Monday, 18 July 2011

IT Professionals, the Job Search and the Killer CV

It has been while since I wrote anything on my contracting blog but over the past month or so I have had several  questions from people who are thinking about their future and what they want from their career. This includes people thinking about both permanent and contract work.

Whether your looking for your next permanent job or your are considering contracting and hence going into business in your own right then one of the most important things you need, before you start, is a ‘killer CV’.

I’m not going to go into much detail on how to construct, write and layout your CV there are lots of other sites that have already covered this and there are some useful links at the bottom of the post that maybe useful.

I like to think of my CV as a sales brochure, especially if you are contractor in business for yourself then that is exactly what your CV is, it’s a document that is used to you in selling your services. For those of you who are sales people or if you are just like me  and have read a few sales books (The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource) then you know that the key to making a sale is solving someone’s problem. If you think of a job description or contractor requirements documents  as someone going to the trouble of documenting their problem they need solving, then your CV must highlight how you can actually solve the problem documented. If your CV clearly states how and why  with evidence to back up your claims of how you can help solve the clients problems then you are more likely going get ‘follow up leads’ a phone call or face to face meeting to further discuss the clients problem and how you can help solve it. Some people call this an interview. For example if the client hiring a contractor or consultant and  needs a specialist in SQL Server replication, you know this because it will say ‘experience with transaction replication’ in the requirements document  and your CV right up front on the first page where nobody as to look very hard to find it, preferably in your expertise section, state ‘Experience in Transactional Replication’ and then further in your document you provide evidence of this experience then you will very likely go further in the recruitment process. It is the first page of the CV that is the ‘killer’ if you show on that page how you meet the requirements,  then you are likely to go further and have more success in the ‘Sales’ process.

Check out: if you would like some further information and writing and preparing you CV. It is a contractor site but some of the information can be useful for permanent job searches too .

If you want a book on the subject then I have bought this one, which I found quite good but only has 3* review on Amazon.

The best reviewed CV book that I could find on Amazon is this:

It’s up to you but I would start with the free articles on the website and build from there.

In future posts I intend to look at some common mistakes that I have seen in CV’s and I’ll discuss further the importance of tailoring your CV.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Importance of (Social) Networking

This is post for the Contracting section of my blog. When I first started out or even before  I started  with my contracting business I was a bit wet behind the ears, a little naive and not really knowing what to expect. From some second hand stories from contractors that I knew and from reading websites like I got to understand the contracting process. This is the process that I used when  looking/searching for my first contract:



Now  there is nothing wrong with this process, I know many contractors that have used this previously and in fact it has worked for me on many occasions and is definitely a good way to start. Post your CV on to some of  the leading job sites, in the process apply for the contract that you are immediately interested in, the process of uploading your CV to the leading job sites makes it searchable and following that you start showing up in agent and recruitment searches for roles that you have not yet seen or even that they have not yet been advertised but your skills (at least the skills on your CV) match an up and coming contract.  Which is great just what you want. The problem is when you get those calls you may be in a contract at that present moment in time, or you have just to much time left before your current contract comes to an end and you need to start looking. When this was happening to me I felt like I was letting opportunities slip by the way side. I wasn’t able to work with that agent at that precise moment in time but I may be able to in the future, what I needed was a way of staying in touch with agents who called me up or sent me an email about a contract that I was well suited for. So how can you make these phone calls work for you, even if at that precise moment you are not looking for you next contract?

The answer for me started by asking the agent during the phone call to send me an email with all their contact information, this was great but it was kind of unorganised and remembering the specific agent and then searching for the contact information in the future was hard. So being a SQL Server person I knocked up a quick and simple contact database to store them in, this worked well enough. But then I stumbled across . I started slowly setting up a profile and then slowly adding to it and developing it into a good representation of my skills and what I have to offer. I looked up a few of the agents that I had worked with, spoken with previously and if they were also a member of I made a connection. Most the agents I have been in touch with have a profile. Once you are connected you can manage all your contacts from central location and you can send agents emails informing them of you availability or just generally keeping in contact. You can even use it as way of making contact with agents who you know have contracts ‘on the go’ that you are suitable for. This is utimately the networking process and I think all contractors need to network of suitably qualified people to call on to help them secure their role, whenever that maybe.

I guess the moral of this post is thus, Contracting is sales business, just because you are not looking for work (Selling) at this precise moment, contracting by its very nature means at some point you will be. It’s good to have a range of contacts that you can call on who are willing and are able to find you work (The purpose of the agent  is  sell your services), by using this process you will have a lot of qualified connections (Leads the sales people call it) that you know have looked to fill roles that you are suitable for, so it’s not exactly cold calling either.

I’d be interested in finding out if anyone else has a similar or completely different process. Please do feel free to leave a comment about how you approach networking

You are more than welcome to connect with me on I’m an open networker so you can send me a connection safe in the knowledge I won’t click on ‘I don’t know’ If I don’t want to make a connection

Please do follow me on twitter, the contract blog twitter account is @GREITContracts and if you want to follow me personally you please follow @SQLGRE

Friday, 18 March 2011

Becoming a DBA: How to gain experience

Originally posted on

Last week I had an interesting telephone call from a someone who I connected with on On Linkedin I’m what they call an “open networker” which means I won’t click on ‘I don’t know you’ if you send me a connection request. If I don’t want to connect with you then I’ll simply archive your message/request.  I use primarily for work and business. I use it to connect with fellow DBAs and database professionals  and I also connect with recruiters/agents whose business is to fill SQL Server contract roles. At the time of writing I’m well over 500 connections but have a fair way to go before I get to 1000. If you would like to connect please do feel free to send me a request here.

