What I've Learned

Written on 11:53 AM by Robert

It's been a while since I've blogged about my journey through unemployment, but now I have a few lessons to share about my experience.  Hopefully you can apply some of these ideas in your situation.

  1. Learn Open Source!  If you're a programmer, or aspire to be one, learn some Open-Source languages.  Get that under your belt and add it to your resume.  These are some of the only programming languages that are ok to learn without having the work experience to back it up.
  2. Be a temp!  Find a local staffing agency that may be willing to utilize these new skills as a temp or a consultant.  This will add to your resume and give you credibility so you can have a better footing when the job market turns around.
  3. Go back to school.  Whether you need to complete your Bachelor's degree or continue with a Master's degree, elevate your educational worth by making this investment.  Obviously you can't afford it now, so get a loan and head to an inexpensive but well-known school.  This will also increase your career's net worth.
  4. Map out your career.  I've never done this while I was younger, but you need to know where the future lies careerwise. Start from the bottom and work your way up - but always keep your eyes on the goal.  I just found this PDF from the Workforce Development Council of Seattle, which spells out the career paths of several careers, including Infornation Technology.
  5. Use LinkedIn!  I went to a very informative workshop at my school last week by John Crant, a job search guru, among other hats he wears.  I've learned that you should spend less time in the day on job boards like Monster and more time researching companies on LinkedIn.  You can find people on LinkedIn with the position you might want, and see what companies they currently work for, as well as the companies they used to work for.  From there, you can search for the hiring managers at those companies, then contact them directly.

I still have a lot to learn and need to implement some of these great suggestions in my own life.

If you decide to follow some of these suggestions, or if you disagree with something I've said, or even if you have something to add, just post a comment to this entry so we can all discuss it!  I'd love to hear other suggestions!

Summer Vacation on an Unemployed Budget

Written on 1:25 PM by Robert

In my situation, I am currently receiving unemployment checks while my wife still works for the local government, bringing home the fatty part of the bacon.  I'm grateful for that because it helps out tremendously with the few bills we still have.  I also need to realize that my wife needs a vacation, even though we can't afford to go away.  How are we going to manage this?  Very frugally!

I understand most people who are unemployed are in one-income households.  The suggestions that require a small expense may not be feasible for those people.  Those who aren't unemployed and read this post can also benefit by some cost-cutting suggestions.

First of all, plan on staying close to home.  There are no sleep-overs, unless you can sleep over a relative's house.  I don't know about you, but I've never felt comfortable enough to stay over anyone's house unless it was an emergency - everyone may have different opinions on that, however.  As you know from my previous posts, I don't own a car anymore, reducing my monthly (and weekly) payments tremendously.  Those who don't live in a metropolitan area do not have that luxury.  Those who do should think about making the local transit system their friend.

Here are a few suggestions for spending a great time with your kids without spending a lot of money.
  1. Go to your local zoos.  Kids love animals, and local zoos don't cost much for admission.  I'm actually going to splurge and have my wife buy tickets for the Bronx Zoo, which is usually pretty expensive.  As a city employee, she gets discounts on admission to many city attractions.  Do research on your favorite attraction.  The Bronx Zoo, for example, has "pay what you want" Wednesdays - but the catch is no ground transportation on that day.
  2. Check out the local parks, especially the ones you've never gone to before.  It is like an adventure every time you take children out somewhere new.  Here in New York City, there are dozens of parks throughout the city.  There has to be a few that you'd like to check out:  http://www.nycgovparks.org
  3. Free lunches!!  Here in NYC, many public schools offer free lunches for all children (and sometimes their parents).  Most of those schools also keep their playgrounds open as well, so the kids can work off that meal afterwards.  Take advantage of this and save some money!
  4. Local piers and beaches are good as quick trips for relaxation.
  5. Free pools!  There are tons of free swimming pools in the city, for those who don't mind the company.  I, for one, can't stand the thought of how unclean the water is.  That's why I searched online for local spots that charge small fees for the use of their private pools.  Some local hotels may offer this, and would be worth looking into.
  6. For the kids who enjoy techie attractions, you can take advantage of some of these locations as well (unfortunately, these are only in the NYC area - but web search for similar attractions in your area):
  • Sony Wonder Technology Lab (free admission) - hands on science experiments for kids
  • NY Hall of Science ($11 adults, $8 for kids and free when school is in session) - larger science hall for kids  
  • Nintendo World (free admission) - Bring your DS and play with others, download demos, or just browse through tons of merchandise.  This is not recommended for kids who always want to buy stuff, but for those who can appreciate playing demos of games and just having fun.
Enjoy your summer!  Let us know what other tips you'd like to pass along!  And as the final point - when it comes to eating, check out this MSN article on how to eat cheaply:  http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/HowCheapskatesDoDinner.aspx?page=all Edit

Your Personal Economic Recovery Plan

Written on 12:48 PM by Robert

I know it's been a while since I posted anything. Although I'm still unemployed, I am happy to report I completed the requirements needed to receive my Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. Does that change anything in my status? Not at all - not yet. I still believe you need more than a Bachelor's degree to make an impact in the job market in IT.

