Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Finding work

Finding work as a Linux Systems Administrator is an interesting thing, and can be very frustrating to say the least.

If you go to the various job postings, you'll see that a lot of employers appear to have copied and pasted from some other job listing(s), and are basically asking that you be able to do everything under the sun, and do it for cheap. This is frustrating for both job seekers and for Human Resource departments.

Here's what happens. You see a job listing that asks that you be expert in Windows, AIX, Solaris, Oracle, MySQL, Linux (usually a specific flavor and version), shell scripting, Python, perl, C, C++, Java, web development, Apache, postfix, puppet, clustering, cloud, cPanel, WebMin... You get the picture. They want somebody - not who is conversant with these things - but who is expert at these things. And not just some of them, but all of them.

I've had a long career in Systems Administration, starting with Windows and DOS, and finally deciding to focus entirely on Linux. So throughout my career, I've mastered some things on that list, become adequate on some of them, and some of them I learn about only because I'm reading a job requirement list and see them mentioned for the first time in my career. For many of these job postings, no single person on the planet could fill all the requirements, and certainly not at an expert level. And if such a person existed, his asking salary would be well over $250,000 American per year, easily.

So the job seeker looks at the list and says to himself, "Hey, I'm very good at most of this! I just don't have any experience with Solaris, and not much with Oracle. I'm going to apply anyway!"

Then Human Resources gets his application and cannot find anything on his resume about Solaris, so winds up chucking his application in the bit bucket. So now they've had to waste their time at one level, and are frustrated. It gets even worse later, when they are told to shrink the list of requirements, and they realize how many potential candidates were thrown away because the person needing the personnel overstated his need and wasted so much more of their time.

The job seeker is frustrated because he's sure he could do the job, and would ramp up on Solaris quickly enough. After all, when you learn one Linux/UNIX variant, learning another is just a matter of translating the way it is done on the one you know to the way it is done on the one you don't know. But he wasn't even given a chance.

Many times if you go deeper into the true needs of the company, you find out that they have one Solaris server, and they are retiring it in two months. The job seeker would never have had to touch the thing in the first place. And as for Oracle, they just need somebody who can safely restart the server if it crashes, because they have a full-time DBA on staff to deal with the database side of things.

When perspective employers do this sort of job requirement list, they do both job seekers and themselves a disservice. Not only are they turning away many highly qualified candidates, but because no single person can fill the role, the job search takes longer, the HR department gets overworked, and eventually they need to trim the list back to what they actually needed in the first place. Those who are seeking work are going to have to toss their hats in the ring regardless of whether they can fulfill the entire list, because they really want the position and are sure that in the interview they can show that they are capable. Worse yet, because there are so many job offerings to look at, many - like myself - will look at that laundry list very quickly, seeking items that we cannot fill, and move on to the next job offering. Very highly qualified, motivated people are walking away from jobs where they'd be a great fit because companies exaggerate their needs, or copy and paste from other listings.

While I'm on the subject, let's talk about experience required. Many years ago, when Linux was about 8 years old, I saw a job listing requiring 10 years experience with Linux. That'd be a neat trick! The poor kid who is just graduating college, having studied from textbooks that are 4 years out of date, and with no real world experience, is desperate to find work, but everybody wants 5 years experience, or more. For those like myself who did not get the opportunity to finish college, you often need 10 years experience to counter the lack of college. These recent college grads need to be given the chance to act as junior SysAdmins, under the mentoring of senior SysAdmins. In a very short time they will be contributing greatly to the company, if only given a chance.

One last nitpick, and then I'll drop off the radar again for a while. Clearances. I know that when your company contracts with the Department of Defense, many of your personnel need to hold Secret and above clearances. That's a given. The problem is that these days most of the listings are insisting that you already have the clearance, because the company doesn't want to pay for it. Fewer and fewer job listings say, "Must be able to obtain a clearance," instead insisting on a pre-existing clearance. I used to hold a Secret clearance because of my work in the USAF, but that has long since expired, and because of this, I'm no longer qualified for many jobs. This basically means that the only people qualified for the job will be recent departures from the military - and God bless them, they deserve the best jobs they can get - or people who have worked in a government capacity that required clearances. Companies really need to be willing to pony up for the cost of a background check and getting clearances for highly qualified potential employees.

I wish you new college graduates the best in you careers! Keep at it, and you'll find opportunities to increase your experience points. I highly recommend doing probono work for charities, setting up Linux servers for them to replace the expensive Windows licenses they are currently having to pay. Take part in your local Linux Users Group, where you can learn a great deal from those who have been in the trenches longer.

And be realistic. You just got out of college, and as much as you were taught, you simply do not know squat. What works in a book often is not feasible in the real world. Don't walk off of your college campus and expect an $80,000 dollar a year job. You have to pay your dues, just like the rest of us did. Accept a lower paying position, and learn, learn, learn, and then begin marketing your experience at a higher rate.

And never stop learning! I learn something new almost every day, and it makes me happy when it happens.

Benny Helms

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

No comments:

Post a Comment