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Marketing Yourself as an IT Jack-of-All-Trades? 169

ultimatemonty asks: "As an IT professional looking for a new job, I'm trying to figure out how to market myself as a 'jack-of-all-trades' IT worker. I'm currently employed at a medium sized university as a video conferencing specialist. I'm good (competent) at many IT related tasks (Linux server management, programming, Windows/Linux desktop support, video conferencing support, etc...), but specialize or excel in none of them, sort of like the lone IT manager in a small shop. What kinds of jobs would the you look for with this kind of work experience, and how would you market yourself (design your resume, cover letter, and so forth) to prospective employers so they get the full-breadth of your capabilities, without over-stating your abilities?"
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Marketing Yourself as an IT Jack-of-All-Trades?

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  • by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:18PM (#19831483)
    I got caught on the job looking at porn and...

    Oh wait! You said Jack of all trades! My bad! I thought I saw 2 'f's there.

  • Don't do that (Score:5, Informative)

    by eln ( 21727 ) * on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:20PM (#19831507)
    If you list a bunch of divergent technologies on your resume, and you describe yourself as a jack of all trades, employers basically see you as a junior admin with exposure to a lot of different technologies that really doesn't know all that much (especially given the huge number of resumes out there that list technologies in the "skills" section because the applicant once read about it in a magazine or something).

    Tailor your resume to fit each specific job you apply for. If the job is Windows heavy, emphasize your Windows work on your resume. If the job is Linux heavy, emphasize your Linux work. Also, don't just list what you know, list what you've done. Tell them about your big project that saved the company $10 million. That sort of thing holds a lot more weight than telling them you once logged in to a VMS machine.

    Basically, employers don't need to know and don't care about the full breadth of your capabilities: they care about what you can do for them. Do not just shotgun a laundry list resume to a thousand different companies, make sure each resume you send out specifically addresses how you can fill the need the company has, as evidenced by their job posting.
    • Re:Don't do that (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:28PM (#19831613) Homepage
      While I find a Jack of all trades very useful myself, and consider myself to be in that category, I don't think a lot of companies are looking for that. Most mid to large size companies like people to do very specific tasks with very specific job descriptions. Somebody who is a jack of all trades would probably fit in a lot better at a small company, which is where I happen to be, because they will have much more opportunity to work in many different areas. Small companies don't have entire teams devoted to database design, UI design, middle tier design, requirements gathering, architecture, testing, and all those other areas of software design, so the people who do work for small companies probably get to see at least a little bit, if not a lot from all those areas. Also remember that the full term is "Jack of all trades, master of none", however, I consider myself to be a "master" or at least really good in quite a few areas, and the all the rest of the "trades" just really help to back that up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blhack ( 921171 )
        The fact that they don't have teams devoted to database design, UI design, etc. etc. can be a major problem. Often times when you work for companies like this you end being drastically under-funded, and then you get reprimanded when things don't work the way they should.
        For Instance:

        I work for a small(ish) company (~200 employees, about 50 users, and about 100 networked devices). Unfortunately for me, about 20 of these networked devices are wireless, and only support 32 bit WEP. This is a MAJOR MAJOR MAJ
        • Wait- you only have 20 wireless networked devices? Why don't you just check MAC address on your soekris boxen against a master list of 20 pre-approved MAC addresses, and if it isn't one, firewall the connection?
          • by afidel ( 530433 )
            Because everyone knows it's unpossible to clone a MAC address....
            • No, what it's unpossible to do is have cloned mac addresses on the same LAN as the original. The fact that the original device starts slowing down and dropping packets MIGHT be a clue something is going on.
              • by blhack ( 921171 )
                or somebody could drop a wifi card in to promiscuous monitor mode, sniff the traffic for a whitelisted MAC, then spoof it after we're closed and all the mobile computers are turned off.
                • If you're closed and you've turned the mobile computers off, why haven't you ALSO turned off the WIFI access points?
                  • by blhack ( 921171 )
                    because then when it is saturday morning at 6:00 and i'm in bed, or sunday afternoon at 3:00pm and I'm out at the lake on my boat, or I'm in the mountains biking, or blah blah blah etc away from my phone and somebody needs to use it, they can't.
                    • What is so hard about adding a socket to the lights to plug the access point into, then have a policy about shutting off those lights when they lock up the building? And turning on the lights when they unlock the building because they are open for business? Your access points CAN boot up without you being in attendance, can't they?
                • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
                  When best isn't possible better does the job.
        • As long as you pointed it out to your boss, you've done your job. Put it in an email, and then when someone hacks in to your network, print it out and show your boss as an "I told you so".
          • Of course, you should print out the e-mail *before* your network gets poofed.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BVis ( 267028 )
            Make sure you print out your resume, while you're at it. Just because you warned someone about something and they refused to authorize a fix, doesn't mean that you won't get blamed for that something. In a working environment where people can be fired for no reason whatsoever, don't think that your PHB won't throw you under the bus to save his/her own ass.

