With the rise of cloud services and virtualization, many companies are employing fewer staff to maintain on-premise hardware and software.
Gartner predicts the market for cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) will grow by 47.8 percent through 2015.
The role of system administrator means candidates “need to operate at a somewhat higher level of abstraction," as Heikki Topi, a professor of computer information systems at Bentley University and a member of the education board at the Association for Computing Machinery, has put it.
Sysadmins with skills in networking, security and operating systems will fare better than those skilled solely in maintaining a vendor’s product.
And companies implementing platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service offerings still need experienced employees who understand the company's unique and sometimes complex business requirements.
Without knowledgeable local staff – or consultants – companies are at the mercy of a vendor’s sales teams.
Despite the stories about outsourcing and managed services, CareerBuilder lists network and computer system administrator among its projected hot jobs for 2015.
So where’s the best place to look for a sysadmin job? Though the latest buzz has been about social media and online forums, Sam Gleske, build engineer at Comcast technology and product, offered his personal strategy on LinuxQuestions.org:
Friends –If I have friends in the area, I will attempt to gravitate to their company if I find in talking to them that it is a good company to work for. I may also do some company research. I visit their career site for direct applications on job openings and list friends as a referral. They typically get a few thousand dollars in their pocket for a referral hire.
User groups – I reach out to my local Linux User Group mailing lists (as well as Special Interest Groups) and ask them about companies they work for or recommend. Do the research on responses.
Reputation – I review the “top companies to work for” lists in my area and then research them. Look at sponsors of conferences I enjoy attending as well as the companies my meetup group members work for. See if any of the companies pique my interest.
Job boards: Search for key words on places like Indeed.com which tend to have a lot of job postings for companies in my area. Keywords include "Linux administration," "Linux," "systems engineer," "operations engineer," "build engineer," "application engineer," etc. I then make an effort to research the companies that appear in the list and attempt to determine if they are a place I would enjoy working.
Gleske resists the urge to blast out an identical resume to every potential employer:
“No matter which approach, I rewrite my entire resume for the company in which I'm applying. I have a broad skill set, so I tend to include relevant skills for the position. I don't typically write a cover letter (even if it is optional). Instead I attempt to make my resume a good read since it is tailored for the job.
“I would estimate what with 4/5 of applications, I get an interview. I also tend to interview the interviewers on how they like the company they work for. Daily challenges they face. What sort of culture they have. How they feel about open source contributions, etc. … “ he says.
“I also make it clear during this process that I'm evaluating them as a good fit for me as much as they are because if you're not happy where you work, you'll have a bad time.”