Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A word of advice for job-seekers

This is a response I wrote (their edited version of it) regarding an article Zeichick’s Take: Developer jobs and the market, on how do job-seekers find jobs in today's economy. It was posted in Letters To The Editor, Software Development Times, October 1, 2010

Alan Zeichick, regarding your question, in your Aug. 30 take (, “What do you tell job hunters in this economy?” The answer is simple... Move!

The answer sounds ridiculous. Why move without a job first? But when I say move, I don’t necessarily mean move physical locations (though that will eventually require a physical move). I mean move your job search to a different, low population area of living.

For these last 10+ years, I’ve worked at the Center for the Application of Information Technologies, Western Illinois University. The Center is located in the rural town of Macomb Ill., past corn fields 70 miles from several major surrounding cities (Quad Cities, Peoria, Springfield, Quincy), and other mid-size cities. It’s also a four-hour drive south from Chicago.

One of the most challenging things our Center faces is finding, and wooing, potential employees. We are not able to attract and hire individuals that work in bigger areas for the following reasons, as has been told to us by actual candidates:
    1. “Your review process took too long!” (The government requires a certain length of time to keep a search open and review candidates, and it takes longer than a corporation that can close the search when it finds the right candidate.)
    2. “You do not pay as much as the corporate equivalent.”
    3. “I don’t want to work at a government job.”
    4. “You pay taxes out of your paycheck! And you won’t pay me more to compensate?”
    5. “You need to offer me as much as I would get for the same job in Chicago.”
    6. “Macomb is too small of a town.” (The candidate preferred to work in a large suburb of Chicago where the commute is more than an hour away every day.)

There are lots of jobs in small communities across the United States that require the expertise of people described in the article. But many of these people confine their job searching to these types:
    1. Jobs only located in their preferred area (usually excluding small towns where they never expect to find a job).
    2. Jobs only located in major cities.
    3. Jobs advertised in only major media (Monster, major newspapers).
    4. Jobs that pay a preferred minimum salary. The cost of living and quality of life of the area are never considered.

But there are benefits beyond the salary. Some of these are specific to the Center as an employer:
    1. Once you get a job by an employer like us, it is typically more secure than the corporate equivalent.
    2. Government benefits are guaranteed by the state constitution, and will remain even if the employer closes.
    3. Being a government agency, employees have non-taxed investment options.
    4. The non-financial benefits are better than the corporate equivalent. For our university, a few of these are:
      a. Six weeks paid paternity or maternity leave.
      b. Holidays are mandatory vacations not subtracted from your benefits.
      c. You earn two vacation days a month, and 12 sick days a year.
      d. You can save up to 48 vacation days, and you don’t have to earn seniority first.

    5. The working day is 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., five days a week. Corporations typically require more time per day, plus required overtime.
    6. The typical one-way drive to work for an employee is five minutes.
    7. The local school system is above par.
    8. There is a highway from Macomb to two major cities, and two more highways are being built.
    9. The cost of living is more than 30% lower than the Chicago suburbs.

I can go on about the benefits of working at small business, government and higher-education jobs. But employers like us are routinely overlooked because job-seekers draw a line in the sand: The financial compensation and location must meet their expectations, or forget it.

So I say to job-seekers who cannot find a job: Get out of your comfort zone! Move your job-seeking to a low-population area, don’t limit your search to what is given on major advertising channels.

If you stay in a crowded area, you become a dime-a-dozen and can be over looked for opportunity. But in our less dense areas, you are the big fish we have been hoping to catch... and you have more room to continue growing in your field of work than you think.

Russell E Glaue
Western Illinois University

Since the publication of this letter, I been asked via e-mail from readers a question like, "I have been using major job boards like Dice and Monster. Which job board sites do you suggest using to look for job opportunities in smaller communities?" My response to this question follows.
Searching for "Western Illinois University" will show you all of our available jobs.
The Federal Government's Official Jobs Site
Use this page to help you begin the process of applying for federal, state, or local government jobs.

To find other resources, search Google for "jobs government", "jobs local government", "jobs higher education", etc...

Avoid using major job boards like, and to look these kinds of jobs. The reason is because government agencies, non-private Colleges and Universities, small businesses, and non-profits will usually not post there due to the very high cost they cannot afford (unless they get desperate trying to find someone to fill a position). Those job boards were built and priced with commercial organizations in mind.

With the major job boards like Monster and Dice, it cost from $500 to $1000 to put up a single job posting. Major news papers are worse, as you only get into a single weekend news paper for $600, with a very tiny ad. A nice big ad will cost $1000+. Non-commercial entities just cannot throw away money like this when trying to hire the lower-totem-pole positions like Systems Administrator, Application Programmer, Quality Assurance/Life Cycle Analyst, etc. The money is just not there, and many times a government or higher-ed organization is restricted by rules and regulations from spending over a certain dollar amount. So one ad posting can use up a lot of the allocated dollars they have for hiring - and the Search Committee won't do that. Instead, the Search Committee will elect to post the job announcement in the job boards I listed above.