            It sounds like you need a new job anyway. If they're paying you for your expertise and recommendations, and then refusing to adopt them (or even to lis
        • by alienw ( 585907 )
          What's the big deal? Sounds like your boss doesn't really care about security -- either there is nothing to protect, or it's not perceived as a security risk. Install MAC filtering, a firewall, and use SSL or whatever, and you should be OK.
        • by NateTech ( 50881 )
          Document your concerns, state that you've been monitoring for the (very real) problem using your own equipment and that is no longer an option, and stop monitoring.

          It'll get cracked, messed with, and THEN there will be a business need for your much-needed upgrades.

          In other words, quit saving them from themselves. The sooner the network gets taken down, the sooner you get the proper budget to do it right.
    • Re:Don't do that (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:19PM (#19832203) Homepage
      What the parent poster said.

      And also; make sure you are able to talk about Your Own Initiative:
      Projects you managed. Problems you discovered and fixed, on your own, without oversight. Also, if other techs come to YOU for advice, detail those happenings as well.

      If you're the go-to guy, and can be trusted with a small budget, and a certain amount of autonomy to come up with fixes to long standing annoyances that nobody else thought of even trying to solve (overcoming organizational inertia) - then try to convey that. Most managers would give their left nut/tit for this kind of worker. (and often, this kind of worker is misclassified as "junior").

      Bottom line is: breadth of skill does nobody any damn good, if that skill does not come with initiative. Breadth of skill is difficult for a busy manager to manage. That level of management is usually tasked with fighting fires with his or her immediate superiors. They're too busy to task you - so you put your skills to good use, be everyone's hero.
    • I don't know that you necessarily need to leave stuff off of your resume, though it probably can't hurt if it's something they're not looking for in the first place. However ...

      Tailor your resume to fit each specific job you apply for. If the job is Windows heavy, emphasize your Windows work on your resume. If the job is Linux heavy, emphasize your Linux work. Also, don't just list what you know, list what you've done. Tell them about your big project that saved the company $10 million. That sort of thing holds a lot more weight than telling them you once logged in to a VMS machine.

      ... detailing major projects you've been involved in (and the level of involvement) and a rough dollar estimate of value is a big deal. If they think you can come in and save them thousands of dollars a year on their IT budget and implements cool new ways of getting work done then you're more likely to get hired than the guy who jus

    • Re:Don't do that (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:57PM (#19833043) Homepage Journal
      Exactly right- and he even gave the real answer in the article:

      sort of like the lone IT manager in a small shop.

      That is EXACTLY the position a jack of all trades should be going for.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Havokmon ( 89874 )
        sort of like the lone IT manager in a small shop.

        That is EXACTLY the position a jack of all trades should be going for.

        That's exactly what and where I am and have been for the past 7 years. It's WONDERFUL working for a small company vs. any larger ones. I actually work part time for a larger one as well, and it's not something I would consider a career-path. Conversely, when you're the lone guy at a small company you lose:

        • Big Projects - there will be a list when you get there - how long will tha
    • Basically, employers don't need to know and don't care about the full breadth of your capabilities: they care about what you can do for them. Do not just shotgun a laundry list resume to a thousand different companies, make sure each resume you send out specifically addresses how you can fill the need the company has, as evidenced by their job posting.

      QFE. Took the words right out of my mouth. If you are young and brilliant, I.T. hates you. Remember, most of them are 40+ people who know how to fix mainframes and how to hack Unix. They all have families and see people like you as competition. The fact that you are, in fact, better than them makes them feel stupid. Make sure you find a company with a future, and tailor your resume to suit your needs. Be prepared for a lot of humiliation as those above you try and make your life a living hell. I suck, I c

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arivanov ( 12034 )
      I would second that. It is either that or they do not believe you as a result the interview becomes quite hard. Quite often you get filtered out at the pre-interview stage. Suffered from that myself.

      One thing that helps in cases like this is to use different identities for your different personas. Most recruiters index their databases based on email so have your Unix persona CV with a "unix" email address, Network persona with a CV with a "network" email address and software development persona with a CV wi
    • by gosand ( 234100 )
      Tailor your resume to fit each specific job you apply for. If the job is Windows heavy, emphasize your Windows work on your resume. If the job is Linux heavy, emphasize your Linux work. Also, don't just list what you know, list what you've done. Tell them about your big project that saved the company $10 million. That sort of thing holds a lot more weight than telling them you once logged in to a VMS machine.

      I've been involved in interviewing around 50 people in my career. I have found that it is a crap sh

    • by MikeFM ( 12491 )
      If you want an easy-to-find job then market yourself as very specific to individual jobs. If you want a job where you can exercise a wide range of knowledge then be honest about your skills. Describe everything you know in a format that easy to understand. Include both a short list of highlights and another list that includes details. Include a portfolio with as much graphical proof of your skills as possible - code, snapshots, downloadable copies of your software, etc. Consider contributing to opensource p
  • by ditoa ( 952847 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:22PM (#19831529)
    While a "Jack of all trades" is great you a hook to sell yourself on. Pick something you enjoy doing both as a hobby and for work and then become an expert in that field. If you really are competent then the step up from "good" to "great" shouldn't be that hard and great should be enough to get you the job except for very specialist roles.

