I'm a student looking for a job as a Jr. Sys Admin / Information Security position. The moment I click search from simplyhired.com or dice.com my job gets complicated. It's so hard to spot the ones that you definitely want to apply for.

So, just share your story of how you spot your current job online? What factors did you consider before applying? And any tips for young job seekers.

Thanks :)

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  • 6
    Community Wiki... – Izzy Apr 8 '10 at 4:17
  • One item none of us has addressed yet is how "junior" are we talking: practical experience, related education, personal projects, etc. will all weigh on your application (in roughly that order)... – voretaq7 Apr 8 '10 at 4:30
  • wiki it is....! – sanksjaya Apr 8 '10 at 5:39
  • Great to hear you started volunteering! Let us know how it all turns out. Do you blog at all? Tweet? Smoke signals? – Wesley Apr 8 '10 at 17:42

I simply applied to anything that looked interesting to me. Whenever you go on an interview for a job there's one thing that you really ought to be keeping in mind; and that is that you are interviewing the company to find out if they are right for you just as much as they are interviewing you to make sure you are right for the company. It's more complicated when you are desperately seeking a job for whatever the reason - but if you have the time to be picky then browse around and go on interviews until you find what you're happy with.

  • +1 for interviewing the company. If you're not desperate for work, make sure the fit is right. – voretaq7 Apr 8 '10 at 4:05
  • 2
    I second this. For interviewing the company. It is very important. Are they seeking a jr Admin but the work you actually put it is to be considered for a senior admin? Thats one to look out for. Getting thrown into a job where you are expected to take care of everything when your experience and training isn't up to par will be devestating for both parties. It's easy to be naive when it comes to your first job. Been there, done that. – artifex Apr 8 '10 at 5:06
  • +1 Makes a lot of sense. – sanksjaya Apr 8 '10 at 5:41
  • It's as hard to evaluate the company, however, as for the company to evaluate candidates; and the candidate usually has lots less experience in evaluation. There's one question that sums up just about everything you need to know about the company, however: "What is the turnover rate for people joining your company in this position, at this seniority level?" With a little research into general industry/geographic turnover, and adding anything that's particularly important to you, you get a simple, highly relevant answer. – mpez0 Apr 8 '10 at 13:01
  • It's not that hard to evaluate them on a base level... how long have you been in business? How many employees do you have? Have you been growing or has it been about this size for a while? What are the advancement possibilities? What are your benefits like? Past that you can ask questions about who you'd be working with and what the position entails - that should really be enough to get a good idea. – Dave Holland Apr 8 '10 at 16:19

EDIT: In light of further information, my initial post is a little lacking. If experience is what you need, then there is one simple and reliable solution: volunteer. Pick a charity in your area that you agree with and offer your services for free. You'll get hands on experience in no time. I speak from my own experiences. Not all non profits are poor beggars leaping at what ever crumby IT skills drop from the larger table. However, most are ready and willing to let you help out and you will frequently have much greater responsibilites given to you in much less time than if you were in a paying job with a static title. Of course, you have to figure out how to finance a few frivolities like food and housing while youre working for free. But that's what soup kitchens and your parents' basement are for. =)

And now back to the previously posted entry...

My advice might be slightly controversial. Your mileage may vary.

Ditch the Monsters, Dice, Ladders and whatever else. Hang out at local user groups for technologies that you work with and are interested in, go to vendor sponsored events that interest you (In my case, A lot of Microsoft TechNet/MSDN events and some VMWare stuff). Get to know people, talk, ask around. There's a whole shadow job market out there that isn't listed... or is listed, but just waiting for someone to slip in the backdoor. Does that mean you have to forgo a social life that is apart from geekery just so you can spend your free time at user groups and etc? Never let it be said. However, if you're just trying to get your 40 hours in (or 35, as the case may be in some countries), then there are some additional challenges beyond just finding a job. I don't suspect that with you, I'm just saying that so that it's on the record.

