10 Job Hunting Tips for Data Quality Professionals

Does the economic downturn make you fear for your data quality career prospects in the year ahead?

Do you want to create a safety net for your current data quality position?

To help members ride out the recession check out this set of job hunting tips specifically for Data Quality Professionals, designed to help you maximise your career potential.


Tip #1: Create a simple, memorable proposition for the benefits of your data quality skills

What makes you so special? 

Can you clearly articulate the benefits of what you offer in a simple, compelling phrase or do people glaze over and look at their watch when you explain the importance of data governance in a modern enterprise!

Whether you’re speaking with agents or just people in passing it really pays to develop a compelling introduction.

Just coming out with the tired old line of “I’m a data quality consultant” is unlikely to make you memorable so take some time to think about the benefits of the service you deliver. This is even more important if you run a small business.

Think about the other person you’re speaking to, are you giving them enough information to refer you?

Why is this so important?

The key to success in both online and offline networking circles is to be memorable. It also helps to be memorable for something that adds value to a clearly defined demographic so that the person thinks “Ah, I know someone who would benefit from that skill/service”.

We’re all constantly asked “so what do you do”. Can you cope with this question?

Next time replying with something specific eg.

“I specialise in helping marketing manager create up to 200% reduction in the cost of their direct mail campaigns, do you know any marketing managers who would like to cut their campaign costs in half?”

You instantly demonstrate your value to the people who hear that message. Follow it up with a story of how you delivered precisely that for one of your past employers or clients, it will stick in the referrers mind.

They’re more likely to connect you with any marketing managers they know than if you said “I’m a data quality consultant” or “my company provides data cleansing software”.

Tip #2: Get your expertise in print

Imagine you make the final selection process for a new role. You’re up against someone of equal experience and ability. How do you differentiate yourself?

A simple way is to point the potential employer to your portfolio of published articles and content.

Who will the employer select? The person who has a back catalogue of useful best-practices, tips and techniques that are read across the globe or the person who has a faceless CV.

Make it easier for an employer to select you by providing evidence of all the materials you have published.

Why not start by submitting articles to Data Quality Pro?

You will have documented proof that your expertise has been published to several thousand readers each month. This makes for compelling reading on anyone’s CV and remember you only need to do a little bit more than your other competing candidates to win that job,

Need more inspiration?

Why not create a basic data quality survey by posting questions on LinkedIn Q&A and push the survey through the various LinkedIn groups?

Write an article on the findings. Build up a contact list of journalists who write for the major online portals and give them some free editorial based on what you find. They will love it as it saves them effort. Ask if you can send other articles on similar topics.

Getting your content online has never been easier so start to create a portfolio of work that distinguishes you from the rest of the pack.

And if you’re concerned about your career or business and you haven’t already created a blog there really is no time like the present.

Tip #3: Sharpen up your CV

Think reverse engineering when you write your CV. Things that will happen to it in the agency process are indexing and as the number of people who are available rises, sometimes only cursory scanning.

This essentially means putting the key words you think your CV should be indexed under in an easy to find table at the top. Large agencies use extremely junior staff or worse still computers to index CVs and they are always getting it wrong. Make the decision for them by adding a simple index.

More reverse thinking: Go to www.ITJobsWatch.co.uk, which holds a statistical analysis of all the terms on the major job boards and make sure you know what your job is usually called. This may give you ideas as to optimally describe yourself / ideas on alternate descriptions of the same skill.

Make sure you mention any tools you have used and will use again. The market is maturing towards the tools themselves so make sure you list the product names you have experience with. If you are a manager of people who use Trillium, say so. The name check can still be important. Imagine you are an agent or client reading the CV and your CV says Trillium team manager and an otherwise very similar CV does not.

Make sure your CV is easy to read. If an agent opens it and thinks “ouch my eyes” because the font is too complex or small or the pages are poorly indexed they will read it less closely than the next. Sorry – but it’s absolutely true. Agents, like data specialists (all those records!) suffer horribly from eye strain and will often read, what is easy to read, in more detail than things that are painful.

If you are going after a specific job with an employer make sure to tailor your CV to the job description and overview provided by the agent. Fine-tune the content so that it directly relates to the skills and experience the employer is looking for, don’t exaggerate as you’ll get found out but your CV will stand out from the crowd if you link the benefits of your experience to the needs of the employer.

Where possible, list monetary or other performance related benefits of the work you have completed.

For example, a lot of CV’s quote basic achievements:

“I implemented a data quality monitoring platform using the xyz product.”

Consider how much more attractive it reads from the employers perspective by writing:

“I enabled an 80% reduction in procurement lead times through implementation of a data quality fault prevention system.”

Tip #4: Build and maintain a comprehensive contact database and start to network actively

Look at your mobile contacts list and all those people you didn’t call again after the last project stopped.

What’s the worst thing that can happen if you did ring them?

Don’t ask about work straight off. Think carefully about your ice breaker eg. “I’m updating my CV and have forgotten the dates we worked on that project together, can you remember?” seems to tick many boxes. Any request for advice is good. Data Quality Pro has masses of links and articles that you could send to contacts you haven’t hooked up with for a while as another icebreaker.

Start to build a comprehensive set of contacts and keep it updated regularly with any interaction you have with members on the list.

Connect with your network, work it deep, even if there are no positions at present, people will still know you’re available.