    Also be honest when you get interviews. There is nothing wrong with saying you have recently decided to aim at a particular area in which to become an expert.

    You are worrying more about the problem than just getting on with it.
    • by RabidMonkey ( 30447 ) <canadaboy&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @11:19PM (#19834085) Homepage
      Some people don't want to be experts - I have absolutely no desire to be an 'expert' at anything. I am a generalist and have found a few roles where that is a bonus. And where there isn't a "need" for a generalist, I can go in to a specific role and branch out, letting my general skills help out where they can.

      "If you really are competent then the step up ..." - I don't like the implication there. I am very competent, but I would find it exceedingly difficult for me to become "great" at any one part of my knowledge. I don't like to focus on one thing - I read multiple books at a time, I watch movies and read at the same time, I listen to music and surf and cook. I move from Windows to Linux to databases to development to application support to web to systems management many times a day, and I do them all well. Not everyone is made to become GREAT at things. I am a poster child for ADD and I think it's a great skill.

      Not everyone wants to be an expert, and I don't think that should detract from their usefulness - like anything, you just need to find the right spot to apply your skills.
    • Bingo. Companies might need "jack of all trades" type people, but it's not what they hire for. Just look at the job IT listings on Dice and Monster... They're all looking for people with x years of experience with 2 or 3 specialized products, thinking that's the best way to find the specific skills they're looking for on their current project.

      Of course, that probably won't stop your new boss from giving you a dozen Windows servers to build three months down the road even though you described yourself as a U
    • I can sympathize with subby somewhat, and since the question of what type of job to look for came up...

      I am a generalist myself, and I love it. I found a good nitch as a generalist that doesn't force me to specialize necessarily and let's me stay involved with most of the tech that interests me. Security. It's the hot button "specialty" for a lot of larger companies right now, and you need to have experience across the board to be half way successful as a security specialist.
  • it generalist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info@NoSpaM.devinmoore.com> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:23PM (#19831541) Homepage Journal
    as a generalist, you could qualify as "sysadmin" at a smaller shop, which because of their IT budget, usually means "guy that knows how to do everything for us". I'd emphasize creative problem-solving abilities and a drive to arrive at good solutions quickly.

    Of course, you'll want to avoid coming off too arrogant -- no one wants to hire an I.T. jackass-of-all-trades, but we all know a few!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by erroneus ( 253617 )
      Indeed, or if you seek "more money" the best you will get is "IT Manager" or possibly "IT Director" for a small to medium business. Those jobs are out there but they are sometimes tough to find. To land those, I have found that "customer service" and "good shopping and delegation skills" are items to list on a resume. They know "one guy can do it all" on a day-to-day basis, but for anything where there are projects to execute, they expect you to be able to pull in outside help.

      This is how you grow into m
    • Definitely... I would also add that the company you go with doesn't need to be an IT shop. Many smaller realty shops or execs that work from home often hire an IT guy as a clerical assistant because of their skills. I think you'd be surprised at the income opportunities as well.
  • Go small (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sheetzam ( 454981 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:23PM (#19831545) Homepage
    I found myself in a similar situation, and found a place that suits me perfectly. It's a small development shop. I'd definitely recommend trying to find a smaller company; the smaller, the more freedom you have to use all your skills. Seems the larger the company, the more specialized they believe their IT folks need to be. The smaller, the less particular jobs are a specific person's responsibility. Just my two cents.
    • This can cut both ways. I have worked at two small shops, and both were run by egomaniacal millionaire daddy's boys that would not know ethics if you beat them to death with them. One went as far as to forbid employees from associating with each other outside of the workplace and had the (technically qualified as a box of rocks) manager eavesdropping on our in work conversations and taking notes.

      So, like anything else, YMMV.
  • by Webdude ( 5964 )
    I would say overstate what you know in your resume, any technology you have touched for more then 5min should be on there. If you are good at picking things up and understand how technology works in general you are way better off then 95% of IT workers out there. I work as a consultant and I see people with 10+ years of experience on a single product and in 20min of reading a manual i am more proficient in it and able to do more. There end up to be two types of people that interview you, one that looks for
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
      I recommend against this. As soon as I see a resume for a programmer position with people saying that they know Photoshop, MS Excel, 3DS Max, Adobe Acrobat (yes, I've seen that on a resume), scheme (I know it's related, but did you ever really use it outside that second year CS class) and other completely unrelated skills, or listing things that I'm sure they aren't really that proficient in, I start to think about how they have nothing of real substance to fill up the resume with and toss it in the garbag
      • by eln ( 21727 ) * on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:43PM (#19831809)
        When we do technical interviews, our policy is that anything on the resume is fair game to ask questions about. So, if someone comes in with a laundry list, we'll try to find a question to ask about some obscure technology they say they're proficient in (nothing too tough, just something that someone who knows the technology would know). This will tell us how much they're trying to puff themselves up.

