November 2012 Archives

University as a springboard to catapult your career

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Richard Turkel is technology blogger who writes about business technology solutions. Learn about the latest in the IT industry on the BMC staff blog.


Richard Turkel.jpgUniversity can be frustrating, and not just from an "I work all the time" standpoint. The immense change that will come to the technology field during the three or four years you're in university can seem daunting. It's nobody's fault; in fact, we asked for it. We worked hard to bring technology and the technology field to the point it's at, and to make sure it continually improves.


But that doesn't change the fact that it adds an extra layer of complexity to your education. While university can teach you the basics of the field, you're left on your own to stay up-to-date with current improvements. So how do you do this without going crazy?


The most important thing you can do is to make sure you have the right mindset going in. Understand that university doesn't teach you everything you need to know about the IT field; it just gives you a foundation from which to work. Think of university as a springboard. Now, beyond that, what kind of concrete strategies can you implement?


Find an area of focus

What is the thing that you care most about? Maybe it's networking or database management. Tie everything you learn back to this area of focus. One day, when you work with a company, you'll have to find ways that your focus area intersects with other areas both inside and outside the IT industry. Practicing that now will prepare you for the future.


For example, if your area of focus is database management but you're learning about cloud computing in class: How is cloud computing affecting and changing the database management arena? Do some of your own research to find out how these relate and interact in the marketplace.


Locate practical uses in the marketplace

I touched on this a little bit in the last paragraph, but I suggest you look into the marketplace for most things you learn about and not just your focus area. For example, let's say you're studying service catalogs. Find a company or two that does the service catalog well. Two examples are BMC's IT service catalog and PMG's guide on business vs. technical service catalogs article.


Notice that each of these resources talk about real-world uses for the catalog. Additionally, there's a real company and real people behind the resource, so if you have questions you can probably email or call somebody to learn more.


Read and follow thought leaders

It's never too early to start listening to conversations in the marketplace. This doesn't mean you need to spend hours each week reading numerous blogs. Instead, find a couple writers who you enjoy the most and read everything they write. I personally like to read Jerry Bishop over at the Higher Ed CIO. Bryan Glick's Editor's blog here on Computer Weekly is also a great read. Use these as starting places and find out who you enjoy reading.


Final thoughts

University is a great time in your life. You get to learn a lot and be shaped in the process. But don't let your education end with university. Take time to implement these strategies so that when you enter the working world you're not behind, but instead ahead, of the curve.

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Career Clinic: Dealing with "difficult" questions at interviews

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This is a guest blog post from Jeremy I'Anson, professional career coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013

Jeremy I'Anson Photo.jpgIn addition to the questions that are typically asked at either traditional or competency interviews, you can also expect interviewers to focus on any areas of concern that they may have about your background, for example if you have changed jobs frequently or if there are any gaps in your career.

Here are some examples of these sorts of difficult questions with suggested responses.

'You've changed jobs quite frequently. How do we know that you are going to stay in this job?'

Well, this is a promising question. If the interviewer wants to be sure that you want to stay in the job then presumably they are thinking of actually offering you the job. But beware! Why have you been changing jobs so frequently? You need to reassure the interviewer with your answer.

'Yes, I have changed jobs several times but that has been a deliberate strategy. I wanted to gain experience in a number of different areas. I've come to the end of that process now and I can bring that experience to your company. I've also recently married and I want to settle down in a stable job. I've done a great deal of research on this company and I know that you can offer me job security and a long-term future.'

'Why should we offer you the job?'

Think back to the job description and then take each item one at a time. Work through the job specification pointing out that you have the required qualifications and experience. Where appropriate provide examples of some of your achievements that match the role. For example:

'You asked for candidates with good experience of Project Management.  In my current job I've managed a number of very successful projects. In each of these projects I've consistently delivered on schedule and within budget.  I've been nominated for an award from the CIO twice in the last 6 months.'

'What are your weaknesses?'

A very difficult question to answer. Everybody has weaknesses and I can recall one candidate who answered this question by saying that he 'didn't have any weaknesses' being turned down for a senior job! Much better to own up to some weaknesses but make sure they are 'good' ones!