Tip #4: Exploit LinkedIn

LinkedIn does absolutely work and should form a vital part in your career or business strategy.

It tells you where people who rated you highly before are working now. How great is that?

You don’t have to worry about them being on the same number as they used to have or even in the same company, once you’ve connected with them you will never lose contact.

In addition, try and connect with as many people as you can. The bigger the network of connections then the more opportunities will come your way.

LinkedIn has also added some new application features that allow you to add a presentation detailing your skills, successes, solutions – whatever you wish. Create a presentation right now that articulates your value proposition, don’t use more than 3-5 slides.

RSS feeds can also be integrated into LinkedIn so that if you write regular posts to your blog they will instantly appear, again making you more attractive than the rest of the herd who never publish accounts of their expertise.

Another useful tool on LinkedIn is the “status” box. If you are looking for work, why not let everyone know by adding a few comments, you never know who will see it in passing.

Join the LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your skills and get involved, if you’re not yet a member of the Data Quality Pro LinkedIn group, now’s the time to join. We have a discussion thread where you can introduce yourself, great for promoting your skills.

By joining a group you can connect with any member who has also joined, this allows you to build a large network that is segmented perfectly to your the DQ niche. This is a great way to extend your network and connect with other professionals who may be able to refer you. Their organisation may be looking for just the skills you have so publish regular commentary in the discussion groups and be helpful and supportive, it will pay off.

Tip #5: Build agency relations and increase (smarter) agency activity

Remember all those pestering calls from agents that drove you mad when you were employed?

If you’re out of work now is the time to rifle through your email, add them to your contact database and call them back.

Especially the ones that say “Data Specialist”, “Data Warehousing Specialist etc.” in their job title.

Use the phone and call people. Your speculative emails end in an office junior and an computer index, or worse still the spam box.

Write out your key skills and personal proposition so you can recite it instantly when an agent asks “what do you do”, it will stick in their minds.

Keep a database of each agent, their sector and the contacts you have had with them so you can decide which ones to target on a regular basis.

Tip #6: Increase job board activity

Do post your CV to Job Boards in addition to just replying to adverts.

Yes, adverts place the initiative in your hands but agencies of all sizes really do use shared online databases.

Go where the agents are.

In IT this is Jobserve, CWJobs, Jobsite.

CV-Library.co.uk is another good tip for a post. Agents like it because the searching facility is excellent viewed from our side.

Plus there is iProfiles, which has its problems, as agents can update your CV themselves (and get it wrong) if you don’t set your permissions correctly, but it is used by some of the larger agents.

Post your CV to job sites every week while you are actively looking for work.

This is a big inside tip: online database results come out in reverse posting order – most recent first, post your CV regularly and you’ll always be near the top!

Try smaller specialist job boards and small agents as well as the usual suspects. They will have fewer contracts than the big boys but also fewer contractors they are on close terms with.

Tip #7: Create a “job listening engine”

Most of the job sites provide RSS feeds based on search selections so rather than wait for the daily or week feeds, set up instant alerts to specific email addresses that you can configure in Outlook.

For example, if you have the skills to apply for 3 or 4 different roles then create an email address for each role eg.

Then go to each site, create a list of search keywords for each role then set the feed to automatically post the jobs to the corresponding email address.

In your Outlook folders create a Jobs folder with Role1, Role2, Role3 directories underneath. Create a rule that pushes each email for the corresponding email address into the relevant role directory.

You now have an instant mechanism for spotting when jobs come live that are perfect for your skills.

Tip #8: Prioritise your efforts and be efficient

Use your time efficiently. For example, a tool like SurveyMonkey can send out hundreds of emails using a personalised template. This can save you literally days of effort every month.

Find the agencies that regularly post roles that fit your skills (see our list in tip 5).

If you are concerned about the future of your job then start collecting agencies and personal contacts now so you can hit the ground running if the worst does happen.

Segment each person and agent by the type of roles you believe they can offer, this can help you send bulk emails but with subtly different messages for each segment.

Tip #9: Create accounts on all the business focused social media networks and engage in the community

A lot of people think it’s a waste of time trying to build relationships and leads online but the fact is that it works. We have members who obtain 100% of their leads from online networking relationships.

If you have the skills and experience to stand out you can get known very quickly simply by being helpful and knowledgeable.

Develop closer links to those you meet online and learn what they do, don’t be selfish, give first and when the time is right ask for advice and support.

Make sure you have a website page that explains what you do (a blog is great for this). Try and redirect social traffic to this page so they find out more about what you can offer.

For example, Data Quality Pro is a niche community yet we regularly receive more than 10,000 unique visitors to the site. It pays to be active and supportive as the likelihood of one of those visitors having a need for your skills is very high, only if they find you.

Tip #10: Register on Data Quality Pro and ask for help

Data Quality Pro is above all a community resource, we’re here to help.

If you are struggling to find new work opportunities in the data quality sector then do contact us. We have a vast network of contacts so it pays to explain your situation and we’ll do our level best to connect you with companies in need of your skills or service.

The key is activity.

Most people send their CV off and hope for the phone to ring. By adopting some of the techniques above you will be creating the momentum that could just land you that dream job.

Good luck but do reach out if you need help.

About the Author

I am the editor and founder of Data Quality Pro. 20+ years experience of data quality initiatives.

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