If you've never done any of the above before, then you're going to be going uphill against the wind. The goal is to do this before you need it. Furthermore, don't be slimy about it. Do it because you want to, because you like it, because this job is a career... not just a job. The job offers and etc. roll in as a natural consequence of your being active and productive in your field. I've never applied for a job in IT. I've been working steadily for 5 years. All in places that I like. In fact, I just got a new job a few weeks ago.


  • "Hang out at local user groups" - I've tried this a whole lot of times. They do the talking and in the end they give a link where you do the applying. Again the people I talked to were the ones who had the power to either recommend or directly recruit, but it always seems they want to go more with the natural choice of experienced ALWAYS. Don't know what field you are into, but that's how it has been. I've heard it's only true after you gain a bit of experience :( – sanksjaya Apr 8 '10 at 5:30
  • up up! Thanks Wesley. That's exactly what I started doing a month back. Volunteered as an Unix Sys Admin :) – sanksjaya Apr 8 '10 at 15:53

I graduated college in 1998 with a degree in philosophy and creative writing. Graduation was on a Thursday; on Monday, I was working as a Unix systems administrator at a university down the road.

How did I get this job? Experience and networking. I worked in the college IT department as a student, and was for a time the only Unix admin they had(!) But, more important than experience was I started participating in the local sysadmin group. (In those days, it was SAGE affiliated; today's equivalent might be LOPSA affiliated instead or in addition.) I attended meetings for about six months, and even presented. When graduation neared, I started bringing my resume. I got several interviews, and if I recall correctly, several job offers from the folks at the meeting.

Three years later, a local ISP hired me. I had friends who worked there (networking, again), and they had a manager who was very impressed with the Unix book I'd written and published not long before. I only worked there about nine months before I was laid off in the dot-com crash.

From that point, I worked for five or six years as a consultant. I knew a bunch of people from my sysadmin involvement (as well as my involvement in the DC Cypherpunks), so I leaned on those connections to get a business started.

In the end, I decided that I didn't like consulting -- I loved the work, in its variety and high levels of engagement, but I hated having to sell myself over and over, and statements of work aren't much fun to write. So I got a contract position to see if I really wanted to get back into an office.

While I didn't want to work where the contract position put me, I did decide I wanted to work for someone else -- if it was the right job. So I put out feelers to friends, and a former Unix sysadmin I knew was working in Support at a small but growing company. They were hiring, and while I didn't really want to do support it seemed like a great place to be, so I interviewed and was hired.

Four years later I'm still at the same company, solving customer problems from the Engineering side of things.

So how did I get every job? Networking, networking, networking. Ability and experience are helpful, as is your ability to self-promote (these days, by blogging or such is probably the best way to get started), but in the end it's who you know and how they feel about you that matters. Cynical, maybe, but my experience.

The other side of the equation -- where you want to work, if they want you -- is a lot like dating. You have to feel it's a good fit: that you provide something they need or want, and they reciprocate by providing something you need. (Not just money, usually, but a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and ongoing growth.) It should "feel right" to you, something you can get comfortable with and that can grow with you. Like a relationship, you'll know when you've found the right one -- or at least the right one for now.

  • +1 for hitting the "networking" button. At the end of the day, that's where it is at. – Chris_K Apr 8 '10 at 5:00
  • Quoted for truth. – Wesley Apr 8 '10 at 5:02

Job ads are only very rarely written by those who know what they should say. Even more so in any technical field. Nevertheless, if you find job ads complicated you're really going to freak out when you need to read system logs for something less than abvious.

As for how I found my job, it was by looking through the job ads. Start by filtering out any that are clearly not for you, which should result in a rather short list for anyone wanting entry level work.

Don't worry about applying for a job that may not be quite what you're after, as even the process of applying for a job and going to interviews is extremely valuable experience and will help you greatly when you find the right job.

  • +1 "Job ads are only very rarely written by those who know what they should say" Very true. – sanksjaya Apr 8 '10 at 5:42

Finding a job pretty much comes down to hammering everything on monster/dice/careerbuilder/etc. that looks appealing & then figuring out if it's really as appealing as it sounds. Also post your resume publicly on Monster: I've found jobs via recruiters calling me based on my resume.

