July 18, 2011, 5:31 PM —
Early in my career I was given some great advice. I was told to read the Sunday help wanted ads in my local newspaper like it was the sports page. I thought this was a ridiculous idea until I was told why.
Before telling you about my friend’s advice, let me take a step back and say that in the olden days before the internet, about 1998 back to the beginning of time, the primary way to learn about new job openings was the newspaper. Of course the newspapers still advertise job openings, but not at the volumes they once did. So in today’s world if my friend said query Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, CraigsList.com (yes, CraigsList.com posts jobs) like it was your favorite fantasy baseball league website, the analogy would be the same.
Back to my friend’s advice. He said that reading the want ads has the following big advantages:
- Over time you will gain a general understanding of which companies in your area do the most IT hiring and what technologies they use. This can significantly help you with your job search if the need arises.
- You can see what technologies are in the highest demand, because they are the ones advertised most often.
- You can see the salary ranges offered by skill set, giving you great input into what technologies to learn.
- You can see if your skill set is still in demand. If there are no jobs related to your current skill set being advertised, it’s probably time to upgrade your technology set
- You can see which industries in your area pay the biggest salaries. This can give you insight into the type of company you may want to work for next.
- If you currently work for a large company that advertises its open job positions, you may find a promotional opportunity right inside your company.
As for me, I took my friend’s advice to heart and read the job want ads (job postings) on an ongoing basis. I found it to be fascinating. Over time you could really see the movement of technology. First, you could easily see the dominance of mainframe COBOL. Then it seemed everyone was looking for people who knew the C programming language and the operating system UNIX. You could also see the growth of Windows, Visual Basic, PowerBuilder, various internet based development languages, .NET, Java, data security related technologies and so on. It was truly a front row seat into the rises and falls of technologies, the companies that owned them, the IT organizations that invested in them, and the people who spent their careers learning and working with them.
In closing, I would like to say that by following these technology trends and making it a priority to learn them as they became popular, even if it was on my own time, it was of great value. It allowed me to keep current in my profession, and in most cases, receive premium pay simply because I learned new technologies first. That said, so can you.