For example:

'I have a sharp eye for detail and a tendency to try and do too much myself. I've recently completed a two-day course on delegation and this has really helped me to let go of some of my responsibilities and trust colleagues and members of my team to take on more of the workload.'

 Notice how in this answer the candidate has admitted to a weakness but has recognised it and has already taken steps to remedy the problem by attending a course in delegation. Always try to use this model to answer this type of question. Admit to a weakness but make it clear that you are taking steps to rectify the problem.

'You've been unemployed for quite a long time. What have you been doing?'

Try to give a detailed reply to this question. Remember that the average time to find a new job is 3-6 months. There are plenty of people in the same position and everybody knows that the job market is tough. You might also want to point out any personal projects that you have undertaken during your period of unemployment.

If you were made redundant then you may have received a tax-free payment that enabled you to take some time off to travel or spend time with your family. If you have done any voluntary work then mention this and also mention any personal projects where you were able use your professional skills, for example acting as project manager for a property renovation or organising a charity event. Also mention any training that you have undertaken that will be relevant to the job.

Jeremy I'Anson is a professional careers coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013 published by Trotman Education. For further details visit


Do you have a careers question for Jeremy I'Anson ?


Jeremy I'Anson is a professional careers coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013 published by Trotman Education. For further details visit


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Career Clinic: Dealing with gaps in your employment history

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This is a guest blog post from Jeremy I'Anson, professional career coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013

Jeremy I'Anson Photo.jpgIt's almost inevitable that at some point in your career you are going to have to deal with gaps in your employment history and I'm often asked how you should deal with these gaps in your CV.

Although of course the individual circumstances can be very different I always recommend that you fully account for your career history on your CV. Unexplained gaps will immediately be apparent to recruiters and HR Managers and will inevitably lead to awkward questions at interview.

If you are planning to return to work perhaps after staying at home during an extended period of maternity or paternity leave, my advice is to make this clear on your CV. In the section covering your employment history simply state:

September 2005 - Present

  • Took a planned career break to provide fulltime care for my 2 children
  • Played an active role in managing my children's school as a Parent Governor
  • Served as a committee member with a local charity.
  • Raised over £2,000 by organising and taking part in a charity skydive.

In this example it is quite clear what you have been doing over the last 7 years. Furthermore the information that you have provided demonstrates to the employer that in addition to bringing up your children you have been maintaining your professional skills by getting involved in the management of your children's school, serving on a committee and organising a charity event.

Other job hunters sometimes take time off for a "personal project". I'm sure, given the opportunity, many people would like to take time off for a sabbatical or perhaps to renovate a property or some other personal project. Again I recommend that you mention this very clearly on your CV.

September 2010 - Present

  • Planned career break
  • Undertook a personal project to renovate a house
  • Worked with an architect to draw up plans  and gain planning approval
  • Acted as Project Manager coordinating / scheduling  the activities of multiple tradesmen
  • Completed the renovation project on schedule and within budget

You could adapt this example to your own personal circumstances. An employer can see what you have been doing and that this "gap" in your employment history has been planned.

The fact that you have undertaken a challenging personal project and managed the activities of the builders to complete the project on schedule and within budget all suggest that you are a determined individual with excellent organisational and project management skills. Characteristics that may well be of interest to a potential employer.

What about dealing with redundancy on your CV? Well I strongly believe that the same advice should apply. Unfortunately redundancy is all too common these days so being clear about this on your CV is perfectly acceptable.

September 2012 - Present

  • Career break following redundancy from Carter Technology.
  • Undertook voluntary work with a local charity
  • Updated professional skills and achieved technical certification in software testing

In this example it is again perfectly clear about the reason for the career break. There is also some further information about the activities during this period of unemployment; working with a local charity and upgrading professional skills. Both activities that should be of value to a potential employer.

Honesty is (of course!) the best policy when it comes to dealing with gaps in your CV. Never try to hide a gap by changing the date of your jobs, employers do take up references and any changed dates will quickly come to light.

The one exception to this rule is the opportunity to state the contractual end date of your employment. If you have been made redundant and you are on "gardening leave" working out your notice then it is quite legitimate to put the actual end date of your employment on your CV.


Do you have a careers question for Jeremy I'Anson ?


 Jeremy I'Anson is a professional careers coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013 published by Trotman Education. For further details visit

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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