5 Ways to Be Passively Proactive in Your Career

Scenario 1: It’s been one of those days, weeks or months and you have had enough. You feel stagnant, frustrated or stifled, and you realize, it’s time for a change.

Scenario 2: You’re content at your current job, but would be willing to make a move if the right opportunity lands in your lap.5 Ways to Passively Be Proactive in Your Career

Activating a passive job search will allow for the career advancement you desire without getting in the way of your current position. So, where do you start?

As a Recruiting Manager, I have seen many candidates struggle with how to be proactive with their career and succeed in their current role simultaneously. The following steps take very little time and effort, and will not distract from your current job.

  1. Set up job alerts
    Instead of posting your resume online and getting flooded by recruiter emails, set up job alerts on job boards such as Indeed, Simply Hired and Dice. Once you set up the search criteria, you can choose the types of jobs emailed to you at the frequency you want. This is an easy way to see what’s out there without having to spend time searching.

  2. Use LinkedIn to its full advantage
    If you’re making changes to your LinkedIn profile and don’t want others to see them, you can turn off activity broadcasts in your privacy & settings. Spend some time beefing up your profile. Then, go ask your previous colleagues for recommendations and/or introductions on LinkedIn. Make sure to include a professional picture and as much detail as possible. Join groups that pertain to your profession to make more connections. Share articles regularly to stay top of mind in your network and show that you’re a subject matter expert.

  3. Network the right way
    Find user groups in your city that relate to your skill set. If you haven’t been to a user group before, it might seem intimidating at first, especially to an introvert. But spending one evening a month with likeminded people to hear topics of interest to you isn’t a bad deal. Plus, a lot of people who are hiring attend these events and just might have that perfect opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

  4. Keep up with companies that interest you
    Even if you’re not actively looking for a job now, you can still keep up with companies that you would potentially be interested in working for someday. Follow target companies online (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and see who you know there. If you find old colleagues working there, ask them to circulate your resume just in case a job does come available.

  5. Maintain regular contact with a recruiter
    Keep up with a recruiter that knows exactly what job you would pack up and leave for. Good recruiters will listen to your criteria and match it with opportunities that help you achieve your goals. Tell them exactly what you want and let them do the work for you. Recruiters are often aware of openings not posted to the general public. They can help you apply confidentially. If you don’t know anyone to call, ask your previous colleagues for recommendations.

I once worked with a candidate who was feeling stifled, because she had reached the top of her pay grade in her current position. She got my name and number from a neighbor of hers that had worked with me. We met for coffee and she shared with me exactly where she would like to see her career go. She had a great deal of ambition and wanted to go somewhere that would allow her to thrive. Her timing was great, because we had a client looking for someone with her exact skill set. This client company could offer her the ladder of advancement that her current company could not. We presented her resume directly to the hiring manager and after several rounds of interviews, she landed the job. Within a very short period of time, she started her dream job. It can be that easy.

If you’re not getting what you need in your position at your current company, be proactive and go after something new. If you’re comfortable where you are now, but also open to “the perfect job”, these steps are probably worth the minimal time required. What are you waiting for?

About the Author: 

Beth Pavelka is the Manager of Recruiting in our RTP office. Her expertise includes hiring, training and leading a team of highly motivated Recruiters in the Research Triangle Park area of NC. The Recruiting team’s mission is to connect IT professionals with outstanding and career-changing opportunities. We strive to form strategic partnerships with our clients and candidates to help them solve problems and achieve success.

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Job Seeker

4 Things I Wish I Knew at the Start of My IT Career

Recently, a friend challenged me to share four things I wish I’d known back when I started in my IT career. The only hard part was paring the list down to just four items.

I think back to 15 years ago, when I was working retail and desperately seeking something else. Something I could really get into. Some kind of work I was passionate about. On a dare, I took the A+ computer certification exam and passed it, and embarked on a career that has led me to where I am today. Although I miss some of the aspects of that guy I was 15 years ago – bold, fearless, with boundless dreams and ambition – I also wish I could go back and teach my younger self a few things I’ve learned since then.

Failure is a part of growth.

I used to worry a lot more about failure. I feared that a big failure would end my career, but also worried about day-to-day failures – small mistakes that everyone makes. I worried that I’d say or do something stupid out of ignorance, and that would be the thing I would forever be remembered for. It rarely works that way. In most cases, a person’s career is not measured by their biggest misstep; rather, it is an aggregate of every success and failure – and the attitude they have about those successes and failures. Failing on the job is a part of the growth process. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” A misstep is only a failure if you don’t learn from it.

