Sysadmin careers: Seven ways to market your sysadmin skills
Good technical recruiters have known for decades that unless you market your skills, even within your current company, your career will stagnate. You don't have to be a "job hopper" to gain notoriety, to boost your income, or to expand your technical community reach. I've outlined seven things you can do to make your skills known to others.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to create a profile, connect to others, message other users, recommend coworkers, solicit recommendations, post information, join groups, and more. It is the working professional's version of Facebook. The key to using LinkedIn effectively is to connect with current and former coworkers, managers, and other people who know your work and ask for recommendations.
You can post on LinkedIn, but remember this isn't Facebook, so two or three informative posts per week are plenty to keep your name in front of your connections. Stay away from controversial and political discussions. Also, curb any negative posts. Employers or potential employers who search for you don't want to see harmful, derogatory, defamatory, racist, or other negative speech.
LinkedIn provides you with opportunities to join groups, take part in meaningful discussions, and to further your career by making the right connections. Use it wisely.
Engage in meetups and local activities
You should take the time and make the effort to attend any technical/technology meetups in your area. These meetups give you a chance to learn new technologies, explore some new surroundings, and connect with other like-minded professionals. Networking is an important aspect of your career building. Don't sit alone in a corner; sit at a table of people unfamiliar to you. Mix it up and move around the room. Strike up conversations with new people. Be sure to shake hands, make eye contact, smile, and talk about yourself, your skills, your job history, and your aspirations. And be sure to listen to others as well. You'll find more common ground and opportunities when you're willing to interact.
If local groups don't exist, start one. Go to meetup.com and create a new group. Remember, though, that it takes time to generate interest. Advertise the group on social media, in community newspapers, and anywhere people gather; and be patient. When I started the Linux user's group here in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1996, there were only eight people who attended, but the group is still going and growing after all this time.
Sign up with a recruiting firm
Whether you're looking for a new job or just exploring what's available, you should sign up with a recruiting firm and keep your profile, resume, and information updated. Make occasional contact with a firm representative to find out what's going on locally and, if you're open to relocating, on a larger scale. Often, recruiters will send out job notifications to see if their contacts know of anyone who might be a good fit. Respond to each one. Even if you don't know someone that's right for the position, you need to acknowledge that you received the notice. Staying in touch with recruiters and helping them place applicants can earn you some cash, too—many recruiters offer "finder's fees" when you connect them with someone who ends up filling one of their open positions.
At some point in your career, you'll probably need a technical recruiter. So stay in contact with them. Be nice and helpful. Signing up with multiple recruiting firms is OK, but be aware that many of them have the same list of available positions, and you might be contacted more than once for the same position or job notification.
Become a mentor
Mentoring, teaching, and coaching are rewarding activities, and they can boost your career. You need to teach someone else to take on your daily tasks so that you can have time to do some research and development on topics that will enhance your work experiences. Be the person that other people come to for answers. Being helpful makes you valuable to your company. The more people you help, the more valuable you become. Never keep new information to yourself. Don't believe that keeping information to yourself will make you indispensable. Doing everything by hand rather than automating it doesn't guarantee you a job. Not documenting procedures, changes, and implementations will obsolete you faster than making the information widely available to others.
Remember to add mentoring, teaching, and documenting activities to your resume. These skills are extremely important to your future employers, as well as your current one.
Sing your own praises
Highlight your accomplishments. No one will likely notice or care if you don't bring it to their attention. Keep a text document on your desktop and record your accomplishments. They don't have to be huge, earth-shattering leaps into the unknown; they can be incremental achievements but you should still get credit for them because they matter. You might believe that they're insignificant or just a regular part of your job, but write them down anyway. When it's time for annual evaluations, you'll have plenty of tangible examples to demonstrate your value to the company and to your team.
When you have a one-on-one session with your manager (and you should have these often—no less than twice per month), describe your accomplishments in detail. Use numbers, graphs, and action words to show impact. It's not arrogant to demonstrate how you contribute to your company's success, and being quiet about your accomplishments will be more likely to be seen as a lack of accomplishments rather than admirable humility.
Accept and take responsibility
If everyone in a company simply "did their job," the company might succeed, but if everyone in the company steps up and takes on more responsibility, feels a sense of ownership, and accepts responsibility for what they do, the company will succeed. Successful companies are built on successful contributors. There's no other way to state that. Success doesn't mean that there won't be any failures, because there will be. Success means that each contributor shares in the responsibility for their positions, their actions, and their successes and failures.
Show your management that you take responsibility and that you want to share in the company's success. Don't be shy; be a standout. Step forward and take on something new, follow through, and be recognized for your efforts.
Write about what you do
Writing articles, seminars, white papers, and documentation helps establish you as an expert in your field. Even if it's just a personal blog, write about your work and your successes, how you overcame an obstacle, how you bounced back from failure, or how you came up with something that saved money, created new revenue, or prevented a problem. Writing for sites such as Opensource.com or Enable Sysadmin sets you apart from your peers. Articles and written materials give you name recognition and elevate your status as a technologist.
Having a list of published material with your name on it is impressive to prospective employers, too. It should also boost your prominence and your position in your current company. When people search for terms, techniques, procedures, products, or how-tos, and your name comes up associated with that material, it enhances your value. Write. Learn. Repeat.
This article gives you the pointers you need to market yourself as a technology expert and as a technologist in general. There's no substitute for experience, but you have to advertise that experience to capitalize on it.
[ Want to test your sysadmin skills? Take a skills assessment today. ]