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September 1999
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Transitions: Relocation and internal moves

How can I successfully relocate? And how can I transfer within my IS organization without creating bad blood?

The focus this month is on transitions of various natures. One advice seeker wants to relocate and restart a stalled career; another individual's dilemma involves transferring to a different department within a company's IS structure. Meanwhile, one undergrad is trying to adjust CS studies -- which road leads to job security, systems programming or applications programming? (1,800 words)


By Edgar Saadi
Dear Edgar,

I have 19 years of IT experience, 12 in project management and 7 as a CIS professor. I also have a BS in MIS and an accredited MBA.

During my career, I have consistently implemented projects that are ahead of schedule, under budget, and error-free. I have been able to deliver high levels of satisfaction and quality, and my ability to visualize also lead to the development of the barcoding of driver's licenses now used by most states. I am currently the IT strategic planning coordinator of a Fortune 100 company. My technical background is with mainframe and client/server systems as a project lead, not a programmer.

Now for the advice needed: I am interested in changing positions because I would like to relocate, but have not received many responses from my resume. I realize that the tree gets smaller as you get closer to the top and that the competition for managers and directors is intense. However, it is hard for me to understand the poor response, since my resume is expertly written and salary has never been discussed. What could be wrong?

Stalled Career

Dear Stalled Career,

Changing positions can be a time-consuming process and, when you're making a geographic change as well, there will always be an extra level of difficulty. If you're unfamiliar with the area and you don't know the companies to which you are applying, chances are they don't know you either. So, even if your resume is a masterpiece, the task will not be quick and easy.

Before applying for any new job, it is important to first take an inventory of what you have achieved so far, what you want to accomplish now, and what your objectives are for the future. Once you have that sorted out, it's time to get it all down on a piece of paper. Your resume is the best vehicle to accurately describe your career history, skills, and accomplishments. At the same time, realize that your resume is only a means to an end -- its purpose is to get you an interview, so that you can prove yourself in person.

We have found that a chronological resume works best in highlighting your successes. Also, your cover letter should include a summary of your resume combined with your objectives for your next career move. When future employers review your cover letter and resume, they should have a clear picture of who you are on paper, what you want your next career step to be, and what you can bring to their organization.

You mention that your resume is expertly written; it is hard for me to comment on that since I haven't seen it. If you are not receiving good responses, perhaps you should revisit this document and show it to friends, colleagues, or a recruiter who looks at resumes on a regular basis.

Once you are absolutely confident that your resume correctly reflects your skills and objectives, it's time to look at your target location. What companies are predominate in the area? Where and in what industries is the growth sector? Research on the Internet and speaking to contacts in the area are two ways to compile this information; but sometimes the most effective way is to contact recruiters in the area to pick their brains and find out whether and how they may be able to assist.

Although your skills may be in demand in many areas, they may not be in the location where you are applying. This may seem like a basic question, but is there a big computer industry where you are looking to relocate? Are there a lot of technical people there? Are there too many for the number of jobs?

Perhaps the hardest part of this whole process is getting your resume into the hands of the right people. You want it in the hands of hiring managers and technical directors -- not sitting in a pile of papers in the HR department, next to the resumes of people applying for administrative and customer-support jobs. Most people at your level are represented by search firms or recruiters, particularly when they are looking for jobs in areas where they do not have a lot of contacts.

Once you have viable companies targeted and have started sending out your polished resume, it's time to start following up with phone calls, letters, and email, and setting up meetings. The resume itself is rarely enough to land an interview. Be prepared to finance a trip or two to the area to meet with companies. Not all employers are willing to fly in potential candidates for interviews or are prepared to offer relocation assistance. It is important to realize that you are competing against a pool of local talent as well.

You want to make every attempt to show why you are the best candidate for the position and that this transition will go as smoothly as possible. Once the offers start to come in, you may have more room to negotiate relocation assistance, signing bonuses, etc. Again, this is where an experienced recruiter can help out. With plenty of preparation and a well-conceived plan of attack, changing positions and locations can be an exciting and successful undertaking.