My road to success is a long and difficult one, but one where I see light at the end of this dark tunnel I seem to be stuck in. Phase one is complete, with my 4-year degree in hand. What's next?

1) .NET Certification - I have VB .NET experience. Unfortunately, the experience is in Windows programming. I know the industry is focused on web programming, but the fastest road to certification is to be certified in something you are already familiar with. After I'm certified in Windows programming, I can set my sights on web programming certifications down the road.

2) Continuing my education - I decided to get into my school's Master's degree program in the Fall. This means I need to prepare for the GREs fairly quickly.

3) Keep learning - I need to keep up with the latest technologies, particularly open-source programming languages. A great site to start would be Dev Shed, a site for programming tutorials. The more you learn, the better chance you have to land a programming or developer position.

4) Keep putting yourself out there - It's frustrating to keep applying to jobs that seem to be filled before you get to interview for them. I need to learn to set up informational interviews. I need to be more active on LinkedIn groups, on Facebook, and on Twitter in order to attract some attention from the right people. I need to keep refining my resume, contacting more recruiters, and going to career fairs.

Why should you care? Well, if you are in the same boat I'm in, use my example as a template to follow for your own personal situation. The U.S. unemployment rate for May was 9.4% and being one of the thousands out of work is little comfort. The bottom line is that you should have your own "economic recovery plan" so we could start pulling ourselves out of this hole we seem to be in. Good luck! Edit

Job Search Logs

Written on 10:08 AM by Robert

I've learned recently the importance of keeping a job search log.  I've been out of work for months and started a log early on, but as time went on I stopped updating it out of sheer laziness.  But there is sound reasoning the "madness" of keeping such a detailed log.

The most important reason of keeping such a log is for the followups.  When you apply for a job online or receive a call from a recruiter, keeping a record of this action is crucial.  As a job seeker, it is absolutely important to keep tabs on the positions you apply to.  If you apply to ten jobs in a week, you will have to contact these companies (or recruiters) in a few days or a week.  They respond quickly to people who seem to be very interested in the position.  A log like this is important to keep these position requests organized.

Another important reason to have this list is in case someone important requests it.  Your local department of unemployment may request it (in normal circumstances) to prove your willingness to search for work.  A recruiter may also request this list to make sure they are not sending your resume out to a company you have already applied for.

In order to create a decent log, use Microsoft Excel to create a spreadsheet.  Make sure you include the name of the position applied for, the name of the company, the recruiter's company or web site where the position was found, the date you applied for it, and the name and phone number of the contact.  A week after you apply for the position (at the latest), contact the person you dealt with to see if the position has been filled.  Express your desire to obtain this position and hopefully it should increase your chances of getting it.

It's as simple as that.  Keep organized and increase your chances of success.  Any thoughts? Edit

What is Scala?

Written on 11:30 AM by Robert

Scala is an object-oriented language that can be used in the Java and .NET platforms.  Released in 2004, it has slowly gained strength and popularity.  Early this year, Twitter announced it has changed part of its backend to Scala in increments.

But why is Scala so hot lately?  Twitter developers Steve Jenson, Alex Payne, and Robey Pointer sat down for interview earlier this month, where they explained why they chose to move away from Ruby on Rails and use Scala.  Here's some of what they had to say:

Steve Jenson:  "One of the things that I’ve found throughout my career is the need to have long-lived processes. And Ruby, like many scripting languages, has trouble being an environment for long lived processes. But the JVM is very good at that, because it’s been optimized for that over the last ten years. So Scala provides a basis for writing long-lived servers, and that’s primarily what we use it for at Twitter right now. Another thing we really like about Scala is static typing that’s not painful..."

Robey Pointer:  "Also, Ruby doesn’t really have good thread support yet. It’s getting better, but when we were writing these servers, green threads were the only thing available. Green threads don't use the actual operating system’s kernel threads. They sort of emulate threads by periodically stopping what they are doing and checking whether another “thread” wants to run. So Ruby is emulating threads within a single core or a processor. We wanted to run on multi-core servers that don’t have an infinite amount of memory... I think of it as, the higher the level of the programming language, the less you have to type to do more. To me, languages like Ruby, Scala, and Python are very high level, because you can write a few lines of code to do what might take ten or twenty lines in Java, or 250 lines in C."

So they incorporated Ruby with Scala on Twitter.  This language is a good direction to head towards if you already know Java.  So as a developer, how do you get started learning Scala?

Steve Jenson: "Just try it. Make a starter project. Go for it."

Alex Payne: "There’s great code on GitHub. There’s a growing Scala community there. David Pollak and the rest of the Lift committers have put Lift on GitHub."

- I don't know about you, but I think I'm going to give this language a look.  Thoughts? Edit

Is A Bachelor Degree Enough Nowadays?

