Monday, April 27, 2009

Boost Your Salary: The Six Hottest High-Tech Jobs

by Amelia Gray,

If you're looking to bring your salary up to 21st century compliance, training in IT can take you there. It's a big, high-tech world out there, but with the right training, you can secure a challenging career in a growing field.

Top Career Training for Tech Jobs

Specialization is key in the high-tech world. Focus your interests on one element of the industry -- images, for example -- and you'll find yourself a range of opportunities for training and career advancement. Check out some of the hottest IT jobs around, and learn how you can use career training to prepare for them.

1. Systems Analyst
Stand at the front lines of a company's IT evolution as a systems analyst. This top IT career is expected to skyrocket through 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with about 140,000 careers for network systems and data communications analysts expected to enter the field. Salary is another perk, with analysts earning mean annual wages of $70,760 in 2007.
Career Training: Consider a bachelor's degree in management information systems, computer science, or information science.

2. Support
You're the guru in this job, which has you solving computer crashes and installation issues for multiple computers. IT support careers are valuable simply for their range. You may find work at a corporation's internal support desk, or steer towards retail or phone support. Computer support specialists saw mean annual wages of $45,300 in 2007, the BLS reports.
Career Training: An associate's degree gives you the technical training you need to work in many entry-level support positions. If you have a degree or extensive support knowledge already, a certificate can keep your skills current.

3. Graphic Design
Express your artistic side with this high-tech career. Graphic designers can be found in mom-and-pop operations and Fortune 500 companies alike, creating logos, photo illustration, print layouts and more. Want to work for yourself? About 25 percent of graphic designers are self-employed, the BLS reports. Overall, graphic designers enjoyed mean annual salaries of $45,340 in 2007.
Career Training: A bachelor's degree in graphic design is recommended for most careers in the field, though some technical careers may be possible with an associate's degree.

4. Programming
Work behind the scenes to create the programs and applications you use every day with a career in programming. In 2007, programmers used their advanced knowledge of code to earn mean annual wages of $72,010, the BLS reports. Keep your training current and you may be able to join them.
Career Training: About eight out of 10 programmers held an associate's degree or higher in 2006, the BLS reports; nearly half had a bachelor's degree. Degrees in computer science, information systems, and mathematics are popular.

5. Web Design
Specializing in Web design may seem like narrowing your graphic design focus, but a targeted level of training in Web design can be useful to get your foot in the door of an established business or design company. The BLS notes that graphic designers with Web site design currently have the best prospects for employment.
Career Training: An associate's degree or certificate program in Web design proves your specialty in the field. Some hiring managers may prefer a bachelor's degree.

6. Software Engineering
Like computer programmers in overdrive, software engineers control every aspect of a software's design, development, and testing. They're paid handsomely for their advanced knowledge, with applications software engineers earning $85,660 in 2007, according to the BLS. The career is expected to see a lot of growth in the coming years; 226,000 new jobs for applications software engineers are expected to enter the market before 2016.
Career Training: A bachelor's degree in computer science or computer engineering is typically required for the job.

Online IT Training Pays Off
While no educational program can guarantee a particular career or salary, hiring managers in the fields above often prefer or require formal education among applicants. Use an online degree in IT to train for a job or keep your skills current.

Amelia Gray is a freelance writer in Austin, Texas.

Friday, April 17, 2009

5 Threats to Your Job-Hunting Stamina

5 Threats to Your Job-Hunting Stamina

by Heather Boerner, for Yahoo! HotJobs

Marathon runners know that the key to crossing the finish line first isn't brute strength but stamina. The same goes for the job hunt.

"A job search is always a mind game," says independent career counselor Cathy Severson of Santa Barbara, California. "You don't know if this is going to be a sprint or a marathon. Assume it will be a marathon, and you'll be pleasantly surprised if it's a sprint."

But it's easy to lose stamina -- and motivation -- especially in this economy. Watch for these stamina killers and their solutions:

Stamina-Killer #1: Ignoring Feelings
Been laid off? "You may feel confused, ashamed, even depressed," says Anne Perschel, president of Germane Consulting and an organizational psychologist who coaches executives and helps employees change careers. It's natural. But letting it fester will destroy your momentum.
"Job loss is probably one of the top three stressors in life," she says. "It affects your identity and your sense of value. When you have days where you feel down, make small steps toward your goal."

Stamina-Killer #2: Job or Bust
If the goal is just to land the job, you're setting yourself up to fail every day you don't get a job offer, says Severson.
"You never know when an offer is going to appear," she says. "When the focus shifts to the actual tasks, the job searcher feels a greater sense of control and is better able to handle the long haul."
Try these switches:
· Instead of "I will get a job in X field this year," try "I will send out five resumes this week."
· Instead of "I will have three job interviews this month," try "I will call five people for informational interviews today."

Stamina-Killer #3: Applying for Every Job
It's tempting to up your odds of an interview by applying for any job for which you're remotely qualified. Avoid that trap, says Perschel.
"[Job interviewers] will know you're not a good fit for the job" if you apply for anything, she says. "You'll get more rejections, fewer responses, and more negative feedback." Your momentum will wane.