        We'll also ask progressively harder questions in each category that we have expertise in just to see what they do when they start becoming unsure of themselves or just flat don't know the answer. We are much more impressed by someone who simply says "I don't know" than someone who tries to bullshit us. If you don't really know a technology, don't go around pretending that you do.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
          Asking questions about what people put on their resume should be standard practice, especially when they write a laundry list. First if they really do know all the stuff they listed, it's probably a good idea to make sure you find a position in your company for them, even if it's not really the one your interviewing for, because people like this are few and far between. Second, if they don't really know the technology, then you don't want to hire them at all, in fact you want to rule them out as soon as p
        • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:38PM (#19832925) Homepage Journal
          Yes, I love those interviews. I always get an offer.

          I have a tone of stuff on my resume. I have never had a job with just one responsibility, and I always go out of my way to do new work. That means I got a lot of things on my resume.

          So when some one starts asking questions expecting me not to actually know things, I blow them away.

          A good question to ask is "What they learned from what they have listed."

        • 'So, if someone comes in with a laundry list,'

          If you don't want a laundry list then don't put up a job posting that smacks of laundry list mentality. If you list 10 very specific technologies that your candidate must be proficient in then I will list every one of them on my resume guaranteed. After all, you have already told me you won't consider a candidate unless they list all of those things.

          For example, it is very reasonable to list 'Experience with backup technologies and mechanical tape drives.' But y
      • by cecille ( 583022 )
        One time I saw a resume for a low-level IT job that included as a skill "types 32 WPM". Okay here now...first of all I don't care about your typing skill because I'm not looking for someone to dictate memos to, I'm looking for an IT guy. Don't even need anything too fancy, but you're way off in space with the typing thing. Secondly...THIRTY-TWO WPM? My 6-year old cousin can type faster than that. That one got filed in the bin as soon as I got to that line. Please, show me with your resume that you a)
  • If you're OK being THE IT guy, or one of very few, then any small shop is a good place to look.

    As far as marketing, just be honest and be yourself. The better, smaller employers look for that, and being yourself helps make sure it's a good personality fit, which matters more in small shops as well.
  • while you may here this said quite a bit, tailor your resume for each position. Some are looking for server admins (knowing both solaris and windows) while others (like myself) hire very specific skills (Storage admins). For example,

    I know many people go to EMC, HDS, IBM classes. Or because they know how to configure VxVM (veritas volume mgr) they consider themselves Storage Admins. I'm looking for what have they specifically done in their job as it pertains to the skillset I'm looking for. Have you im
    • I find this attitude among interviewers very offputting. I can understand wanting to see how someone reacts to tough questions, but if you're a senior admin interviewing people for a position, you can't possibly expect them to know as much as you do. With so many technologies out there, nobody is going to have the exact same experience as your shop.

      If they've used vxvm or set up a veritas environment at a small shop, they've had enough introduction to the tools that they can be trained quickly without too m
  • Interview well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:36PM (#19831705) Homepage Journal
    I've been on both sides of the desk with regards to IT staffing and interviews. The resume and cover letter were the least important factors. For me, the interview was most important, followed by professional references. This is not meant to belittle the value of a comprehensive and professionally done resume. I'm of the opinion that you should place more emphasis on the interview(s).

    If I were the interviewer, I'd want to know that you can solve problems without creating more problems. That you know when you don't know an answer. That you know how to find the solution. That you're presentably dressed and groomed. That you are at least competent when it comes to communication and interpersonal relations. To me, these factors are more important than a list of operating systems you've administered. The "IT" part of "IT professional" is relatively easy, a solved problem at the very least. It's the "professional" part that eludes some people.

    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:44PM (#19831823) Homepage
      The resume is unimportant once you get the interview, however, for getting the interview, a good resume and cover letter is essential. Spelling and grammatical errors get an automatic circular file, as do padding the resume with useless information and just listing things that you may have used for a week. If you can't name and describe a significant project in which you used a certain skill, then it doesn't belong on your resume. With the quality of some resumes I really feel sorry for some people, because they will probable never get a job. If you're writing skills are that bad, at least do yourself the favour of getting professional or possibly a friend to help you compile a resume. Something like this is definitely worth it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ktakki ( 64573 )

        I don't disagree with your points; consider the part of my post that refers to "the value of a comprehensive and professionally done resume".

        But resumes, like some job applicants, lie. Were we to accept job applicants on the basis of a resume without an interview and a reference check, we'd be fucked.

        I can embellish my resume from here to Timbuktu. Bullshitting my way through an interview and getting references to lie for me is an exponentially harder problem.


