to research, nets you a job about 5% of the time.

Here was his question:

Hey Dave,

You always have good advice when it comes to job searching. I believe we have talked before although it’s been a while. I’m stuck in a rut where I’m in a job that isn’t really giving me any more experience. I’m sort of half desktop support and half Windows sysadmin at my current job. I’m stuck in a semi rural part of Oklahoma so to find a job I must relocate to a larger city. Problem is that I’ve applied to a ton of jobs and never get anywhere with them.

I actually just interviewed for a position in Austin and made it to the final round, although I just found out today that I did not get the job. I’m aiming for a job that follows the natural progression of my career, which would be some kind of system administrator. Any tips on how to relocate and find a job? Right now my chances seem to be less than zero and I feel quite hopeless.

-Overwhelmed in Oklahoma


Here’s how I responded to him:

Hey, Overwhelmed. Sure, I’d be happy to help.

You definitely have some good things going on here. You’re in a position that gives you exposure as a SysAdmin and you’re willing to relocate. Based on what you’re telling me here, I want you to do 3 things.

1. Relax. I know you’re frustrated right now- and that’s normal. Everyone in any career goes through what you’re experiencing. You’re going to move to the next step. You will make it.

2. Look Inward. Probably 75% of job hunting is looking inward and understanding what is your “killer app”- what your highest contribution is right now in IT. Really quick-

Stop right now and grab a pen and a piece of paper. I want you to write down the last 5 times in your work that you did something that you got complimented on, officially recognized for, or that made you feel awesome.

Some of these things are going to help point you to what you’re best at- and the business problem you solve. The business problem you solve is why people hire you. Companies don’t hire you because you need a job- they hire you because you help take this pain away.

This process of discovery is not instant and you will always be revisiting it.

3. Focus on that job you want to get. I see that you’ve been turned down a bit, but probably heard a lot of *crickets* in this job hunt. The *crickets* part is likely from putting in applications into online portals, am I right?

Instead, do this:

Instead of tossing your resume into holes, I recommend targeting the jobs you want. You want to be a SysAdmin.

A. Make sure your resume reflects the best you have to offer. You may consider a resume writing service. Write a bangin’ cover letter that outlines the business pain you solve and how you can solve it for the organization. This cover letter will be specific in some ways to the org.

B. Start looking at 30 to 40 companies that you like in the city you want to work in (Austin?). You do not want your job search “eggs” all in one basket (one company). It helps a lot if you know the company and are passionate about their product, service, or mission.

C. Stalk the hiring manager on LinkedIn and find the address of where they work for each company. Do not email them, as tempting as it may be.

D. Send this resume with the cover letter stapled on top to this manager’s desk. No crazy paper, no elaborate folders.

E. Follow up within a week with a phone call to this manager. The majority of hiring decisions are made before 10am. If you get them in the afternoon, they may be groggy from lunch.

If you do this with the 30-40 companies, you will get interviews. Do nail these interviews, and you will get multiple offers.

If you’re having problems like this, definitely check out my guide on getting a job in IT.

What kind of success have you had with an alternative job search like this? Let me know in the comments.


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