Making an internal move

Hello Edgar,

While surfing for career information, I found links to your articles. Currently, I am faced with some hard choices in my career. I did not have any professional experience in the industry before taking my current job, which involves network systems monitoring. I have used all available opportunities for training and learning, however, and have become quite proficient in the position. But the job has moved well beyond monitoring, and I am suffering from burnout right now.

My supervisor and I have grown with the position and our willingness to go above and beyond to increase our knowledge and marketability has now become the expected norm by which the department is judged. There is a current reorganization of my company's IS departments, and this has caused some problems for me. The LAN group is being transformed into a network group responsible for the entire enterprise. My supervisor will probably be offered a position in the new group to train these people in WAN and other parts of the enterprise unfamiliar to them.

Our manager and the senior manager of the entire department have expressed their hopes that I will assume my immediate supervisor's position. Already suffering from some burnout, I have applied for a position in our data communications department (which is also under the senior manager mentioned earlier).

My manager has offered to evaluate and adjust the role she wants me to fill, but my current feelings are that I do not want this role at all. Most people I speak to feel this move would be at best a lateral transition, because I have built a good set of troubleshooting and problem resolution skills (for issues involving WAN, routers, frame relay, LAN, LAN/WAN, and the overall picture) in my current position. I feel the move to data communications that I'd prefer would give me the more detailed experience I was lacking when I was hired and have not had the ability to expand due to my role in monitoring and managing the enterprise. The new role would include both project management and data communications design and implementation.

Both jobs are in the same organization, and I do not want to create any bad blood, but I feel I may leave my company entirely if forced to stay in my current field.

Any input would be helpful!


Dear Unsure,

You are not in an enviable position; however, there is a solution. It seems that you have decided that the supervisor position is not in line with your career path. It is never a good idea to take a job that you do not want. Instead, I recommend that you once again express your interest in the job you really want and explain to your senior management that you would be happier and more productive in the position that interests you.

Make it clear that you understand that stepping into your former supervisor's role is great opportunity, but not in line with your career goals. Most employers should realize that forcing an employee to do a job in which he or she is not interested is not a good idea. If you are up-front, they will most likely not force the issue.

Once you have passed this hurdle, go to the next step and ask to be transferred into the data communications department, stating that this is where you really want to be if there are openings. The risk you run here is that there may not be openings waiting for you there, so be prepared to address this point. Assuming there is a spot there waiting for you, then get your management's commitment, transition your current responsibilities ASAP to someone else, and make your move.

What you will want out of this meeting is a firm transition date, a guarantee that this will not affect your employment with the company, and the support of all managers involved in the meeting. If they cannot give you all three, your should question your future with this employer.

Systems vs. applications programming

Dear Edgar,

I'm an undergraduate in computer science, and I'm having some trouble choosing between pursuing systems or applications programming. My preference is to choose whichever provides the best job security. My concern with regard to applications programming is that it can be automated too easily (vis a vis very high level languages). On the other hand, I am hesitant to focus on systems programming because our computer science curriculum focuses mainly on software rather than firmware issues, and I don't want to go into the marketplace soft on firmware knowledge. Do you think these are relevant concerns? Do you have any words that might help me?

On the Fence

Dear On the Fence,

The distinction between systems programming and applications programming is not a clear-cut one anymore. For instance, an applications programmer who's working on a user interface frontend for his application will need to understand the concept of how the display devices work.

As an undergraduate, you should put more emphasis on mastering concepts instead of following a particular route. You should concentrate on obtaining a good foundations in data structures and algorithms, object-oriented concepts, compilers, operating systems, networking, and database concepts.

If you have a good knowledge of the concepts along with a mastery of C/C++, you're well equipped to handle most programming tasks with flexibility.

[Edgar Saadi] About the author
[Pencom Interactive] Edgar Saadi is senior vice president of Pencom Systems Inc., the largest open systems/advanced systems recruiting firm in the US. In his many years in high technology staffing, Edgar has helped guide the careers of thousands of open systems professionals. Visit the Pencom Career Center, featuring the new online trends magazine Tech-It-Out! and the new 1999 Interactive Salary Guide.

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