Written on 4:47 PM by Robert

Thirty years ago, when someone would graduate from college with a Bachelor's degree, they were pretty much guaranteed they would get a well-paying job in their field of expertise.  Anyone with a Masters degree or higher were probably doctors or lawyers.  The pride of saying that you had a Bachelor's degree was a privilege not many people had.  The fact that the drop-out rate for high school graduates was high at the time was also a factor.

Today, there are less people who are satisfied with a high school diploma.  Most people who graduate from high school go on to get a Bachelor's degree.  What exactly does that mean?  Well, it means that if you are one of those people with a Bachelor's degree, you have a LOT of competition out there.  If you are coming out of college with a degree and no experience, then you'll be like the hundreds of others who just graduated, and is after that job you want to land.  It's depressing, to an extent - that the 4-year college degree has less worth than it did decades ago.

So what can you do to stand out in that sea of academic clones in the job market?

  1. Get your Masters Degree (or PhD).  Yes, it will take more time and money, but if you read over the course descriptions of the required classes you will be taking, you will find that these courses are more relevant to the job requirements found in the real world.

  2. Internships.  Apply for whatever internships are advertised at your school.  That could be the step in the door you need to work at that place in the future.

  3. Get a job while you're in school.  If you're lucky enough to get a full-time job in your field of study without a degree, make sure you complete your degree at night.  It's easy to fall into the trap of being caught up in the job and forgetting about the degree and career path.  When a degree is achieved, you will have that experience under your belt already and will have a leg up on the competion.

The choice you make may not be the best choice for everyone, but its important to remember that there is always a choice.

Can you think of another option?  Please add whatever else you think should be added to this list. Edit

Should Knowing One .NET Language Be Enough To Land a Job That Uses Another?

Written on 1:06 PM by Robert

Microsoft .NETThis is a followup to my previous topic about Visual BASIC, since I wanted to clarify a few things and expand upon that discussion.

Visual BASIC is not the same a Visual BASIC .NET.  For one, The .NET Framework allows the VB program (with major modifications) to interface with web capabilities that VB6 could never do.  A VB6 programmer will have some minor learning curve migrating his applications over to VB .NET (Winforms), but will quickly adapt to the new syntax changes.  I was one of those people who became used to VB .NET rather quickly without formal training.  Sure, I had to Google for a few solutions, but this is expected when working with a relatively new language.

Most graduates of a Computer Science program are adept at using C++ in more than one of their courses, whether it be in a Windows or a Unix environment (or both, in my case).  When working in the real world, these college graduates will gravitate towards languages that are similar in syntax - like C#, Java, and Javascript.  Obviously, these languages are not the same, otherwise we wouldn't have different names for them!  I believe there are two reasons these languages are so popular.  Most people are familiar with C++ and find it easy to work with similar languages.  The other reason is that Windows itself is written in C++, which is a subliminal reason to stick to what works.

I have found, in my experience, that there was nothing I couldn't accomplish using VB .NET that was asked of me to do.  There may be advantages to using C#, but I personally wouldn't know.  On that path of thinking, recruiters should realize that if someone is familiar with C++, then they can easily grasp C# and Java.  Someone familiar with VB .NET can also easily grasp C# and Java if they have a college degree in Computer Science.  It seems unfair that those who chose to start their career using VB and VB .NET have a harder time to achieve a C# position if they have never had any previous professional experience using it.

Any thoughts? Edit

RPG - An Evolving Programming Language

Written on 11:05 AM by Robert

IBM System II wanted to write a little something about a programming language that I used at my previous job - RPG.  I used two different versions of this language (versions III and IV) on an IBM AS400 minicomputer (currently known as the IBM System I).  Not many recent college graduates have heard of it, but 20 years ago it was a hot tool to use - especially for companies who wanted to come up with a quick way to create reports.

RPG, which used to stand for Report Program Generator, is a language still used on mainframe and minicomputers today.  The language is a linear one, just like the "competitors" of its day:  Forttran, Assembler, and COBOL.  It was originally created in the 1960s and was known as FARGO, used primarily for IBM's 1401 computers using punch cards. 

As computer systems evolved, so did RPG.  Several versions emerged over the years, including RPG II, RPG III, and finally RPG IV in 1994 (also known as RPGLE).  Today, RPG IV is a more robust language than in was in 1994.  In 2001, IBM's OS/400 operating system for their AS400 systems developed a "free-form" or "free-format" style to the syntax.  This made programming seem more like many of the other mainstream programming languages. RPG has the ability to link up with Java objects and can be used with toolkits to create web pages.  Here is a little sample of what an RPG program (with "free-form" looks like).


When I first started to learn RPG on the corporate AS400 system, I thought I was learning a dead language on an antique system.  The truth is that IBM continues to create newer servers that support the OS/400 operating system.  Ten years ago, the AS400 system at my old job was updated with a server with a 64-bit processor - something that we didn't see in Windows servers for another 5 years or so.

Here's another fact that I didn't know.  There are major corporations that still use the AS400/System I as their main server solution.  Some in New York are HSBC Bank, Duane Reade, and Time Warner Cable!!

I always thought learning RPG was a crutch in my career, but now I see how important it really has become.  It has also proved to be adaptable and constantly eveolving through the decades. Edit

Visual BASIC - On Its Way Out?