Factors to consider when picking the company:

  1. Size
    If you're just starting out in the field, smaller is probably better (within reason: You don't want to be the only systems guy for a tech-heavy startup if you've got no experience, you'll wind up in over your head FAST).
    50-100 people with an established IT staff is great: They'll be willing (and hopefully have time) to teach you new things.

  2. Type of Company
    If at all possible, try to get into an ISP or Managed Services Provider. You will learn more and get to see/work with a wider variety of technologies in these environments, and they're great growth/learning experiences.
    During my time at an ISP/MSP I sucked up a wealth of practical knowledge, and I passed most of it on to the junior admins we brought on as we expanded.

  3. Personality Fit
    You'll get a gut feeling about the place after a personal interview: Either you'll like it, or you won't. As Dave said, if you're not comfortable with the place (and not desperate for the work) don't feel bad about politely passing on an offer (or asking for a week to consider other offers you may have waiting).

  • +1 Interesting and knowledgeable! – sanksjaya Apr 8 '10 at 5:37

Online job websites are nice but often hard to work with and have little results. I have found all of my jobs through either:

  1. Word of mouth / Friends. Nothing beats a personal recommendation!

  2. University / Large company job boards. If you currently are in school, check with your school's career services center to see what job listings they have. If there is a particular large company you want to work for (Microsoft, Google, etc...) check to see what jobs openings are listed on their website. Don't forget large companies that work near or on campus. I got an IT job at a large hospital (part of the medical school) located on campus while I was in school.

  3. Your local or state level department of workforce services. It seems like an odd place to look, but the Electronic Job Board at jobs.utah.gov is actually one of the best places to look for computer jobs in Utah. Many companies are required to post job openings with the state, even if they already have an internal candidate in mind. Plus the state run job boards are free, as opposed to the online job sites that often charge employers a fee to post each job.


I was offered my firts sysadmin job when I was still serving in the army. So I started on the same day I left the military.

After a few years I felt I needed a change for something more serious than a highschool with a few computer classes, so I went on looking. The way to search is simple - go to the right sites and start sending CV's out. A well written CV is 50% of the application, so you definitely need to work on that. Except for that, you need to go through interview answers suggested on many websites and get ready. The interview phase is the REAL job hunt, especially the HR interviews, where how professional you are never matters.


By going to the bar. Not even kidding!

Graduated end of june 2009, took a long holiday, and started looking for employment somewhere around the end of september. I was picky at first, despite it being my first job, but I knew I wouldn't last very long doing a job I didn't like. First interview ever I got a chance to come back for a second interview, but the job was described as "system engineer" on one site, and on their own site as "helpdesk", with some vague differences. While talking to the guy, I noticed he was trying to minimize the helpdesk task saying I'd get a lot of experience and what not, but I didn't like the way he tried to sell his position while it should've been the other way around. So I said thanks but no thanks, and moved on. Next 5-7 interviews, whether they went good or not, and whether I liked the job or not I didn't really hear much about. 2 companies, both outsourcing businesses (one very small the other pretty large) said they'd like to hire me if they found a project to put me on... but no such luck.

And then, somewhere in january if I'm not mistaken, on a friday or saturday night at the local bar, a friend of mine jokingly pointed to some guys at the other end of the bar and said "look, those guys are also playing with computers all day. don't you have a job for my friend?". They asked what I did, told them I was interested in sysadmin kind of jobs, and after like a couple minutes one of the guys goes "you know what, send me your resume". I did, he got me an interview, and he is currently my direct boss. :-)

I'm working at the training institute of the federal government in Brussels, Belgium, as a "System Engineer" (gotta give it a name don't we) doing everyday helpdesk work (not the callcenter type of work I didn't want to do) as well as a couple smaller projects (first one is implementing a monitoring system, in my case Icinga, the Nagios fork).

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