A SQL person sent me a connection request which I accepted  and he then sent me an email and then phoned me up asking if I would help him out. The crux of the phone call was around him getting more experience using SQL Server. He has a Virtual Lab set up with a SQL Server in it, he wanted me to help him recreate real life examples of some of the problems a DBA faces.

Now having thought about this for a second, I decided that although I could help and create some contrived examples it would be much better for this person to solve full on real life examples. I told this person that although I could help with this request his best bet at gaining more exposure to SQL Server and more of the problems that people can experience with different aspects of the product would be to help try and solve some of these problems himself. I directed him at the forums on and over on MSDN and suggested that he use his environment to try and help people with their problems. Even if he didn’t know how to solve that particular problem himself, reading the posts and suggested solutions and then working through the problem in his own environment would help him learn.

I guess the purpose of this post is this, in helping other people solve their SQL problems, you gain great experience in aspects of SQL Server that you may never come across in your normal day job, which can only help build your knowledge and experience.

Feel free to send me a Linkedin connection request.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Contracting – The Importance of your CV

I guess if you are reading this blog you are contemplating or considering the move from permanent employment to working for yourself and starting your contracting business. I made the move four years ago and I have not looked back since.

So what is the first thing you need? Before a telephone call, before an interview, before a contract offer, that’s right you will need a killer CV.


Contracting and Permanent employment are not the same thing in the slightest. In contracting terms a CV is your sales document, it needs to qualify you to be able to undertake the task/project that the client needs you to fulfil. It needs to demonstrate your skills and experience that sell you to the client as someone capable of delivering results in the area that they are hiring you for. It needs to show that you can solve their problem. It is the document that will get you the phone call from the agent and the meeting/interview with the client. Which is crucial if you are going to be a successful contractor.

What should be in it?

The readers of your CV  don’t want your life story, they want to know you have the skills and experience necessary to complete the task at hand. Your CV should demonstrate:

  • You understand the clients problem and have the knowledge to overcome that problem.
  • You have the necessary skills to complete the task and solve the problem your being hired for.
  • You have experience in using those skills successfully.
  • You have provided benefit and value to other clients or employers.

The crux of a good sales person is be to able to identify the potential client’s problems and overcome those problems using the products they are selling. As you can see from my points above in order to be  a success at contracting you need to have a good sales technique. Your CV is your sales document and it should let the client know that you understand their problem and also that you have the skills and experience (The product) to help them overcome it. You can use the interview/client meeting to overcome any objections that the client may have about your product. That though is another post entirely.

Other Useful Links

Don’t take my word for it, there’s a whole bunch of sites out there that offer advice in this area, is one of my favourites. You can find a whole bunch of good advice on CV’s here

Future Posts

  • Contracting – A Sales based approach
  • Contracting – The Importance of targeted CV
  • Contracting – The Interview

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Contracting – An Introduction

This is an introductory post just to let you know some of the topics I’ll be covering in the coming weeks. If there is a topic not listed that you would like to see here then please drop me an email at

Contracting - An Introduction
Contracting - IR35 and how it can affect you.
Contracting – The Importance of your CV
Contracting - Finding the Roles
Contracting - Building Your Network
Contracting - Building Your Brand
Contracting - Staying at the Top
Contracting - Dealing with Agencies

I’ll add the links to these posts as they are published and if you have any thoughts or views please drop me an email or leave a comment on the posts.

Monday, 21 February 2011

LinkedIN Group

I started a group on linkedin a while ago for both SQL Server contractors and Agents. Agents can use the group to post SQL Server contract opportunities and contractors can use the group to track down agents with opportunities that they are interested in…The group has over 100 members and is growing all the time. You can find that group here please feel free to join the group if it is of interest to you.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Contracting in the UK

I made the very daunting but very exciting decision about 4 years ago to give up my permanent job and try my hand at contracting and consulting. This is something that I had wanted to do since I was youngster, running my own company, making my own decisions and  building a successful business. It took me until my mid-late twenties to finally realise my ambition. Over the course of the last four years through a combination of hard work and good luck  I have had a very enjoyable and very rewarding experience that has been both financially and professionally rewarding. Contracting and Business

About 3 months after I made my decision to become a contractor and start my business the world and UK economy suffered the worst financial crisis since the 1930's and that was followed by a pretty deep recession, the like of which has been not seen for sixty years. During that time I have been very fortunate, I was able to maintain paying clients and keep my small company going and we have even experienced some small growth and hopefully as the economy makes a slow and pain staking recovery my business will be in a stronger position than when it started out.

It hasn't been without its challenges and some set backups though, a recent bad experience led me to start up this contracting section of my blog where I will try my best to share my experiences with you, If anyone out there has any advice to offer then I’m are always open to comments. Either leave a comment in the post in question or feel free to contact me me[@] and I’ll be more than happy to add a post for you.

You can follow this blog on twitter @GREITContracts, you can connect with me on Linkedin my profile is here.

By the way, my main specialism is SQL Server and I blog and write extensive on that on my main blog at