You can’t be an expert in everything.4 Things I Wish I'd Known Back Then

During my first year in IT, I was convinced that I was going to be some kind of technical demigod, and I set out to learn everything about everything – programming, databases, network administration, routing and switching, even Microsoft Access. You name the technology from the late 1990s, and I probably had a book on it – and intended to master it. There’s nothing wrong with learning, and to this day I still work regularly to learn about areas outside of my own specialization. But I wish I’d known back then that maintaining deep expertise in so many different technical topics is exceedingly difficult if not impossible. I wish I had realized that there’s far more demand for someone who does just a few things, but does them better than 98% of other practitioners of the same craft.

Don’t just have goals. Have a next set of goals.

There was a time fairly recently where I was stuck in the mud. I was still doing the work I enjoyed, but for a time I was doing it without a real purpose. Why? I had met all of the career goals I had set years ago, and I was working largely without a personal charter. While that’s a great problem to have, I really hadn’t planned for the contingency of completing those objectives. I wish I could go back and tell myself to be a bit more optimistic about my goals, and to list out another set to be met later, and another after that, and so forth. Like anything else, goals should be flexible enough to allow you to adapt to changes in the marketplace and your own desires and place in life. Those goals will be different for everyone, but whatever they are for you, those milestones are critical for measuring progress and challenging yourself to press onward.

4 Things I Wish I'd Known Back Then

Your technical skills don’t matter as much as you think they do.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was still a great deal of truth behind the antisocial geek stereotype. One could be a reasonably successful technologist and stay hidden away from the front lines of end user interaction. And I fell into that trap for a while, spending virtually no time honing my interpersonal or speaking skills and just working to refine my technical abilities. While the ability to deliver technical solutions is important, being able to talk to people (both one-on-one as well as in a presentation setting) and understand their business and its pain points is critical for the success of the modern technologist. I’d love to go back and tell my younger self: Continue to work on your technical skills, but get out of the server room occasionally and talk to people. Learn about their jobs, and what causes them grief. Understand how to not just build technical components, but how to solve real business problems.

In short, the advice I would give my younger self – or more practically, advice that I would give those just starting their IT careers – could be summed up as follows:

  • Failures are acceptable, as long as you learn from them
  • Find and maintain focus
  • Set short-term and long-term goals
  • Develop those soft skills
About the Author: 

Tim Mitchell is a business intelligence consultant, author and trainer. He has been working with SQL Server for over a decade, working primarily in business intelligence, ETL/SSIS, data quality, and reporting. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M at Commerce, and has been a Microsoft SQL Server MVP since 2010. Tim is an independent business intelligence consultant and a partner with Linchpin People, and is the principal at Tyleris Data Solutions.

As an active member of the community, Tim has spoken at international, regional and local venues including the SQL PASS Summit, SQLBits, SQL Connections, SQL Saturday, various user groups and webcasts. Tim is coauthor of the book SSIS Design Patterns and is a contributing author on the charity book project MVP Deep Dives 2.

You can visit his website and blog at TimMitchell.net or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Tim_Mitchell.

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Job Seeker

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Jaynee Beach

In addition to getting to know our consultants, we also want to highlight our internal employees here at MATRIX. Follow along with our new blog series to hear our team members' stories. Today’s spotlight tells the incredible story of Jaynee Beach, Sr Delivery Manager in Houston, TX.

Jaynee BeachTell us a little about yourself.
I grew up on a farm in Willamette Valley, Oregon. I was married to a man in the Air Force, so I ended up doing my undergrad at four different colleges. It took me ten years to finish, and when I did, I was pregnant with my fourth daughter. It was the 80s, and I was working as a consultant to pay for school. I went door-to-door recommending hardware and software services. "Oh, you don't have a computer in your office? Let me show you how having one can help you." This job offered flexibility, which I needed as a mother of four going to college. I finally got my Bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science, and then went on to get my Master's degree in cognitive psychology.

What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
In high school and college, I drove a pea combine-harvester. The food company that contracted farmers was hesitant to hire me because I was a girl, and I ended up being the first female they ever hired. The job was a 12-hour shift, but transportation from the plant to the field made it a 14-hour day. The boss there at the time said women didn’t have the stamina for that. I told him that I grew up on a farm and had experience laying irrigation pipe. He told me to prove it, and when I did, I got the job.