      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by caluml ( 551744 )
        "If you're writing skills are that bad" Not bad. 8/10.
    • That you know how to find the solution. That you're presentably dressed and groomed
      I'm fine with the "finding a solution" thing. However, ANY company that requires me to wear pants is NOT going to have the pleasure of paying my salary!!
  • Options (Score:4, Insightful)

    by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:41PM (#19831767)
    One option is, as you stated, a small shop or group where you are doing everything.

    I really think the next easiest option is to look at the things you have done and specialize in what you like the most. If you like programming, learn to program well, be able to answer basic questions like what is a linked list (or more complex questions) - learn one language well, as well as the basics of programming that you find in books like "Code Complete". If you like server management do that.

    I am a UNIX systems administrator, and for me, even this is a very broad definition. I understand that firmware/time-of-day should be in sync across CPU/memory boards on Sun Enterprise 4000's, or that the file /etc/redhat-release is the file which shows which version of Red Hat you are running, but I can tell you it is very, very rare in interviews to find people who would know both those things. You're lucky if someone "strong in Linux" even knows that about Red Hat. I have to say that Solaris people tend to know their stuff better (and this is coming from a Linux fan). So I consider it difficult to bridge these two things, which are very close, and you are talking about all over the place.

    My suggestion would be to specialize in one thing, and learn it well. I had to rank a Google job application on how well I knew something, I forget if the scale was 1-10 or not, but you should specialize in something and get to know it as a 9. Being a jack of all trade is fine, meaning having 3-6 ability in other things, but you should know one thing well - something you enjoy and think has a future. Once you master that one thing, then you can work on getting other things up to 9, but I meet so few people who are at level 10, 9, or even 8 for what I need, I would reiterate to learn one thing well. A real jack of all trades knows multiple things at say an 8 level, but that is rare. We have one where I work, but he knows many things at a high level. Someone who knows lots of things at a 4-6 level I generally find useless, in any environment.

    • Someone who knows lots of things at a 4-6 level I generally find useless, in any environment.

      This touches on an interesting point. Hiring someone is about trust. You need to be able to trust that the person can do their job effectively. 4-6 is not at that level and is, as you say, generally useless.

    • by nbvb ( 32836 )

      Yeah, it matters. And I would expect someone who listed both Sun Enterprise experience, as well as Red Hat, to know both of those things.

      But I guess I'm a jerk. I actually expect people to know the things they put on their resume. Like the kid who was very proud of himself for "building a Beowulf cluster" (yes! How many times do you get to mention that on Slashdot IN CONTEXT??). He was very proud - and somewhat cocky about it - until I asked what message passing API he was usi
    • A real jack of all trades knows multiple things at say an 8 level, but that is rare
      With 2nd edition that used to be the case. However, since WotD took over, a multi-class character has become much more common.

      We're talking about Dungeons & Dragons, right?
  • by IgLou ( 732042 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:02PM (#19832019)
    If you are truly a generalist, then it should be easy to tailor the information on your resume to suit the position you're applying for and market the "extra" skills as a bonus when you land the interview. So if the position you are looking for is say an Exchange Administrator you list that as being a "Primary" skills and then list your other skills seperately. When hiring managers or HR people have to hunt around your resume to find what they are looking for they'll pass you over.

    That said, if you want to do a mish mosh of just about anything you want to look at a smaller company that has a small IT team or maybe a start-up but start-ups eventually grow (or die) and you might find your self having to pick a role. Your other option here could also be contract work, it's a great way to do varying things provided you're only landed quick contracts.

    In the end I'd advise you pick a specialty and see it through. Generalism is fine but if you want to be the best you specialize. Pick the one thing you're best at or love the most and pursue it with everything you got. You're general knowledge will never be wasted, everything ties together in one way or another. I was a bit of a generalist too and when I really focused on my speciality my general knowledge really paid off since I could always talk about my work in the larger context of what was going on.
    • by mutterc ( 828335 )

      tailor the information on your resume

      This is what I generally do. However, there's two type of jobs where that doesn't work:

      1. Temp agencies (temp jobs or jobs where the company outsourced the hiring to the agency). They tend to expect 1 resume they can send for everything.
      2. Big companies. Suppose you want to put in an app at Cisco, IBM, etc. Those big companies want to hire specialists, so you'd have to give them a "networking developer" resume for one job, and an "Asterisk consultant" resume for another. Most of the time their systems are b
    • That said, if you want to do a mish mosh of just about anything you want to look at a smaller company that has a small IT team or maybe a start-up but start-ups eventually grow (or die) and you might find your self having to pick a role. Your other option here could also be contract work, it's a great way to do varying things provided you're only landed quick contracts.

      those are the two options that have served me best in the past... just make sure that your interpersonal skills are up to task. small compa

  • by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <agnosticpopeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:10PM (#19832093) Journal
    When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. By commanding diverse technology, you're able to develop solutions to best suit the customer rather than just doing what you did everywhere else. If you want to make an analogy to the medical field, while there are specialists for feet, brain surgery, etc, at the end of the day, you call a doctor for your initial diagnosis, not a neurosurgeon.

