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Two-pronged job-search strategy

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Updated: April 4, 2012 8:02AM



Kiel Henry spent two months working with a recruiter and applying online for jobs at more than 50 companies before he landed a systems administrator position at SingleHop, a fast-growing Chicago data center and web-hosting company.

Henry, a 29-year-old Batavia native, took advantage of an irony of today’s job-seeking environment: He combined an aggressive email strategy with an equally outgoing habit of telling friends he was looking for a job. He found out about SingleHop from a friend at a bachelor party, called the company to get the chief operating officer’s email address and eventually found out about SingleHop’s hiring open house through Reddit.com, a social news website where users generate links.

“I saw on Reddit that SingleHop was promoting a “meet and greet” at Goose Island. I thought, ‘What’s it going to hurt to show up there? That was my first interview for the job,” said Henry, who earned a bachelor’s in networking and network security from the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Ariz., and is pursuing a master’s in computer information and network security at DePaul University.

Henry learned that job openings often aren’t posted on company websites, and that it pays to be what he deems “shameless” in contacting executives at companies that look like good places to work.

“Personality has a lot to do with getting the job,” he said. “I like a job where I can learn. It keeps me interested and motivates me to better myself and do well for the company.”

SingleHop employs 79 people, a 65 percent increase from its 2011 workforce, and will hire up to 65 new employees this year. The company reported $22 million in 2011 revenue, and was listed as the second-fastest growing IT company in the United States with a 7,900 percent revenue surge from 2008-2010.

Digital Intelligence Systems Corp., based in McLean, Va., has doubled the square footage of its Midwest office in Oakbrook Terrace, hired 11 people in the past two years and intends to add another 10 technologists in the next year to evaluate prospective consultants, boosting its local workforce to 27. The IT staffing and consulting solutions business has seen its revenues quadruple, to $21 million yearly, as companies seek to hire as-needed, temporary IT workers to stay lean and fast-paced.

And digital commerce company Fluid Inc., whose major Midwestern client is Sears Holdings Corp., will expand its Ravenswood office to 30 employees in the next two years as it ramps up sales, graphic design, project management and software development work. The San Francisco-based Fluid employs five people in Chicago, and is expanding because of a $24 million investment from funds managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Indeed, technology, scientific and professional services companies created a total of 3,559 jobs in the first nine months of 2011, making up for 40 percent of the 8,894 job losses that occurred after Chicago-area companies cut their workforces or moved out of Illinois, according to the latest data from Illinois Innovation Index, which tracks job trends. And 22 percent of small business owners nationwide say they plan to hire more people in the next year — the highest such response in 13 months, according to a Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index poll released Feb. 7. Chicago is home not only to an increasing number of startup hiring, but also to hiring networks.

Two little-known ones include:

** The Greater Chicago Midwest Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, which lists more than 1,400 jobs ranging from a custodian at Harper College to a legal secretary at the Illinois Institute of Technology, to a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Rush University Medical Center.

Jobseekers use the website (gcmherc.org) for free to search for jobs, receive e-alerts, post resumes, view training and resource videos and combine a search with another person to find matches for both. Free webinars for jobseekers are at http://vimeo.com/album/1752408.

“Higher education is an easily overlooked field, yet colleges and universities often give their full-time employees excellent benefits such as health-care coverage, generous vacation schedules, retirement savings matches, and free or discounted tuition for the employees and their dependents,” said Phyllis Brust, director of the consortium. College campuses are abuzz with free concerts, lectures, computer training and literary events, she said.

The consortium, based at the University of Chicago, includes members such as the Field Museum, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Argonne and Fermilab national laboratories and Notre Dame and Purdue University Calumet in Indiana, as well as IIT, Elmhurst College, Loyola University Chicago, Roosevelt University, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“What excites me is that these jobs don’t necessarily fit into a specific category,” Brust said. “And you can work your way up from an entry-level position as a special-events assistant to positions with greater responsibility while obtaining your degree.”

** The Professional Diversity Network (PDN), based in Chicago, runs free, online professional networking sites for professionals whose needs are often overlooked, including women (womenscareerchannel.com), veterans (Military2career.com), Latinos (iHispano.com), African-Americans (AMightyRiver.com), the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered community (OutPronet.com), people of Asian descent (Acareers.net) and people with disabilities (ProAble.net).The websites are listed at ProFusional.com.

Professionals may upload their resumes at the sites, use a resume-building tool to write a resume with key words to make it easier to find in online searches, take self-assessment tests, and, if they show they’re active networkers, set up 30-minute, in-person or video-chat appointments with a professional who edits the jobseeker’s resume and offers advice. The updated resume is automatically loaded into the jobseeker’s profile on his or her networking site.

Members may also use free mentor-matching services and schedule mentoring sessions.

“PDN is distinctive in that we consider our expertise a social science across the social graph. We’re into relationship recruitment,” said Jim Kirsch, a Highland Park City Council member, former head of iVillage’s e-commerce business and a serial entrepreneur.

Kirsch, whose family started maternity-wear company Dan Howard Industries, joined Professional Diversity Network founder Rudy Martinez in 2003 as an investor and co-founder of the targeted networking sites. The diversity network employs 16 full-time and 20 contract employees to run the sites and offer professional advice.

Rachel Barsky, channel manager for the Women’s Career Channel, said members may “push” their profiles and resumes from the channel to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and other social media sites.

The Google+ profile allows the user to link back to the women’s channel and, at the same time, allows the profile to be easily found via a Google search.

“Who wants to log in to a million different accounts?” said Barsky, a 23-year-old Highland Park native who started her own company selling headbands while she earned her journalism degree at Indiana University-Bloomington.

Other job-search and networking sites, such as LinkedIn, BranchOut on Facebook, Monster’s BeKnown and Glassdoor’s Inside Connections, also let people use their Facebook data to see whether their online contacts work at companies where they’re interested in working.

The Women’s Career Channel and the other sites let members blog, post photos, invite friends on social networks to join, share job openings with friends and read regularly posted tips.

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