July 7, 2015

How to Market Your Linux SysAdmin Skills

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The rise of open cloud platforms is creating even more demand for Linux professionals with the right expertise and Linux-certified professionals will be especially well positioned in the job market this year, according to the 2015 Linux Jobs Report.

Still, for system administrators who are job hunting, it’s important to market yourself to fully demonstrate your skills and experience. Doing so will not only help you best match your skills to the job, but will help you find the best opportunities for growth and advancement.

“As with any brand, even in an area where your skills are in high demand, it’s important to position yourself in the right way,” says Deborah Vasquez, CEO of Boca Raton, Fla.-based IT staffing firm ProTech.

During the first quarter of 2015, the unemployment rate stood at 0.1 percent for database administrators and 0.9 percent for network and systems administrators, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, Robert Half Technology reports starting salaries averaging 4.7 percent higher in 2015.

For SysAdmins, it’s not a hypermarket like that for software developers, Vasquez says, but it's one with healthy demand.

Marketing yourself really comes down to two things: being able to demonstrate your value and skills, and the other thing is to network and meet people, says Peter Tsai, a former sysadmin and engineer now working on the content team at Spiceworks, a professional network for the IT industry.

“Through social media, people can discover you, or through your personal network, people can recommend you. Or you can attend a conference,” Tsai said. “Network with the right people who have the power to hire you.”  

Hiring managers say that you need to work not only on your technical skills, but also on your social and communication skills.

Here are six ways to make your skills known.


Though this seems obvious, nternet resume repositories such as those offered by Spiceworks, Dice.com or CareerBuilder offer a way to reach thousands of people.

Yet simply uploading a resume isn't enough – it needs to be well-crafted.

It’s vital to keep your skills up-to-date and to have a well-rounded resume. SysAdmin job candidates tend to list only the skills needed for the position for which they’re applying when they might have other experience that could be equally valuable, such as software development, project management or support, Vasquez says. List all of your skills, including scripting languages, configuration tools and anything else that could be relevant, she says.

“It’s important to hone in on problem-solving skills. Systems administrators face some of the toughest IT challenges, with demanding in-house and external clients who want their problems fixed immediately,” says John Reed, senior executive director, Robert Half Technology. “Being able to give potential employers real examples of problem-solving scenarios will certainly set you apart.”

Employers want to hear about real-world problems you’ve solved, including the approach you took and the outcome – generally in improved uptime or efficiency, time or money saved. Be as specific as possible and make sure you note the size of the environment, whether it was a 10-person office or a large cluster with thousands of users, Vasquez says.

Social Media

Social networking sites such as LinkedIn offer another opportunity to highlight your skills. Join professional groups such as Linux Admins and then link so sites such as Spiceworks where you can talk about your individual projects in more detail.

“Get recommendations from your peers and bosses. Have them talk about how well you work with teams, which is super important. ” Vasquez says. “These are things that offer more than the resume can convey.”

When listing certifications or formal training, make clear that you actually completed or attained it, rather than just studied or took some classes, she says. Those who successfully complete The Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator or Certified Engineer exams are invited to join an official LinkedIn group for certified admins and receive a badge they can display on their social media profiles, for example.

Local User Groups

Networking in your local community provides more ways to keep your skills current and to put yourself in front of people who can hire you – or can offer you leads on available jobs and who’s hiring.

Employers will take note of your ability to be forward-thinking and that you have a vested interest in the industry, Reed says.

“It’s shows you’re not just a 9-to-5er, but a true professional. This is your career,” Vasquez says.

For people who are more comfortable networking online than in person, it's still important to attend local events. “Remember, it gets easier the more you do it,” says Tsai.

Write, speak

Those user groups rely on speakers. Here’s an opportunity to raise your hand to present a topic of interest to the group, whether it be on Docker, orchestration or any number of emerging topics. Public speaking can be easier when it’s a topic you know well and for which you share a passion.

Similarly, writing articles for industry publications and web sites such as Linux.com or keeping a blog can be an effective way to position yourself as a thought leader.

Submit yourself as an expert source

Sign up with sites such as HelpaReporterOut.com (HARO) or ProfNet to help reporters find you and quote you as a knowledgeable source in their articles. It’s important to pay attention to the reporter’s deadline and to answer his or her EXACT question – not the topic you’d like to talk about. It’s OK to gently mention if you think the reporter is off track, but don’t try to steer the story to suit your own aims.

If answering questions by email, elaborate enough to provide the reporter something to work with. You’re unlikely to be quoted if you send one-sentence answers or you’re merely trying to push some commercial interest.

Promote discussion

Add thoughtful comments to others’ articles and blogs. It has to be more than “read my blog.” Focus on furthering the discussion rather than appearing brilliant or “right.” Forget the snark. It’s OK to play devil’s advocate, but do so in a civil way.


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