    Another thing you can do that no one else can is a nuts-to-bolts solution from the bottom up from a problem -- you can manage a solution from the get-go rather than being "the oracle guy". Large consulting companies like IBM do solutions that are sometimes agnostic w.r.t. implementation.

    Lastly, you're an independent worker -- you can find solutions where none exist! This is terrific for many positions.

    Some ideas of places where you'd be good: I work for a large software company who does road shows regularly. There's an IT guy who goes to set up our servers/clients/etc who needs to know how all of it works -- he can't call the database guy to help him. Freelance IT Professional -- there's quite a few places (car dealerships, small businesses, etc) which need IT infrastructure but can't pay for a full-time IT guy. Just ask around, you'll be surprised at how many places need help (and how well it pays) and you're one of the few people who could do it (warning: requires people-skills). Last idea: larger consulting company like IBM. IBM builds call centers and stuff all over the place and needs people who can implement solutions as well as think them up to work in existing IT environments.

    You sound like a very qualified employee who I'd rather hire than the "oracle guy", since I bet you can learn oracle whereas other IT guys get stuck in specialization ruts.
  • by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:12PM (#19832129) Homepage
    That's the title.

    Some places think a Network Admin is someone who administers a network. They're wrong.

    Those are called Network specialists or something like that.

    Generally a company of 20 to 100 employees hires one IT guy to support all desktops, the servers if any, the website, Internet connection, managers' blackberries, the occasional phone issue and the president's home computer (and his children's Xbox). That my friend, is a network administrator, occasionally called a system administrator.

    IT Technician, IT Administrator or IT guy are also used. As soon as you hit 2 IT employees, you are called an IT manager and everyone stops worrying about what to call you while you start looking for IT Director jobs on dice all day.
  • by Wordplay ( 54438 ) <geo@snarksoft.com> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:39PM (#19832403)
    It really depends. Your targets probably are small shops and startups, particularly if you have any real experience, unless you can find a position that touches the bulk of your skillset.

    My own resume is about 5 years of programming, a year or so of build/release, and 6 years of QA, along with a lot of general IT and strategic skills. For a while, I had problems with dilution--I wasn't really in the programming space anymore, didn't have enough build/release to be more than junior there, and didn't have enough QA to make it a slam dunk to pay me at my overall experience level.

    In my case, I went to software test automation, which synthesizes all these skills, and have done quite well in that space. But in addition, I regularly get hit up by startups who want to cover two or three hats with one person. Eventually, with enough experience, you'll be in demand if you can ride out those early years.

    The trick, if you go that route, is you really need to be quite competent in everything you sell yourself as (or at least be able to inspire confidence until you can get to the man page or O'Reilly book). Otherwise, you're only really as marketable as your best skill. That's why it can just be a lot easier to concentrate on one thing. Of course, if that skill goes overseas or otherwise becomes obsolete in the local workforce, you're screwed.
  • Because companies that aren't looking for specialists are usually too poor to hire all the positions they require. In fact, look up the origin of the phrase "Jack of all trades" and you will end up at the word journeyman. It pretty much is a concept that is interchangeable with systemic poverty. Go find a specialty, or get used to being underpaid.
  • by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:02PM (#19832595) Journal
    Those that employ Hammer-Engineers and Screwdriver-Engineers, as opposed to those who employ carpenters.

    I'm in the same spot you are. I'm a coder, a sysadmin, I do server support, desktop support, network support, firewalls, routers, topology planning, you name it. Geek through and through.

    My experience teaches me I'll NEVER be happy in a place that hires Hammer Engineers. Why? for one thing, because I'd be undervalued from day one ("How many years of experience do you have managing Veritas Netbackup?" ... "3, but I've been a sysadmin for 15 and did other backup software etc etc..", "No, we're looking for a Veritas Netbackup Engineer who did this for at least 5 years". These people see me as a junior netbackup "engineer" of 3 year experience and lots of totally irrelevant other history. As far as they care, I could have been shoveling shit for the rest of my career, it wouldn't matter. They can't see the relevance.

    Now, if by any odd fate you'd end up working there, you'd be sitting among people who made a career of running Netbackup, or Solstice Disksuite, or BMC, or notepad, or whatever. People the majority of whom cannot manage their own windows box. People who don't meddle and tweak and experiment what they're given to, seeing themselves as specialists in their field and knowing nothing but ("You're a SOLARIS administrator! WHY are you wasting your time on practicing your coding skills?!")

    This is, of course, an extreme case, but it's a real-life one I've worked on and hated every second.
    Contributing factors are size of company, non-technical management (the level of management directly responsible for hiring the tech people, not senior management) that have limited capability of gouging how well a candidate fits a role other than by narrowing down the scope of the role to something their non-technical minds can grasp and putting a numeric estimate (# of years experience) on that. Companies with high employee turnover rates that use these narrow-scope-job-roles to easily replace people, etc.

