Careers advice: Balancing tech and business skills

Careers advice: Balancing tech and business skills

Advice about balancing tech and soft skills, job satisfaction, résumés and youth vs. experience

Trust is not about being nice and agreeing to do everything as asked. In fact, it can mean getting in people's faces, when warranted, to figure out the right answer for your company. Bring bad news up quickly, and don't hide it. Your colleagues, boss, partners and customers will learn to trust you'll do as you say. They'll see you can practice your art of IT in delivering a solid solution, in time. That let's them do their job reliably.

Believe it or not, that's a rare and highly prized skill. You'll go far.

What do you look for on resumes when you're trying to fill positions? Actually, I don't spend a lot of time reading resumes. I use headhunters and recruiters to filter through the online media. We talk about the makeup of the individual, the role we need filled and the types of accomplishments we'd like to see as evidence they can fulfill the role. When I finally do get a resume, the first thing I look for are typos or malformed sentences. If I find any, the resume gets tossed. Next, I look for a solid formal education. Finally, I examine the roles and responsibilities and see if they provide the evidence we seek. Then the real fun begins -- a formal interview process, where coders get to code, architects get to architect, etc.

A year ago, I received a bachelor's degree in computer science and now I am one semester away from getting an MBA. My problem is age. I am in my mid 50s, and I find there are very few, if any, companies willing to hire someone in my age group. My experience ranges from working on mainframe computers for Sperry and then Unisys, for almost 14 years to owning my own manufacturing company for 15 years. The lone interview I have had was with a large utility company, and as I left, the HR representative commented that they were looking for someone younger with no corporate experience. I would like to know what my options are. Do I have a chance to re-enter the computer field, or am I doomed to shoveling concrete as I did after being discharged from the Navy many years ago? If you see yourself as doomed to shovel concrete, that's what you'll do. If you see people as reluctant to hire you because of your age, that's what you'll experience. Yes, that's rough. We get what we expect.

Change your perspective. It's very important that you focus on what you want to do, where you want to go, then on your history or the ugly alternatives of unemployment. Age is a state of mind. You offer what young college graduates cannot. You combine an experience rich with teamwork, organisational behavior, proven entrepreneurial drive, business management... all topped with the latest in computer science technology. The HR person you met sounds like a loser. Don't let the losers pull you down. Instead, package all you have to offer, attack the opportunities with the vigor of youth, expect to beat others hands down. Guess what? It works. You will win.

Think. If you were a hiring manager, what sets you apart as a candidate? What value can you drive for a corporation that a recent college grad can't touch? If you're working for a younger boss, imagine how your experience and help him or her succeed in their role.

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