Written on 10:42 AM by Robert

Radio Shack TRS-80
BASIC was the first programming language I ever learned.  I learned it in my senior year of high school and in the computer club I played games written in that language on the original TRS-80 computers they used.  In case you've never heard of the Radio Shack TRS-80s, here is a picture.  Reading about the history of the BASIC programming language has also made me nostalgic lately.

In college, after taking all sorts of programming courses (Assembler, Pascal, C, C++), I took a course in Visual BASIC 3.0.  It was the most interesting programming course I've ever taken because of its GUI capabilities.  It seemed like anything was possible to create with this version of VB.  Later that year, I was hired by my previous employer as a PC technician specifically because I had knowledge of Visual BASIC.  Through the years, I self-taught myself to use the next versions of Visual BASIC - 4.0, 5.0. 6.0, then .NET.

I worked there for 14 years using similar technologies - VB Winforms, RPG/400, and ASP.  Now that I have been laid off, I realize that I should have pushed for more modern languages.  C# has seemed to take over as the .NET standard.  Java, PHP, MySQL, and any web-based scripting tools have also become increasingly utilized.

Now, I've been reading several articles about the death of Visual BASIC.  C# has proved to do more than VB .NET can.  One article claims that there is absolutely no future of Visual BASIC.  According to another article, developers who use .NET prefer to use C#, but Winform developers prefer using VB6 than .NET (since .NET can be used for web and Windows applications).  This is based on data taken from a survey done several years ago.

The conclusion is that if you are a web developer trying to figure out which language to use, stay away from Visual BASIC.  There are a half dozen programming languages that are more widely used.  Winform development, in my job-hunting experience, seems to be a skill that is not as popular as it used to be.  If you already have Winform programming experience (like myself), you would be useful doing Windows to Web application conversions. Edit

Saving Money For The Unemployed

Written on 1:02 PM by Robert

One of the things I've learned soon after I was laid off was how to cut back on expenditures. Some of the things I'm about to mention I've implemented years ago, and some I'm still working on. Hopefully you'll have better luck than I have had with respect to all of these tips.

1) Get rid of that car! If you live in a large metropolitan area (like NYC), do you REALLY need a car? I live in Brooklyn and have not needed a vehicle on a day to day basis in over 6 years. This saves you on car payments, insurance payments, gas purchases, and maintenance. Can you calculate how much money YOU would save monthly just by cutting back on a vehicle? I can imagine owning a car can easily cost over $500 a month.

Use mass transit to get from place to place. It will become second nature. If you want to go away for the weekend or go on vacation, you can rent a car for that time. It will be much cheaper in the long run.

2) Combine your bills. If you watch cable (or satellite, or FIOS), combine that bill with your phone and Internet services. You will definitely be saving money on a monthly basis. You will also have less bills to pay, making this a lot simpler for yourself. If you can combine your gas bill and your electricity bill, go for it! Combine your car insurance (if you decide to stick with one) with your home insurance (if you own a home). If you have multiple loans or credit cards to pay, try to consolidate them (assuming the interest rates wind up being better).

3) Start shopping with coupons. Cut supermarket coupons before going shopping and stock up on the sale items to last a few weeks. Do you need to buy something online? Then search the Internet for online coupons. There are tons of merchants who accept online coupons - why not take advantage of them?

4) Stop eating out as much. This is something I still need to work on. Cutting back on eating out for lunch and dinner will save you the most money per month. If you haven't done so already, estimate how much you spend a week eating out. Then multiply it by 4 weeks. This monthly expenditure is scary! Cut back, if you can.

If you can think of any other money saving tips, please post and share! Edit

Why Should I Work For The Government?

Written on 11:12 AM by Robert

GovernmentMost employed people that I know work for a private company and are fairly familiar with that environment. However, many people have never held a government job. What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of holding a government position?

Here are some of the advantages:
1. A pension. This is arguably better than a traditional 401k plan.
2. The financial services of a credit union or similar institution. Mortgages and other loans with great interest rates are always a welcome perk.
3. Your position is a measure of company status. Raises come at regular intervals (based on the economy, of course).
4. The higher your position, the more administrative power you hold - not always true in the private sector.
5. It is much harder for a government employee to be let go than a similar job in the private sector.
6. Some government agencies encourage hiring your relatives.
7. A more relaxed working environment.
8. A great benefits package.

Here are some of the disadvantages:
1. Government jobs offer a lower starting salary.
2. Promotions are few and far between.
3. Pay increases are smaller than they would be in the private sector.
4. Regulations. Government jobs come with tons of rules to follow.

If you had a choice between pubic and private sector jobs, do your research. Find out what would be a deal-breaker for you.

Anyone working for the government who wants to add something to this list? Any comments? Edit

I'm Unemployed and Proud of It!

Written on 10:44 AM by Robert

Emotions definitely come into play when you go through a layoff. I think the first emotion we have after a layoff (besides anger) is shame. Being jobless is traditionally a "bad" thing to have happen to someone (especially yourself). When you tell someone you've been laid off, the first reaction they give you is a pitiful, "I'm so sorry!" There is a period of time that you naturally want to hide this fact from most of your acquaintances and some family members to avoid the feeling of shame.

This shame seems to stem from the feeling that you are somehow responsible for your current situation. The fact is that if you are a casualty of the economy, and it has happened to millions of people just like you.

The shame you initially feel should eventually become acceptance. When you begin admitting you have a problem, that is the beginning of your personal recovery. Admitting you have a problem to others invite others to help.

Ok, being "proud" of being unemployed is probably stretching it a bit. However, the more people you tell about your unemployment issues, the greater the chances become that someone will connect you with that ONE opportunity that will get you your dream job. Isn't that the ultimate goal for the unemployed professional?

Do you think you should spread the word if you are unemployed, or keep it to yourself? Edit

So How Was The Big Apple Job Fair?

Written on 2:13 PM by Robert

CUNY Big Apple Job Fair

I got to the Jacob Javits Convention Center at around 10:30 - a full half-hour before the beginning of the Big Apple Job Fair. Registration was in the lower level and there was already a good sized line ahead of me. We were told immediately that we would not be allowed in if you weren't in a suit and tie (for the men) or didn't have your CUNY id card. By the time the organizers started to let people in, the line behind me stretched WAY down the long corridor. Local news crews were filming us on line, and photographers were taking pictures of the crowd as well. At 11:00, the line started to move and in no time I was at the registration desk, handing in a copy of my resume and receiving a bag full of brochures and a layout of the floor plan.

After registering, we followed the signs to the upper level. I had done my homework a few days ago, so I knew which employers I wanted to visit. The floor was fairly crowded, but I managed to visit all the employers I wanted to see, and even visit one that wasn't on my list - which was a waste of time. Lesson: Only visit the employers that are hiring for your field. Otherwise you will be wasting time.

Some employers, namely the NYC DOITT, weren't even taking resumes because of economic problems. However, I did get a good lead on openings in programming for a particular employer. Sorry - no details about that until I get an interview - the less competition I get, the better! Ha! The only problem was that I couldn't find where Eric Barron's workshop was. Those workshops are awesome.

All in all, it was definitely worth attending. I will follow up with my leads later today, including researching LinkedIn for any members in those companies who may want to discuss those positions. Wish me luck! Edit

Online Portfolios

Written on 11:17 AM by Robert

I have learned that it is important to create an online portfolio if you are a programmer - and probably for most other creative careers as well (like graphic designers, for example). When you apply for a job, it is important to show off your talents.

Without an online portfolio, your potential employer will be forced to take your word that you are skilled at what you do. They have no choice but to take a chance on you based on your resume and if you don't live up to expectations, they may need to let you go - wasting their time and money in hiring you. This is their fear. To alleviate this fear, you should set up an online portfolio showcasing your talents and accomplishments in a visible way.

1) Get your own web domain. Remember, the ".com" suffix for a web site is for companies who are making money from the site. A popular suffix to use now for your own personal information is ".me". Pick a site name that means something to you - maybe your name. If you are new to setting up web sites, head to GoDaddy.com and see how much it would cost for the domain name and hosting. The fee is worth having your online brand personalized.

2) Create the site. You can use GoDaddy's online web designer or use software like Microsoft Expression Web, which already comes in Microsoft Office 2007. There are tons of web design programs out there. Use something you feel most comfortable with and is easy for you to use.

3) Show off the goods. Use plenty of screenshots of what you want to show off, and describe exactly what you are showing. Make it very easy for an outsider to understand.

4) Get people to see it. Give people your link. Include it in your email signature. Include it in your professional and social profiles. Once you've done that, you can do the advanced work on how to get more traffic to your site by Googling those tips, but that may not even be necessary if you send people to that site from your other profiles.

A potential employer will see your handiwork with his/her own eyes and will feel very comfortable that if you are hired, you will provide the kind of results that you have shown off - and increase your chance to be hired.

Do you have an online portfolio set up yet? If so, share the link in a comment below so we could check them out as examples (and generate some traffic to it). Edit

Programming vs Software Engineering vs Software Development

Written on 10:38 AM by Robert

Now that I've been out of work for a few months, I've been amazed at the changes that has transpired in the IT landscape since the last time I've been out of work. The term "programmer" is declining in popularity, while "software engineer" and "software developers" are more commonplace. So, is there a difference? Apparently there is.

The IEEE defines software engineering as "(1) The application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software; that is, the application of engineering to software. (2) The study of approaches as in (1)"

However, that didn't satisfy my questions. Why do we see so many programming jobs posted with all different job titles? After tons of research, this is what I concluded:

Programmer - someone who writes code, and that is it

Software developer (or web developer or application developer) - someone who writes code, takes care of graphics or GUI requirements, handles testing etc...

Software engineer - the one who designs, composes specifications for, and plans tests for, software

Based on these definitions, maybe I should change the name of this blog.
Any thoughts or corrections? Edit

Upcoming Career Fairs

Written on 1:39 PM by Robert

career fair

I compiled a partial list of upcoming career fairs in the New York City area in the next few months. I hope this helps people who have been scrambling to find a complete list of these events as I have been.

CUNY Big Apple Job Fair
- March 20 (11am - 4:30pm) at Jacob Javits
City Career Fair
- March 26 (11am - 4pm) 102 North End Avenue
Brooklyn Diversity Job Fair
- March 31 (10am - 1:30pm) Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn
NYC Career Fair
- April 2 (10am - 3pm) 125 W18th Street
NY Career Fair - April 14 (11am - 3pm) 49 W32nd Street
Bilingual Job Fair
- April 16 (10am - 3pm) 125 W18th Street
Job Expo
- April 23 (10am - 3pm) 371 7th Avenue
Diversity Job Fair
- June 3rd (10am - 3pm) 371 Seventh Avenue

Do you have any more to add to this list? Please post them to share! Edit

Cramer vs. Stewart

Written on 10:05 AM by Robert

The Daily Show

I have been a fan of the Daily Show for over a year. It is a surprisingly entertaining source of financial and political news for me. This week, Jon Stewart began his crusade against financial media giant CNBC, and specifically Jim Cramer of Mad Money for his presentation of misinformation on several matters, including the financial health of several companies like Bear Sterns.

All week there has been a "war of words" between these two. Cramer has been on half a dozen talk shows this week trying to present his side of the story while Stewart ripped into him with video clips from Mad Money showing Cramer making faulty financial predictions. These predictions, according to Stewart, played a part in making the general public lose money in the stock market.

Last night, Cramer appeared on the Daily Show to face the ever-ready Stewart in a debate about the state of the financial world and CNBC's role in it. Stewart's argument was that Cramer's entertaining show (and CNBC as a whole) should do more in protecting the finances of the average stock holder and less in protecting the interests of the corporations. Cramer seemed to agree with every point Steward made and explained that the information given to the people was based on facts presented by corporate CEOs, which was almost laughable in itself.

My opinion is that Cramer should not be offended by Stewart's criticisms. Stewart is a comedian with a comedic show about politics and finances. Cramer's job is supposed to be predict the future of the stock market based on the information he gets. So who's at fault? Whoever is in charge of checking the validity of corporate claims before making predictions.

What do you think about this whole mess? Oh, and before you give me your answer, here is but ONE of the dozens of clips on Youtube showing off Stewart's handling of Cramer during this past week. Enjoy!


The Layoff Cycle

Written on 5:01 PM by Robert

The Layoff Cycle Edit

The HACE Regional Career Conference

Written on 1:55 PM by Robert

I just came back from a career fair hosted by HACE (Hispanic Alliance for Career Advancment). It was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, NYC.

It was a great event, and it wasn't as crowded as some of the more well-known career fairs in the city. There were quite a few companies represented there, but the most popular, by far, was Time Warner Cable. They also had Career Coaching tables there for those who wanted to have their resumes critiqued. It was a well-organized event and didn't seem intimidating at all.

I actually went to meet with someone at Time Warner Cable. But based on my experience, they didn't have any positions available at this time. Sounds like I've heard that before. But it wasn't a total loss. The recruiter gave me the name of the HR representative I can contact directly about future openings.

It was good practice for me to get out there and give my 30-second speech about myself. I still need to refine that, though. I emphasize my hard skills too much, and not enough of my soft skills. Everyone should Google to find out what the difference is, if you don't already know.

One thing I DID do before going, which is something everyone should do as well, is check out the jobs being offered by the companies that are attending the job fair. It will help you weed out the employers that are not hiring in your area or in your field of expertise.

Also, observe other people and learn what NOT to do. One woman is on her cell phone while introducing herself to the recruiter and asks her what positions are available. HELLO! Do the research online before stepping up to a recruiter at a job fair and give him (or her) your undivided attention. Shut off your phone! It's only for a few minutes!

Are there any other career fair tips or stories you'd like to share? Edit

What the heck is a torrent??

Written on 1:35 PM by Robert

A torrent is a file-sharing utility that most computer professionals lately can't live without. Neither can software pirates. We won't go into the legal aspects of downloading illegal material here, but I will say that it can be done. However, this is something being done by hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of computer users worldwide.

What can you download? You can actually search and retrieve entire albums, computer software, short video clips, entire DVDs, and video games. Some of the software would also come with a "keygen" (a key generator) that supplies you with that required product key that needs to be entered when the software is installed. Other times, the key is supplied in a text file or embedded in the software itself, so that installation would be all you need to do.

How do I get in on this action?