    I'm not an Open Source fanboy. I'm pragmatic both ends of the divide, and am just as good using paid solutions as unpaid ones. I'm for *thinking*, then doing what's best. These hammer-engineer-hiring companies typically stay away from the thinking bit, some having policies dictated by FUD-overfed clueless management. When I mentioned simple solutions like using some Open Source tools, I ran into a fucking concrete wall, just making me more frustrated.

    I've since moved to a company that hires carpenters. ONLY carpenters. When I hit here, there were 3 of us taking care of a 300-odd-employee organization, ~100-200 servers, 3 int'l subsidiaries, and everything from PABX to desktops to servers. Needless to say, all three of us were complete JOAT's that had the required skills to put into production anything the organization required, given access to google, the net, and a reasonable amount of time to learn and implement the topic.
    We've since become 8 people, and being a Jack-of-All-Trades is the only way one would ever get to work here. The sysadmins code, the coders can do their [linux!] desktop box without desktop support changing their diapers.

    This kind of employer is YOUR home court. Whereas you would almost always be undervalued, underpromoted and underpaid at the former kind, here you are valued significantly higher than a specialized candidate. Needless to say, the proximity of likeminded individuals will very simply and in the most literal sense, make your work really really fun.
    If I had a gazillion dollars, I'd quit my former job, yet I would keep working at this one because I enjoy it.

    To narrow down the places you want to be looking for, look for the following:
    1. Places that are not afraid to use open-source. More often then not (obviously not always) this requires people who "know their shit" to properly piece together and manage.
    When I was looking for a job, I found the following search criteria to plug into job-ad searches to
    • Thanks, that's some very good and very well thought out advice.
    • If it were my mod day, I'd give you another 'Insightful'.
    • Those that employ Hammer-Engineers and Screwdriver-Engineers, as opposed to those who employ carpenters.

      Snarfed, with thanks.

      I saw this analogy this morning and was able to use it in a meeting a few hours later. Not that it made any difference to the client, who has taken clue resistance to an art form. They didn't just want a hammer-engineer, they were upset they couldn't find a dozen yellow-handled-2.3Kg-hammer-engineering-specialist s with 20 years of experience building houses in exactly one day. Asshol
    • Are you hiring, or do you see yourself doing so in the near future?

      Aw screw that, just tell me what part of the world your located nearest (preferably large-city-wise) and I'll see if I can't move that way and impress ya.

      At least give us a chance to obtain the sort of happiness you enjoy...
  • I'm a developer, sysadmin, software architect, system architect, business and functional analyst, in both unix and windows environments, and senior in a few high demand development environment: no one gives a flying duck. If its a software architect job, they don't give a flying duck about the system architecture. If its a developer job, they don't care about my Java experience if its a C# job. Even worse? They don't care about my C# experience if its a VB.NET job, and vice versa (wtf, there's like 6 keywo
  • by StewedSquirrel ( 574170 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:27PM (#19832843)
    There are an awful lot of "that doesn't work" sort of replies, but I'd beg to differ.

    The jobs are MUCH harder to find than specialized jobs, because you'll be working for a small firm- a startup, or some other limited size organization. They wont' be the ones posting on monster.com - craigslist, maybe, but not the big job sites.

    If you don't find anything by casually looking around, you might want to get creative and inventive. I landed a job once by directly approaching the owner of a company who was growing 300% per year and selling the idea of "do it right from the start" sort of IT approach. Actually, it was a 6 month contract with the option to hire me at the end (which I refused, even though he wanted me). I set up Active Directory, established policies and procedures, built up their infrastructure, data storage, accounting and upgraded their workstations. I built their website into something useful instead of boring and empty and I built a helpdesk that could help manage the company as it grew bigger.

    I'm currently "IT Director" for a small company. I only have one person working for me, but I'm paid alright. I think folks are right when they say that generalists have a salary cieling. It's a unfortunate truth that unless I'm willing to go into corporate middle-management where I could potentially make a ton of money, but be busy in board meetings and very rarely get my hands dirty, I'm stuck with a 5-figure salary. High 5-figures, but still stuck. However, within a startup, you can position yourself as a driver of ideas and perhaps end up in upper management as the company grows. There are additional benefits such as stock options, profit sharing and such, that are not available to your average specialized techie within the corporate world.

    The stock options from my previous employer are starting to look very tantalizing as there are rumors of a buyout or IPO circulating. Suddenly, 10,000 shares begins to look like $500,000 and my time stuck behind a $70k salary quickly begins to morph into an actual paycheck of more than $200k per year, but on the other hand, a poor startup can end up costing you money as you find yourself working without pay now and then when money is tight, only to see the company fold just as you are expecting a Christmas bonus.

    Fortunately, my recent experience has set me up as a bit of a security specialist and I've begun to do some contract work for a large security company, deploying firewalls, security appliances and such. This job, if i were to take it full time, would definitely be a 6-figure opportunity and would lead to potential future contracts with customers that often pay 6-figures for 6 months of work doing highly specialized security deployment and management.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      They wont' be the ones posting on monster.com

      Whoa! Slow down there, pal. I work for a small company and have the job the poster is looking for. 2 of the 3 of us here (we're all developers that do what's needed in all areas, but myself more so than the other 2) were found on Monster, and the third was found by 1 of us on a meeting site.