I also got recruited for a unique job while I was a project manager at Bell Helicopter. They needed a woman to record the new advisory system in the cockpit because pilots respond more rapidly to a woman's voice. I was the only woman on the team, which is how I got to be who pilots refer to as "Bitchin' Betty". So for any pilot flying a Cobra helicopter, I'm the last voice they hear before crashing.Bayou City Chorale at Carnegie Hall

What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I sing with the Bayou City Women's Chorus. In May 2013, I performed with the Bayou City Chorale and local elementary school choirs onstage at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The cherry on top was that my youngest daughter was also in the chorus and got to sing onstage beside me. Probably one of my favorite moments in life.

In addition to the chorus, I spend my free time cycling and running. I am riding in the MS150 for the fifth time next month. This is where we ride our bicycles from Houston to Austin to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. It’s actually 186 miles, and it takes us 2 days to do it. I also run a 200-mile relay with my family every year. Last year, our team name was “Beach Bodies in M’Ocean”. Both of my teams are pictured below crossing the finish line together from each event. I love these pictures because they're a great illustration of “Cross the Line”, our theme at MATRIX this year. This refers to the importance of our entire Houston team crossing the line together (also borrowed from Agile principles where a team only succeeds if they succeed as a team.)

Oh and I have flown airplanes, as well as jumped out of them.

     MS150 Team Finish     Jaynee Beach family relay

How did you get to your current career in the Agile realm?
I started using Scrum and Agile methodologies back in 2004. My favorite thing about Agile is that it's all about the user; it focuses on the person, not the system. I had a great experience in 2012 when I was living in Germany and working for XING (basically the German LinkedIn.) The entire company is Agile - every employee did it. No one needed coaching, it was just the only way to do business over there. I returned to Houston after that, and reconnected with a friend who had previously helped me start the Fort Worth Agile Leadership Network chapter. My friend invited me to a Rally Software event in 2013, where I met several of the MATRIX Agile practitioners. That meeting led me to where I am today.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
My five daughters, all whom have graduated college (one is still in school). Their father left when my oldest was 12 and my youngest was 1. They have all grown up to be incredible women. People ask me how I managed going to school for my Master’s degree as a single mom of 5 girls. There's no big secret. I just woke up every morning and did it again.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone?
Show up with your whole self and persist.

About the Author: 

Jennifer Bradley is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Inside an Agile Recruiting Organization

I am blessed with a really sweet gig. My role entails setting and implementing our delivery plan for the western region, managing a fast-growing nationwide intern sourcing program, and serving as the product owner for Bullhorn from a sales & recruiting perspective. However, what I enjoy most right now, is being in the trenches of our Dallas branch operation. And here in the craziness of Dallas, amongst double digit IT job growth and huge corporate relocations, you will find an agile recruiting organization in its truest form.MATRIX Agile Recruiting

First, some quick background. Our Dallas operation is large and very complex. We have 20 recruiters and five sourcers supporting 12 account managers. The team is mature, talented and very well respected by our competitors, customers and candidates. On any given day we are managing between 250-300 open IT jobs across 75-100 customers. We focus exclusively on IT within Dallas/Fort Worth and are very relationship-driven. Sure, we work the big boy VMS accounts, but the majority of our energy is spent on relationship-driven business.

The reason I detail our structure is to show that what works for us may not work for you. Agile recruiting in a smaller firm or in a corporate setting will not compare apples to apples. As a business leader, after doing the right thing, my number one responsibility is to maximize our margin opportunity. That means the way we prioritize may look very different than what you do. Finally, let me point out you need to have great recruiters. The best strategy around will not overcome weak or complacent recruiting. However, regardless of your current situation, I hope you can take a few things away that will help your recruiting team be more effective.

Our agile recruiting process starts with the backlog. For us, the backlog equals job orders- the positions our customers want to fill. Each day, twice a day, our leadership team grooms the backlog. This is the process of prioritizing our open jobs. It is a complex formula based upon past success, future opportunity, quality of relationships, feasibility, margin opportunity and on and on and on. For those of you who know our business, it is really just working closest to the money. How can we manage and guide a large, diverse team to efficiently work closest to the money today?

After the morning backlog grooming, we move into our daily stand-up. The scrum version of a hot job meeting, minus the account managers, that takes no more than 15 minutes of the recruiter’s time. Jobs, skillsets and focus are all assigned. We point out what has been accomplished in the previous sprint and what impediments are holding us back from locating the persona- the ideal candidate our customer wants to hire. Everyone walks out with a clear plan for the day and an understanding of what will define that day’s success. We then are in our sprint, which for us is defined as a one-day recruiting cycle on a job or skillset.

We track all of this on two large scrum boards visible for all to see. Jobs are constantly moving across the board, communicating their place in process and necessary next steps. The board gives you scary accurate insight into exactly what is happening in real time (Bullhorn does this in a very sexy way as well).

The afternoon backlog grooming session is not followed by a second stand-up. It is almost our version of a retrospective but not in the traditional sense of agile. Instead, this session is used by leadership to evaluate progress and drive next steps. Leadership analyzes the burndown charts, which means we are inspecting documented activity on assigned and focus job orders. The analysis will lead to next steps. Do we need more recruiting focus? Do we need feedback on submittals? Have we confirmed and prepped the interview? What is our next step on completed interview? And so on. Typically this session is more focused on driving account managers to complete needed next steps and drive activity into real revenue. This session also allows us to determine our velocity. In other words, we can anticipate our capacity to recruit and cover more jobs tomorrow. Subsequently, these details directly affect the formula we use to determine what will be the focus and what will be assigned in tomorrow’s stand-up.

And tomorrow, well, tomorrow we do it again. I may get some flack internally for sharing our “secret sauce”. But really, these are no secrets. They are the same fundamentals of the staffing industry that have worked for years and years, just executed under the agile methodology. And you have to have the right team to execute. That is why so many companies have tried to implement agile and failed. Don’t blame it on the methodology….

About the Author: 

Justin Thomason is the Regional Director of Recruiting at MATRIX. His expertise includes hiring, training, and leading world class recruiting organizations. With a focus on innovative delivery strategies, Justin's recruiting teams specialize in leveraging social media to develop lasting relationships with talented IT professionals.

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MATRIX Consultant Spotlight: Ritu Banga

At MATRIX, we emphasize that our company is all about the people. On the outside, it appears that we employ software engineers, web designers, project managers, business analysts, support technicians, and so on.

This is technically true. But what we don’t advertise is that we also employ mothers, grandfathers, soccer coaches, marathon runners, world travelers, musicians, painters, community servants and so much more. Our consultants aren’t defined by their job titles. They each have a story and this blog will tell their stories.

Our first spotlight is on Ritu Banga, a Business Systems Analyst at one of our clients in North Carolina.

MATRIX Consultant Spotlight: Ritu Banga

Tell us about yourself.
I moved here from India seven years ago. My whole family still lives there so I only get to see them every few years. I have a Shih-Tzu puppy named Nawaab. At eight months old, he knows 23 commands and is still learning. Outside of work, I spend a lot of time reading and watching the news. There are always so many articles and new things coming up; I’m always reading. I am also a foodie. I love to try new foods and restaurants, and to cook at home. I enjoy watching good movies, spending time with friends and exploring new places. I always keep a positive attitude and celebrate each and every moment of my life with passion. I am truly blessed in both my personal and professional life and I don’t take it for granted.

How did you get your start in IT?
While I have a Master’s degree in Mathematics, I never expected to have a career in IT. After I graduated, I worked as a Teacher’s Assistant but didn’t feel challenged enough. Since I knew computers and had a mathematics background, I started with manual QA testing. The first year of my transition to IT was filled with learning, networking and a lot of hard work. I was motivated by my parents and colleagues, whom all believed in me and encouraged me. My background in mathematics really helped me land my first job. My specialty was coming up with tricks that saved clients hours of extra work. I took programming and management classes in community college to enhance my skills. Even now I’m working on my PMP. As an IT professional, the learning doesn’t stop. I’m taking classes every year to enhance myself. This industry gives you so many opportunities to grow, you just have to find them.

What would be your advice to someone thinking about getting into IT consulting?MATRIX Consultant Spotlight: Ritu Banga
Sometimes there are no second chances. Either do it now or don’t do it at all. I was not ready to go into it because I loved being a math teacher. However, if you want to learn, if you want to be creative, if you want to grow day by day, you have to get into information technology. This is one industry that is unceasing. It’s a never-ending chapter of a never-ending book with volumes and volumes.

What do you like most about consulting?
Getting to work with different clients and learning new technologies. Every company works differently. As a consultant, you have the ability to transfer yourself from one environment to another. You learn how to be flexible by moving around a lot.

What has been the most challenging part of your career?
Working on two projects simultaneously. However, being in a nice environment at work has helped. It has really taught me patience. I have such great colleagues and leaders at work; they are so helpful and let me work from home or at odd hours if I need to. In my first eight months on the job, I never took a day off. I have to always stay focused. It can sometimes be challenging to maintain work, my personal life and still be creative at the same time.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Being able to work in so many different roles – starting as a QA tester and getting to my current role as a business systems analyst. Thinking about where I started at my current company to where I am now...all my hard work has paid off. I have experienced so much growth in the last few years. I’ve learned many new technologies and my confidence has grown every day.

About the Author: 

Jennifer Bradley is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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