  • Download and install a torrent software. You can try uTorrent or Bittorent, two of the more popular packages out there.
  • Start the torrent software. Once it runs it may stay resident in memory (invisible, for all you non-techies) waiting for your first move.
  • Go to a torrent site to search for what you want. A few such sites are thePirateBay and Mininova. For you experienced torrentors, the follwing two sites go through a dozen such sites simultaneously: torrents.to and torrentsurf.com.
  • Once you get the list of available entries for what you want, sort by SEEDS. Think of seeds as people who have this file. The more seeds the file has, the better chance you have to get that file in a timely fashion. Choose the entry that has the most seeds.
  • Before clicking on the link that says "Download Now", check for comments. There are times when the file contains a virus. Other people before you would leave hateful comments if this is the case. Otherwise you will see tons of praise.
  • Click on Download Now. Windows will ask you to either Open or Save this file. Choose Open. Your torrent software will now activate and download your request. You don't need to keep your PC on until it downloads. When you shut down, the torrent download ends, but will continue where it left off next time you open your torrent software.
  • Once the download is complete, right-click on it and choose Open Containing Folder to actually see what you downloaded. Now you can do whatever you choose to do with it.
Once you do the first one, the rest will become easier. People tell me (ahem) that you can download the world's best software packages on there and train yourself to use them in a professional manner.

This is in no way the only method out there right now. This method has been around for years and used by most people today. There are legitimate file-sharing reasons for using this, however it has evolved to a point where it has been used for a wide range of reasons. For the sake of education, if you haven't learned how to do this yet, you should try it out. Edit

10 Tips for Attending a Career Fair

Written on 9:49 AM by Robert

There are a few MORE job fairs coming up in NYC this week. I'll be busy preparing for them for a few days. Here is something interesting I came across.

Top 10 Tips for Attending Career and Job Fairs
QuintCareers print-friendly
Printer-Friendly Version
Compiled by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

1. Have a pen/pencil and paper available for notes.

2. Bring resumes and a folder or portfolio to hold your materials.

3. Take the time to find out what companies will be represented before the day of the career fair.

4. Research information about the participating companies and organizations prior to approaching the recruiters. Use the Internet, news sources and career fair materials to learn about the companies' booths you plan to visit. You can impress a recruiter by knowing about his or her company and can discuss its current situation.

5. Use time wisely. Determine where employers are located and in what order to visit them. Focus on three companies that you are truly interested in.

6. Broaden your focus and include many types of employers. For instance, you may not have considered working for a hospital, but hospitals recruit and hire professionals in many different fields (e.g., management, information systems, or health care).

7. Be aware of time demands on employers. Do not monopolize an employer's time. Ask specific questions and offer to follow up after the fair, as appropriate.

8. Be direct. Introduce yourself, including your name and career interests. If you are job-seeking, state the type of position in which you are interested. If you are gathering information, let employers know that you are only interested in materials and information. Remember to use good eye contact and a firm handshake. Career fairs are the perfect place to use your elevator speech.

9. Make sure you learn from the recruiter employment and/or hiring trends, skills necessary for different jobs, current openings, salary, benefits, training, and other information about the organization. Also make sure you know whom to contact for follow-up discussions.

10. Ask the employer for the next steps in the recruitment process and try to obtain the recruiter's business card for follow-up discussions/correspondence.

Anyone else want to share any useful tips or advice? Edit

What are you feeding YOUR brain?

Written on 9:30 AM by Robert

Last week I received an email from CUNY (the City University of New York) about a job search bootcamp-style seminar conducted by Eric Baron. Now, before this email, I've never heard of this guy. So I did a little research, and I read up on him on his web site, Eric Barron Live. I liked what I saw, and decided to pay the small charge (CUNY discount) to attend the one-day bootcamp this past Saturday. I have to say, it was well worth the money.

The event was held at the Gotham Comedy Club, of all places. Mr. Barron conducted this bootcamp as if we were watching a comedy routine, while we learned a lot about the job search process and how to sell ourselves as a brand to a prospective employer. The workshop lasted for six hours, but I have to say that he was so entertaining that time FLEW. Although his target audience was for the 20-somethings that are about to graduate from college and enter the workforce, there were people in their 50's in the audience as well.

I want to pass onto you some of the tips I've picked up here. Here are some of the highlights:

- Setting S.M.A.R.T goals
- How to efficiently manage your time
- Creating your "Personal Brand" - I have to admit I liked this topic a lot. Basically, you are creating a 60-second infomercial about yourself, showcasing some interesting and fun facts about yourself that are not in your resume. This is useful during job fairs and during an interview when asked that famous question. "Tell me about yourself."
- Cover letter, resume, and thank you letter tips
- Interview advice
- What is networking and how can you effectively connect with people to EVENTUALLY ask them about any job opportunities
- How to use the Social Media to promote yourself (Linkedin, Twitter, blogs)

One of the most important things I learned here is creating my personal brand. That 60-second introduction is VERY important. Things that enhance that personal brand would be a business card, which includes your name, an adjective describing yourself, and a picture. There are a few job fairs here in NYC on Thursday, so I need to get on that and prepare.

Let me know if you have any questions about personal brand, or anything else about the Eric Barron workshop. I have more details that would probably take too long to spell out in one blog entry! :)


How To Get a Degree - CHEAPLY

Written on 11:31 AM by Robert

If you are unemployed, you may have noticed you may need a degree you may not have right now. Associate Degrees are not what they were 20 years ago. Or you may have a Bachelor's degree and want to stand out from a pile of resumes with a Master's degree. How can you afford one?