      I had actually stopped looking on Monster because I wasn't getting any replies. To appease the career counsellor at the college I graduated from (I was getting desperate!)

  • First of all, be as detailed as possible in your resume. I was in the market for a new job about a year ago and I have a little over a decade of IT experience. In that time I've done Novell, Windows, databases, security, servers, workstations, networks (WAN/LAN), blah blah blah. I tried to condense it all down into a single page resume. Eventually I talked to a tech recruiter and he summed up my resume by saying, "You have ten plus years of experience but a single page resume? You need more detail." S
  • Most sysadmins are jack-of-all-trades, so really your skills aren't out of the ordinary at all. In fact, they seem a bit lacking. I am a programmer by trade, however, I am also a hardcore networking enthusiast (should have gone for my CCIE when I had the chance) as well as Windows/UNIX sysadmin (for a few years of my career I was a NT admin).

    If you really want to fatten your resume, you should beef up your networking expertise because that seems to be your weak point. No one cares about video conferencin
  • Meh (Score:4, Funny)

    by noz ( 253073 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @09:18PM (#19833235)
    You don't have 3 years .NET experience with RUP and Agile development methodologies. Forget it.
  • Many of the defense contractors have a group of systems integrators, who have the job of taking the high level designs that the systems engineers come up with and actually doing the implementation. It's a really fun job to start out your career, since you'll get to travel around the country and around the world doing a lot of challenging work.

    Another option is a field engineer. Many times, different remote jobs don't have the budget to hire a slew of specialists, and need a person who can deal with sysa

  • Big or Small (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gybrwe666 ( 1007849 )
    You really didn't specify what kind of company you prefer. And the answer to your question will come down to that particular preference.

    If you want a job in any Mid-Enterprise ($200M to $1B annual revenue) size company or above, you will generally *NOT* be a jack of all trades. These companies generally have HR personnel, and are big enough that managers are generally not plopping down on Monster.com and finding resumes. As such, any HR person or recruiter is going to cull resumes (no matter where they g
    • And remember: the best jobs [...] get snapped up via word of mouth within days of someone deciding they're going to hire someone
      My experience is different; I've always relied on jobs in the magazines and posted on the internet. Once I've recommended someone at my then-current employer and got some flack when it didn't work out. My point is; why bother?

      I leave lending of money to banks. Similarly, I leave job recommendations to recruiters.
  • I've been where you are and have found something out along the way. Specializing in a problem or set of problems will net you more than specializing in specific technologies. I personally specialize in architecture scalability largely in the web 2.0 sphere. It is something that requires fairly extensive knowledge of (and being able to design and implement) many technologies including systems, networks, storage, databases and code. Consulting marketed towards specific sets of problems might be your solut
  • List all the schtuff you know and have done and send it to a professional resume writer. You won't like the result at all, but it is not meant for you, it is meant for the human resources manager that is standing between you and the job you want. Try this place: http://www.theladders.com/ [theladders.com] You'll find the resume writers there too. It works. Believe me!
  • Although you see yourself as a Jack of All Trades (Master of None), what you are really doing is connecting any and all kinds of computer systems together - Windows, Linux, Sun, Telephones, Video, ISDN, TCP/IP, Satcom, yadda, yadda - and integrating them into a working system. Sir, you are a Network Specialist. Market yourself as a Network Administrator. The reality is that there are many people like you out there, but most of them are not very good at it, since most don't know Jack about anything...
  • And, no, not the kind that computers use. I'm wondering why no one has mentioned networking yet.

    Some know just how to work HR, but I find I can't cold call on the typical HR weenie. They aren't geeks-- they don't care about technical stuff. They have extremely narrow views, and will dismiss as bragging and puffing up anything that doesn't fit their assumptions about what is possible. Might even count against you because they'll think you're lying. And they won't test you because they can't, they lack

  • I was in the same spot and I have to agree. Trying to scatter-gun this approach will leave you wanting. You should really try and pick the parts you like to work with, as well as those that have a high presence in your area, or where you would like to work. That way you expose yourself to more things you like, while making yourself more specialized

    I chose to focus on UNIX/Linux and Enterprise Storage. I gave up on Networking/VPNs and Windows side administration. I think the focus helped my career pat

  • I am a "jack of all trades", and when I go to job interviews, they ask me what "I do". I list lots of things - starting with what they're looking for, and say "I'm a jack of all trades". And when they ask what I'm an expert in, I say (truthfully) "whatever I last used/did". And then go for the examples. As a contractor, this strategy of honesty has worked well for me. Don't over toot your own horn, and be frank. My 2 centavos worth.
  • if you like being hired for those sort of positions where they offer you $500 and a couple of weeks to build a cross-platform (windows 95 AND 98!) ACID multi-user threadsafe networked content management and document control system.

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken