The conundrum of being a "Jack of all trades" on the Job hunt.



  • I've worked mostly in SMB as the Network, Lan, Phone, Server admin/helpdesk guy for about 12 years. My only exception was a brief stint in Microsoft Dynamics consulting. I'm looking to relocate from Central Arkansas To Northwest Arkansas which has become the Business/technology center of the state. (Walmart, Big Trucking Companies, Tyson Foods, Etc.)

    What I'm finding in my search is that most postings, and opening are more specialized. Lots of developing, unix/storage, stuff, software, etc. I'm seeing very few SMB generalist/admin type positions. I'm quite positive I CAN specialize, I've just never really been able to do so. I do a little of everything, but not alot of anything. I have all Cisco Networking/Telephony gear, but I rarely touch it unless it breaks or needs upgraded. I definitely thrive in more of an administration/availability role than I do an Engineering type of role. I'm a people person dammit. I've yet to see a job posting for a "Computer guy for a 150-250 user business". That's my wheelhouse.

    I'm working pretty hard to get consideration for a Network Engineer job for the "Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network" that joins all of the Colleges and medical facilities together because it's a cushy State gig that pays well. But I'm honestly not sure that's something I'll like, and getting it is iffy since I don't have a bachelors degree. Just Associates. I just want to get out of Little rock and closer to Family. Remote work for my current employer really isn't an option. Although I think if I announced that I was getting out of town, I would at least get some contract work for a bit from it. I"m quite sure with my contacts in the state I could probably get some consulting work, but again, I don't have a comfort level there. I had one consulting gig, and I hated it.

    I've already taken a few stabs at doing something other than Network Administration, and I think this is just what I'm best at. I'm not really looking for any specific answers, just sharing my conundrum, and welcoming a discussion.



  • I'm sort of in the same category. No specific specialization but a willingness to learn and can adapt quickly (at least I think so). But getting past those initial HR drones is difficult.



  • Or you can get out of that area and come to Dallas. We always need generalists, mostly because we work on so many different technologies.

    Just yesterday I was working with the backup engineering team on resolving an issue with a slow backup. I had to know Windows VSS cache settings, identify network ports, read Cisco configurations, and understand Commvault and it's fun with the tape libraries.



  • Network Administration is really, IMHO, about the farthest skill set from the typical SMB or Generalist roles.



  • @scottalanmiller Well that's what we call I.T. Generalists it in this area. I build, design, and maintain all computers, servers, network, and phones, as well as serve as the primary support contact. I know you don't agree, but I.T. managers/Network Administrator is the name for that role around here.



  • @PSX_Defector I'm really wanting to live in the Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville) Arkansas to be near family. If I was willing to work anywhere, Dallas, Austin, or Houston would probably be my destination. Of course I might be able to work remotly as well, but it seems lots of companies are kind of moving back away from that.



  • @RobQ said:

    @scottalanmiller Well that's what we call I.T. Generalists it in this area. I build, design, and maintain all computers, servers, network, and phones, as well as serve as the primary support contact. I know you don't agree, but I.T. managers/Network Administrator is the name for that role around here.

    But not to the companies you are applying to. Walmart, for example, is an enterprise and hires actual network admins. That term to those large shops that you are interested in means something very specific - maintaining the network, not the nodes and hosts on the network. And those networks are very different than SMB networks.



  • @scottalanmiller Gotcha. I understand that. That's my conundrum. I really don't want to work for walmart or just take care of a set of switches/routers for a living.



  • @Bill-Kindle said:

    I'm sort of in the same category. No specific specialization but a willingness to learn and can adapt quickly (at least I think so). But getting past those initial HR drones is difficult.

    Part of the issue is that most generalist roles come from and go to SMBs who don't really have HR, typically. HR typically means a company of a certain size and normally roles are getting split out at that level.



  • @scottalanmiller Well the last HR department I dealt with was about 3 years ago now and they screwed up the job description, which prompted the a****** network admin to abuse that fact and not allow me to do much IT related tasks other than work on DVR's and pull cable. That was not what I was hired for nor what the job description I signed stated, but he was allowed for some reason to dictate it.



  • SMB Generalists most closely map to these two roles:

    • Helpdesk tech for juniors
    • Windows Admin for more senior generalists

    Typically SMB Generalists only acquire skills in these broad categories. Getting storage, networking, UNIX, DBA or similar skills from an SMB role is very rare. You might maintain a Linux box, but that's not like admining an enterprise Linux fleet. You might have a Cisco firewall but that isn't like living in IOS all day.

    Making the jump from SMB Generalist to enterprise roles is tough. But there are mappings that often work. SMB folks are rarely as generalized as they feel.