Stamina-Killer #4: Negative People and Information
"How do you feel after you talk to each person in your life -- drained or energized?" asks Severson.
Apply that question across the board and you'll know what -- and who -- is sapping your energy so you can avoid them. Talk about your job hunt with only the most energizing friends, family members and colleagues, and seek out positive acquaintances.
The same goes for news: If you're paralyzed after reading or watching the news, avoid it. You can always go back to it when you feel stronger.

Stamina-Killer #5: Pursuing Work You Don't Love
If you're going after the same old work, it'll be harder to keep trying every day. Banish mediocrity and seek out the work you're passionate about.
Not only will it keep you going, says Perschel, but also it has a surprise bonus: It increases your chance of landing that dream job.

"Assume there are other people out there who have the same skills," says Perschel. "But that energy, commitment, and passion? It can be your real differentiator."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Your Options In Negotiating a Severance Package

Your Options In Negotiating a Severance Package
Despite the difficulty of getting a soon-to-be-former employer to part with additional cash, there are items that can, and should, be part of severance negotiations.
By Dona DeZube March 2009

As the number of layoffs has risen, the willingness of companies to negotiate severance packages has fallen off due to fears of creating inequalities among employees and the need to hoard cash.
“Given the exigencies everyone faces, what companies feel they’re able to give and what employees are getting are different now that what one would have seen last year,” says an experienced employment attorney who represents large corporations. “It’s not that employers are less inclined to be kind, they’re just less able.”

Federal law governing severance also comes into play, says Jeffrey Liddle, managing partner of Liddle & Robinson in New York. “A lot of employers are fearful to negotiate with an individual because there is at least some arguable justification that under (federal laws) what is actually paid to one individual must be then paid to another similarly situated individual,” he observes.
If your company has an employee handbook that clearly lays out severance, you’re going to get what’s in the handbook, says Diane Pfadenhauer, an employment attorney and principal consultant at Employment Practice Advisors in Northport, N.Y. “The reality is that most organizations are going to do this in an objective manner, applying a formula to a group of employees selected for layoffs.”

Despite the difficulty of getting a soon-to-be-former employer to part with additional cash, there are items that can, and should, be part of severance negotiations, says Robert Benowitz, a partner at Rick, Steiner, Fell & Benowitz, LLP in New York.

Start by protecting your most important asset - client relationships. Regardless of what your severance agreement says, many states take a jaundiced view of non-competes, according to Pfadenhauer. "For example, California disallows them, so if you’re given a release that has a non-compete provision, take it to an attorney - not your friend the real estate lawyer, an employment attorney,” she says. “You don’t want to restrict your right to work, but if the non-compete portion is unenforceable, do you want to wage that battle with an employer with deep pockets?”

Benowitz says he’s been successful in negotiating certain types of carve-outs from IT non-competes that related to clients the former employee worked with extensively before the layoff.
Case law in technology tends to be in favor of the former employee, Benowitz adds. “The courts are not as prone to hold up non-competes on the theory that technology is a rapidly changing field and therefore what was information that you didn’t want to divulged has been surpassed already."

Some courts also consider what you did before you came to the company that laid you off. “If you brought to the table the customers or clients, the New York courts have held you can take those clients when you leave, even if you’ve signed a non-compete,” Benowitz says.Architects, designers and developers will also need to make sure confidentiality agreements won’t prevent them from sharing past work products with potential employees. For example, you’ll want to be able to show a screen shot of a utility you developed.

References are another area that’s important to talk about. “You need to know what the company will say in a reference, or get someone from outside Human Resources to provide a reference,” Pfadenhauer suggests. If your company has a no-references policy, she adds, it likely only covers current employees, so once your boss moves on, he can provide references again.
If your employer is downsizing greatly, it can’t hurt to ask for any left-over equipment. “If you have a company laptop, ask for it,” Pfadenhauer says. “If you have a cell phone, ask for that. Just make sure that you do give things back if the employer says no, because you can’t hold things hostage to get your last paycheck.”

Next, make sure to cover your personal assets by asking for reciprocal indemnification from any claims that could arise from your actions during your employment. “You could be getting millions in severance but in one lawsuit it could go down the drain if you’re not indemnified,” Benowitz says. “You also want them to agree to advance legal fees if any claims arise.”
Finally, in making any decision about severance options, consider the viability of your former employer. “I’ve seen situations where people go out on severance and the company filed for bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court orders the company not to pay pre-existing debt - and that includes severance,” Pfadenhauer says.

And, while taking a lump sum severance payment may ensure that you actually get the money, it can also create tax liabilities by pushing you into a higher tax bracket.In the final analysis, all three attorneys suggest seeking professional help when you face a layoff. Retaining an employment lawyer will cost around $2,500, Benowitz says. But, he adds, “It’s a small investment to see if you can get a lot more."