Tout the fact that you worked for one of the biggest and most complex IT environments when looking for another job, says expert

Advice for federal IT workers facing layoffs

As federal departments slowly announce layoffs resulting from Ottawa’s recently released budget, federal IT workers are among those wondering if their positions will be in the 12,000 jobs the government plans to eliminate to erase its deficit.

But a human resources expert says they should be in good shape to find jobs in the private sector — if they are prepared.

“In an environment that has the strictest security requirements, the most complex network infrastructure, the broadest range of user clients you could imagine, they’ve got great skills” for impressing employers, says Kelly McDougald (pictured), managing director for career solutions at Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions.
Knightsbridge, which has offices across the country including Ottawa, where the bulk of the layoffs are expected to occur.

Generally, IT workers are in demand because there isn’t an organization in the country that doesn’t have an IT department, she said. And having worked for the federal government can be an advantage when job-hunting.

McDougald, who held executive positions at Nortel Networks and Bell Canada and headed a telecom services firm before becoming CEO of Ontario’s Lottery and Gaming commission, knows IT well.

“The public sector is such a rich and complex (working) environment,” she said in an interview. A former federal worker should be able to convince employers they offer “a real opportunity to bring awareness and skills that can’t always be found elsewhere.”

The challenge for the job seeker, she added, is to represent that experience in the language of the company he or she wants to work for.

First, she says, job seekers will have to take a good look at themselves and at what they want to do: The same kind of job as they had in government, or a new opportunity? Work for a startup? Work in a particular industry? Another part of the country?  

Ask what’s the one thing you must have in your new job, McDougald says. More money? The ability to travel? To lead a team? Ask the question two or three times and a list will become evident. That will help narrow down the companies to pursue.

At the same time, update your resume and your social networking profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn.

“There are many companies that just search on LinkedIn,” McDougald said, “and most recruiters use LinkedIn as a source of information as well.”

Few job seekers take full advantage of social networking tools, she added.

These days personal networking with friends and associates is vital for gaining insight into potential employers – and learning about job openings. But McDougald said one of the biggest mistakes Knightsbridge sees are people meeting contacts without a strategy of what they want to gain.

Is the meeting to review your resume? Get a sense of the portability of your skills? Learn about a new industry?

“Most people want to help you,” she says, “but you shouldn’t make them do the heavy lifting in figuring out how.”
Finally, McDougald says, you’ve got to “own your brand,” by which she means know how to explain the unique skills that differentiates you from other job seekers, and how they relate to the company you want to work for.

“Anything that demonstrates initiative and creativity will be valued,” she said, as well as experience working with business units and project management.

“It’s not rocket science,” McDougald concluded, “but it does require calculated preparation.”

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