Online MBA can range in price from $7000 to over $100,000. Call (or web surf) your city and state universities and shop around. You may be surprised how cheap the can be. Otherwise, check out www.geteducated.com and get tips and links to schools.

Personally, I'm trying to finish my Bachelor's degree (just a few classes to go!) before worrying about my next step. I would love to get an MBA as well, if that's still even considered worthwhile. Any thoughts? Edit

Where are all the jobs?

Written on 11:10 AM by Robert

Today's reports indicate that we hit a 25 year high unemployment rate of 8.1% in February. Over 651,000 jobs were lost in February alone. CNN reports that 7.3% of those people were white, 13.4% were black, 10.9% were Hispanics, and 6.9% were Asian. My point? Not sure yet. Conspiracy by the "man"? lol Hardly. But where are all the jobs, then?

CNN has an interactive map of the unemployment rates by state and by industry. If you're one of those people that think that you will be better off working in another field or industry, you're not alone. Do the research, do what you love, and do what's best for you and your family.

Click here to see that map. Good hunting! Edit

Not Right For The Job

Written on 3:21 PM by Robert

I've been working at my old company for 14 years - first as a computer technician and network administrator, then as a Programmer. You would think with that much experience I could find a job easily after being laid off.

I have to admit, I hate being a network administrator because of being on-call 24/7. I hate being a technician for the same reason. That seems to limit my choices to programming, doesn't it? Well, they originally hired me 14 years ago because I was familiar with Visual Basic (I took a college course using version 3.0). Through the years (even as a network admin) the company kept upgrading VB until .NET 2005 and I've been learning every new version I received. I was always able to create any application I was told to create. I also learned RPG on their AS400 system, connecting to that system's DB2 databases, as well as modifying an ASP-based Intranet application. The applications I worked on were always low-level jobs and never required any complicated technologies. And then the position was eliminated.

For four months I've been on several interviews and going through all the jobs available and I've come up with a conclusion. It seems that most programming jobs available are senior-level jobs. Entry-level jobs are looking for people with a myriad of programming skills. I don't know if it's been like this for over a decade or if things changed with the deepening of the recession. Also, since I only have an Associate's Degree, it also hampers whatever possibilities I may find because a 4-year degree is also a requirement.

Right now I'm trying to finish my last 3 courses I need to get my Bachelor's degree, which I'll finish next semester. I'm also learning Java from an online continuing education course. Trying to stay current is hard work, but if you persevere, you will make it.

My suggestion to programmers having a hard time finding work is to take something you're good at (.NET, Java, etc) and learn it WELL. Get certified - it definitely helps. Then use it to accomplish a specific goal (Web 2.0, etc). You are setting yourself apart from the rest of the applicants with your specified skills.

I have a long way to go myself, but at least I can share my wisdom with others who can use it. Edit

Being Mister Mom

Written on 12:49 PM by Robert

If you're married and you both work, it is understandable that the responsibilities around the house would be shared 50-50 (at least it is around here). When one of you loses your job, then then person looking for work becomes the person with more responsibilities at home than the person still working. It just seems to be common sense, doesn't it?

I lost my job on October 25, 2008. I saw it coming for months. I had desk cleaned out (for the most part) and my future plans laid out. I thought it would be relatively easy for me to find a new job - I'm in the IT field with 14 years of experience. How hard could it be? If I had any problems, I would just get a consulting job. 15 years ago, I went through a few consulting and temp agencies without even trying. Now with this economic disaster this country is facing, the game isn't the same as it used to be. I'll probably elaborate more on that in my next blog.

So now it's over 4 months later. I'm the King of my castle - and it's driving me up the wall. Here is my typical day:

I wake up around 6:30am, take a shower, wake up the kids, then make breakfast for the kids while my wife heads for work. I take the kids to school and come back home. I spend a few hours online checking out the emails, the job sites, and other tips CNN gives me to follow up on online. Before I know it, its time for lunch. I have something to eat, clean up the house a little, get some online learning done, and then it's time to pick the kids up from school. I make the kids something to eat, then continue doing some housework until my wife gets home. Two days a week I have school at night, so I drop my kids off at my mother-in-law's apartment downstairs and then head to school. On those school nights, I get home around 10pm - just enough time to catch up on my favorite TV shows and get to bed, to do it over again the next day. On nights I don't have class, I'm doing homework until its time for the kids to get to bed.

I look forward to those days when I have dentist appointments, a job fair, an employment workshop, an interview -- anything that will make my day a little different than the last. I know all of my kids' teachers, the parent coordinator in school, the crossing guards (lol), some parents. I also know in great detail which cabinet doors are creaking, what home projects need to be done, and how to separate the colors from the whites. I'm not saying I don't like taking care of the kids or the house, but I miss working!

I know I'm not alone out there. There are tons of Mr. Moms out there right now. CNN told me so. lol Let me know if you know what I'm talking about! Give me an example of your typical day at home! Edit

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