Originally Published: Tuesday, 15 May 2001 Author: Mark Miller
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_skills/Linux Job Skills Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Assessing and Packaging Your Job Skills

Linux.com employment specialist Mark Miller shares his wisdom on collecting, presenting and using your current skills to help find the job you want. Don't overlook what you can do!

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One issue many people have trouble with is determining just what skills they actually possess. It seems most of us simply take skills for granted, can't imagine that anyone would be interested in them or don't know how to define them for a resume. For instance, many a homemaker has been confronted with the need to return to the workforce (or enter it for the first time) and thinks that they don't have any marketable skills, yet after some guidance most find that they do in fact have much to offer a potential employer. Most readers of Linux.com have a great deal of skill, even those with little or no professional experience, as I will demonstrate soon. The trick is to know how to identify and present those skills.

Identifying Your Skills

Of course, you need to start with a written list of skills that you have. If you say you have none, you are mistaken: Everyone has useful skills. Let's use the example of a Linux user who has set up their small home LAN and has been administering it for a year or two. First off all she has installed Linux so understands basic partitioning, and perhaps knows how to compile the kernel using the appropriate tools like make and gcc. She has administered users, changed file permissions, installed rpm's (or used apt tools), perhaps set up firewalling with ipchains, etc. As you can see just from this example just listing the details of what you have done, rather than just putting down "Linux admin" makes for a significant number of skills. I'll leave the full task list as an exercise for the reader. That would be the technical skills list. You need to add the other skills you have such as organizational skills you may have demonstrated as the head of the local Linux User Group, or the writing skills you have from being a writer on Linux.com or sports reporting for your high school newspaper.

Marketing Your Skills

How you approach the problem of marketing is key. A lot can be achieved simply by the way your skills are presented. For instance, if you don't have enough experience for a chronological resume use a functional one. If you haven't heard of a functional resume, it is a resume organized by what you have done rather than by when you did it. It can be useful when you don't have a lot of experience or if your experience if wide-ranging and frequently changing. Most of the books on writing resumes can show you the differences. I used a functional resume coming out of the military to translate what I did into terms an employer could relate to. To create a functional skills list just look at your written notes and group what you see into logical areas. For instance, if you set up a home LAN you end up with something like this:

NETWORKING SKILLS

  • Installed and configured Ethernet interfaces in multiple computers
  • Set up TCP/IP addressing schemes using local static addresses
  • Set up and managed DHCP client
  • Set up and managed firewall using ipchains. Set local security policies
  • etc.

As you can see from the example, we have gone from the simple statement that our imaginary user set up a home LAN to a solid bullet list on basic network skills that just might apply to an entry level network administration position. Try this at home. Don't worry that your lists and bullets are more than you can fit onto a one-page resume, you can edit later. Give yourself something to work with.

Keywords

Once you have your full list of skills, (you did remember the teamwork and communication skills that employers want in a well rounded employee didn't you?) you can pick and choose which ones apply to a particular job you are applying for and easily customize your resume and cover letter for the position. Cull through your list looking for all those key words and phrases (or similar verbiage) that the position announcement had in it. Employers often leave hints at what key words they are searching for in their job announcement. You want these key words and phrases in your resume because many employers use automated tools to scan your resume for exactly the key words mentioned in the ads. Don't worry that you don't possess all of the traits an employer wants, most people don't. All you need is some of them and hopefully it will be enough to interest the employer in talking further with you.

Testing

You may have noticed that I have not said a word about any paper qualifications such as a Linux Certification or (erk) MCSE. If you have these tickets then great. What is more important for this exercise is to concentrate on what you can do. For instance you want to put down that you can partition a disk, not that you have passed the part of the test about partitioning the disk. This emphasis on doing will help counteract any thoughts an employer might have about a lack of skills. If you have the certifications and can show what you did then you have demonstrated knowledge and skills; a really winning combination.

If you don't think that you possess the skills I've mentioned (those that most Linux users would have) then start right now to get them! Manage your system or LAN like a "real" one. Read the Network Administrators Guide and apply the principles to your own machines. Set up services even if you don't really need them. For example, configure a central email server that picks up your email and distributes it to your machine as if you were one of many users. The act of doing makes you "capable" of a skill, it makes it so you can talk about it and feel confident in your ability. If you can speak intelligently about how you would use fsck to check your partitions it might mean the difference between "thanks but no thanks" and "lets bring you aboard and see how you do". I had an offer once based on just this sort of exercise. The fact that I had managed my own system and home network got me in the door. It just might do that for you too.

Mark Miller has been the training manager for a large aerospace repair facility and has broad experience in the electronics and aerospace fields. He has been using Linux since 1995.





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