The IT Career Builder's Toolkit by Matthew Moran (Cisco Press, 2005) is actually a useful toolkit for building a career in many other fields as well. The author has taken the trouble to uncover a great many universal truths about the relationship between employee and employer, the bottom-line mentality of human resource management in business, and the effects of the current economy on new entrants to the job market. It was really unusual to see a business book that didn't seem to just echo the platitudes of every other business book on the market, but which instead, by reflecting on the state of affairs in one particular vocation, and focusing on the specific problem of starting out as an entry level candidate, repeatedly illustrated techniques that people can apply in any stage of their career, and in may different professions.
This is because so many of the players in everyone's career are aptly introduced, with numerous tips on how to deal with the ones who may have forgotten to take their medication this morning, or who may have more of an influence on your future than you think. The numerous personas of interviewers, bosses, coworkers, and the people you are ultimately helping-your users-are drawn up so that you can recognize them when you see them, and handle a variety of situations as a professional. For instance, even if a scrap of criticism is too harsh, is there a grain of truth in it? And if you are concerned about a pending performance review or how your supervisor views your progress, you may want to assign a self-evaluation and report the results to your supervisor. The author gives a vivid account of how well that worked for him.
But of course the focus is on helping the young entrant to the IT job market. To this end, he presents the concept of a toolkit, or a complete set of tips and tactics that can be applied at many different stages of a career: the point is to choose the right tool for the situation. The other analogy is that the book is for career building, not just putting together a succession of jobs. The would-be IT professional is encouraged to consider exactly what skills should be honed, what relationships should be developed, what approach should be taken to building a satisfying work life. It is very tempting to plow ahead and get the next hot certification, or to hop to the next job that pays a few bucks more or touches on the trendiest technology. It is useful to be reminded that-even in the post-bubble chill with salaries down from their happy heights and jobs for which you have to compete rather than step into-you can build a more satisfying career by deliberately designing and planning it instead of just adding jobs to the pile.
Still, the author realizes that there are not a lot of choices at first, and so a lot of care is put into describing how to make the most of any job. It compares and contrasts a number of possible situations the new employee might wind up in-enterprise versus SMB, IT department versus a branch of the business-and describes how someone might make themselves invaluable in any of these environments. There is a pragmatic and reassuring sense that by building the foundation of your career, you can then construct the house you want to live in.
There are many other basics covered in the areas of cover letters, resumes, networking, interviewing skills, searching for jobs, seeking promotions-the nuts and bolts of making your way into the market. And among the different options covered are the pursuits of salaried positions as opposed to consulting, and choosing the attributes for which job to take if you get multiple offers (it's not always about the money). The section of negotiating skills, and defining what constitutes an effective negotiation, is an eye opener for anyone who doesn't have those natural poker-playing skills.
The CD has a lot career management tools such as resumes, self-assessment forms, contact tracking forms, and others. There are also sections on consulting tools and financial management tools. There were some broken links but I'm not sure if this had to do with my browser (I was using Mozilla). In any case, you can browse the contents under Windows explorer without needing to use the menus.
For a very carefully written effort to help aspiring applications to the IT market, I'd give this one five stars.