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Advice For Somebody Breaking Into NYC Job Market?

...other than, "don't do it!"  :-)

I hesitated to post this, especially since I've only lurked and not contributed to the forums, but there are probably quite a few others in my shoes, so hopefully the replies will be helpful to many. 

I've been reading Joel On Software for quite a while, and a sizable amount of the members of these forums seem to be centered around NYC.  I'm moving to NYC in a few months from the Philadelphia suburbs, and I wanted to know your thoughts on the NYC job market.  IT hiring is of course tight everywhere, and I know that effects of 9/11 on the economy linger on.

I'm 27, with seven years' experience with ASP/VB/SQL, with positions at four companies as programmer with these technologies.  My references are good.  No degree *yet*; I'm several classes shy of a B.S. in Computer Science.

So, how's the job market?  Utterly barren?  Tight but do-able with a lot of legwork?  Obviously there are a lot of other variables (performance in interviews, etc) but broadly speaking, is it realistic for a guy with my qualifications to hope to land a position within several months? 

John Rose
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

John, as someone who recently moved to the NYC market from Seattle, I may have some insight to share with you.

First, the NYC market is heavily focused on Financial Services. If you don't have a background in financial software with an advanced degree (I don't have either), these companies won't even look at you.

Second, NYC has a number of "New Media" (is it really still new?) companies; but the competition in this market is incredibly fierce. I don't know the numbers; but everyone and his brother was a player in this market before the bubble burst. So expect that you'll be competing with thousands of locals for each position. You might well be better than they are; but they have local experience. And any recruiter has to wade through all those resumes before finding yours.

Third, get a local address immediately. You can get a PO box in the Grand Central Post Office pretty easily. With this PO Box, get yourself a cheap cell phone from AT&T with one of their Nationwide calling plans. (I don't own AT&T WS stock; I'm just a very happy customer)

This gives you a more local face. Yes, it may seem dishonest; but if I were to get your resume (I am recruiting; but my company sucks) I would discard it because you're not local. But with a local PO Box and a local phone number, you'd fool me.

Finally, don't expect courtesy from prospective employers. When I was hunting for a job last year, almost no one took the time to even acknowledge receipt of my resume. That's why I personally respond to every resume we receive. Granted most responses are canned messages (e.g. "Thanks for your interest; but commuting from the Moon isn't practical.").

One good place to look for jobs is

Good luck... and be certain to check out the New Yorkers forum here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Following the link you posted I came across this job description:

“Search Engine Optimization Specialist

We are seeking an experienced SEO guru to position and maintain company clients on popular search engines as well as analyze keywords and metatags and develop SEO strategy.

If you cannot provide proof of placement for your optimized sites on the FIRST TWO pages of MAJOR search engines in RELEVANT keywords---> DO NOT APPLY. We REQUIRE proof of your work and success.

Is skewing Google results a full time job now?

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Jeff:  Excellent advice regarding the emphasis on financial software (worrisome to me, since I have no experience in that area, but definitely a critical thing to know) and on the PO Box/cellphone.  I'm going to follow your advice on that.  Much appreciated.

Coresi: I'm surprised but not shocked to find out that's a full-time position.  If I were applying for that position (I'm not) I wonder IF it WOULD BE best to CAPITALIZE every other WORD in my resume, ala the job listing?  :-)  On a more serious note, I can understand the company's desire to see proof of the applicant's optimized sites being ranked in the major search engines, but I'd be soiling my pants if I were applying for that job, thanks to the constantly-changing nature of Google's rankings and periodic tweaks to its ranking algorithms which are mainly targeted at nullifying the work of SEO's.  Imagine leaving the house for your job interview at 8am with your site at #3, but it's dropped to #200 by the time your interview rolls around at 1pm?  "I thought you had PROOF!  Get out of my office!"

John Rose
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

"We are seeking an experienced SEO guru to position and maintain company clients on popular search engines as well as analyze keywords and metatags and develop SEO strategy."

Hmmm.  One would think they could just Google for "resume" or "programmer" and hire the person whose resume is ranked highest in the search results.

Matt Latourette
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Im also dreaming of a move to NYC and have done some homework  on the job scene there.

The financial services sector definitely has the jobs. Most of the requirements I see are for domain experience as opposed to advanced degrees, but I think it would be safe to say that if you had an MBA in Finance and killer programming skills, you would be a very hot commodity indeed.

Also, as the poster above noted, there are a lot of 'New Media' shops still around, and they tend to gravitate towards people with a mix of programming and graphic design skills.  They seem to pay a bit lower than they should, but it looks like the jobs are there (there's a lot of media in NYC)

I would love to hear more opinions from residents here.  Craigslist jobs forums are full of bitter and angry people saying things like "stay in Minnesota"

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

My skills definitely gravitate towards the programming side of things, but I have interface/graphic design skills as well, and I'm working a "New Media" company now.  Sounds like that side of things is where I ought to focus my efforts for sure, then.

