Advice for Job-Seeking Data Professionals

The economy is a wreck and things will likely get worse before they improve. Unemployment is even worse; almost 600,000 jobs were lost in January 2009, sending the unemployment rate to 7.6%, the highest it has been in 16 years. So many data professionals are out there looking for their next challenge ... and more probably will be job hunting before the year is out.

With these dire statistics in mind, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer some advice and guidance to job seeking DBAs, data architects, and database programmers. The first bit of advice is this: If you have a job, keep it. Now is not the time to voluntarily become unemployed.

If you are actively seeking employment, the most important thing you can do is to build and feed your personal network. When you are out job seeking "who you know" is often more important than, or at least as important as, "what you know." Keep in touch with former colleagues (bosses and staffers), not just when you are looking for a job, but regularly on a collegial basis.

Social networking tools like LinkedIn and Facebook are invaluable solutions for assisting in this process. Keep your social network strong and make sure that you are connecting with people you actually know (and, perhaps, those you want to know). Join groups on these sites that can aid your job search. For example, I am a member of 30 different groups on LinkedIn, including alumni groups for former employers, data management related groups, and technology, conference, and professional groups.

Another useful LinkedIn feature is the endorsement. You can endorse colleagues in your network, and they can endorse you. These endorsements can help to build your profile and might help to encourage others to seek you out when they have employment opportunities.

When it comes to social networking sites, participate in the discussions and keep in touch with your network. Let them know that you are looking and maybe they'll help you land that next great job!

Networking face-to-face is also a great tactic. There are numerous opportunities to accomplish this, usually without requiring much cost or travel. Look in your area for user groups (such as DAMA meetings), seminars (conducted for free by vendors), and other activities where you can meet and mingle with data professionals. If you are in between jobs there is no reason for you to not take the time to seek out and participate in these events. Maybe even offer to give a presentation on an area of your expertise at one of these meetings. This will show your knowledge, as well as your ability to communicate, to prospective employers.

Another good idea is to build a personal website to list your accomplishments. Consider posting an online resume, but not as formal. List your past jobs and titles, as well as major accomplishments. And include a link to your website on your printed resume. Accomplishing all of this is not as difficult as it sounds, nor does it need to be expensive. You can create a blog using a service like for free. This puts some limitations on what your web presence will look like, but it is quick and the price is right. With a blog you can also publish your thoughts on industry trends and technologies, and perhaps build up a following. With enough useful content you could add Google AdWords and perhaps even earn a little money on your blog (with the emphasis on little).

What about getting a professional certification? Well, even though I'm not a huge fan of certification, taking some time to study and pass a certification in your area of expertise can be a worthwhile pursuit if you are unemployed. And sometimes it can be a difference-maker if you are up for the same job as someone who is not certified.

Finally, if you are out of work and just cannot find a suitable job, consider volunteering your services to a local charity instead of just zoning out in front of the television (or something equally as unproductive). Many charities and local organizations would welcome programming help or assistance building and maintaining their data. You might even be able to learn something new while helping out people in need. And then you can put that on your resume as professional experience.

The worst thing you can do, though, is nothing. Keep active. Build and utilize your network. Keep looking for opportunities to grow and learn. Read. Volunteer. And before you know it, you'll uncover that next great job opportunity. Good luck!