I also run a not-for-profit hobbyist website that gets around 40,000 page views a month, that runs on a custom-built content management piece I built. (sorry CityDesk! you weren't around yet)

I'm always a bit hesitant to put that on resumes, but I've started doing it lately.  The hesitance is due to the fact that it's a hobbyist site, as well as a personal site for a group of friends, and things are frequently off-color. 

Technically, it's a nice achievement in terms of dedication and coding, but I'm afriad the less-than-professional veneer will sour prospective employers...

John Rose
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Hmm my website is definately in the top page or two when you search for relevant terms. The big trick is to get legitimate sites to link to you.

Re: NYC Job Market
Persistance is key here, as well as a slick presentation. You should probably pick your resume, interview skills & wardrobe up a notch. Any sleight edge you might get is important.

NYC is all about financial companies and new media companies, but there are a few things implied here that you should also take into consideration.

In addition to financial companies thare are companies that provide tools to the financial community - research, programming/outsourcing, temporary work, and so on. You don't have to have worked at a financial to get temp work, or work at one of these companies.

In addition to new media, there's going to be a lot of freelance work available. You'd be surprised how many new media companies are actually staffed by a small army of freelancers and one guy who acts as the public face of the company.

Freelance is also a good way to get a few highly visible domain names under your belt.

And network your ass off. Get your own domain name ( with your resume and samples of your work), and print up professional business cards. Obviously if your web design skills aren't up to snuff, you'll want to get someone to design it for you, maybe in exchange for some back end work you can do for them.

Hand out your card to people you meet, attend usergroups, parties and so forth. You make more contacts in sleezy dives on the lower east, trendy bars in Soho, and at 6:00 in any bar near the financial district than you can count.

Full name:
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

You ever read the paper?  Financial firms aren't exactly swimming in money since 2000.  Lawsuits, bear market, scandals, etc.  Financial firms have been laying off for the last 3 years. 

Also, real estate prices in the NY area have risen about 100% in the past 5 years.  The money in the NY area is in blue-collar/services work.  If you're not in on that action, you probably can't afford to live here. 

Oh, did I  mention the 12 hour days of white-collar sweartshop slave labor?  Stay away from NY.  Trust me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Bella - yikes... Hmm. I assume you live in NY; for how long? Have you been working for financials, or applying to work for them,  or are you just assuming that due to the headlines they aren't hiring programmers?

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Bella's retired and tells us that his last job was as a consultant to a financial. Also that his digs were posh because he & the department he worked in was adding a great deal of value, while the FTE's upstairs lived in relative squalor.

Full name:
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Yeah but I believe an earlier Bella (6 mos+) insinuated that he had a family & mortgage.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

I would recommend a move to NYC if you really want to do it. If it doesn't work out, you can just move back to wherever you came from. I am from wisconsin and got kind of bored of madison a year after graduation.

What I did was target universities: columbia, nyu, cornell medical, etc. I ended up with a research programming position that paid $75,000 a year at cornell medical. This was more than enough money to rent a place in williamsburg and since it was a university job, I rarely worked more than 40 hours a week (if that.)  I spent the rest of my time checking out the city.

It turns out that I like to do outdoorsy stuff like snowboarding and skateboarding more than I like going out to eat every meal, so I ended up moving out of NYC after two years and wound up in LA where I now run my own small tech business. But I'm really glad I lived in NYC.

The naysayers have a point. The city is expensive and cutthroat. I don't think I would have liked working for a financial services firm 100 hours a week. I would approach it as more of a life experience thing rather than a career opportunity thing. Try the universities. They will give you a reasonable salary and plenty of time to experience the city.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

I am not retired.  I am working in a field outside of IT.  I do not have a mortgage or family.  Although I have empathized with that circumstance in the past, in threads discussing "I am not fulfilled"  ie:  You will afford much less job idealism when you have serious bills to pay. 

I agree with the above statement that working for financial services as a life experience.  You will work on challenging apps (thought not necc. the bleeding-est edge), work with some TOP notch people (who may stay personal friends long after the gig is up), have a top-notch lifelong resume entry, really use your brain, acquire niche financial domain knowledge (fixed income, derivitaves, equities, etc) , and make some solid money.  Personally, it was a great experience, but (for me) not a long term lifestyle.  Do not get trapped by your own trappings, in case you ever want out.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

I know dozens of people who work for NYC financials.  Their job-hopping is all but non-existant.  This is how I extrapolate my opinion on the job market.  It may be flawed.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Then again, I know almost no one who is unemployed, so there you go....It's anyone's guess.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

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