  • @Bill-Kindle said:

    @scottalanmiller Well the last HR department I dealt with was about 3 years ago now and they screwed up the job description, which prompted the a****** network admin to abuse that fact and not allow me to do much IT related tasks other than work on DVR's and pull cable. That was not what I was hired for nor what the job description I signed stated, but he was allowed for some reason to dictate it.

    HR suck in general and should not be involved in job descriptions. That's a management failing. HR lacks the skills to do that job.



  • @Bill-Kindle I've seen that with Huge companies too. I think it's universal. As I mentioned I was auto-denied at the University of Arkansas because I don't have a bachelors for a Network Engineer role. I've gone around that and spoke with the department head, so I'm in consideration, or so he says.



  • @scottalanmiller I am in the middle of that right now, HR says i don't do enough to be considered a network admin, but my boss does. Therefore i am still a pc tech while working on exchange online, avaya ip office system for 5 offsite locations and many other things. HR should not be allowed to decided what job descriptions are.



  • I think a tough part of finding the "next" SMB Generalist role is that SMBs rarely hirer through HR or Monster or Dice. They rely on direct submission. So you have to seek them out.

    This causes job titles found online or in any quantity to be large to enterprise firms only.



  • We use the same title for everyone: technical support specialist. Since we don't have distinct admin / engineering separation, nor any specific roles like network, server, storage, etc. We really are mostly generalists but wanted a title that wasn't so odd.



  • One thing that is interesting is that generalists are rare in the enterprise, very rare, but when they exist they tend to be extremely senior. Architect roles are normally generalists.



  • You may want to consider looking for "Infrastructure Specialist" roles. Typically those are the server/networking/desktop admin type of jobs, with less management and less helpdesk. It's not a specialized role per se, but does prune certain aspects away. You'll typically find them in companies with IT teams of 3-5 people or so.



  • Yea, I've worked in IT for 20+ years. Started with outside tech, moved to network analyst, to consultant, to I.S. Manager, and now work for a company that considers me a flunky. I do everything. From outside tech, there was HP printer support, Warranty services - IBM, Packard Bell ?remember them?, HP, Compaq, 3Com, Epson, Oki Data (printers and fax) numerous types of Clones, worked on 486 - 66 to pentium 233 all manners of software, OS and Installed ie. corel 5.1 Dos 5.0 - 6.22 win 311,95 nt 3.51 & 4.0 Server Unix. (ages me huh?). Since then I have had almost all role's in IT you can imagine. I found out how to wire 568 a,b, pull cable, wire buildings, terminate in patch panels, followed fiber from sanding ends with a microscope to splicing with gel media. Row's of servers, no problem, apple products no problem, AS400, no problem, desktops, no problem, printers faxes scanners etc. no problem. IP routing and vlans no problem. On and on... SOO which skill should I highlight on my resume? The one I'm applying for of course. Still have a hard time trying to find work when there are so many specialists out there???? If you work in IT and have not picked up other skills on your way, are you working with blinders on? Has your employer never asked for a project out of your skill set? Even in large company's when they find you can place a maintenance kit into HP lasers, or replace a scanner, boing you save them $200-300 in not calling in a Laser printer tech. Once this happens your job also absorbs the printer tech position by default (usually you do this in a pinch, you never want to advertise printer skill, after all it is just a dumb peripheral -- who know's why they attach it to pc's?). Soon your description was Network admin, or analyst, or tech, but now you are also the in house printer tech does that get added - I think not. Jack of all trades, by jobs. Know what I do, Yes. Skimp in training, no - if I am not sure I find out, do not pretend I am sure. Where does this leave me?? My education has been - Myself, how many of you rely on absorption/osmosis to do your job - you can't, you need continuing education. Internet, trade publications, tech manuals, software guides, dare say magazine's. (oh also clean malware, not in 'my' job description).
    If an employer passes on me, oh well, really - their loss? Maybe (if my ego was larger, but it gets trampled in my day to day so I don't usually worry). Change, in IT it is a way of life, a constant, interesting - if it did not keep my attention I would quit - ask my wife. Fair, was it fair how hard it was for any of you to break into this field, how did you 'WOW' your first employer into giving you the chance to prove yourself on their equipment/software? Was it easy, if so leave me a post - I get asked all the time. I don't care who you are, what your title is, you have had to be a Jack Of All Trades at some point, unless you have been here 6 Months. Isn't that true?



  • @ChrisJ no, only in the SMB. In the enterprise what you describe is completely unheard of. Jobs a rigidly cordoned off and a network admin touches nothing but routers and switches, unix admins never see windows or routers, desktop techs never touch printers, DBAs literally do nothing but database management, etc.



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    @ChrisJ no, only in the SMB. In the enterprise what you describe is completely unheard of. Jobs a rigidly cordoned off and a network admin touches nothing but routers and switches, unix admins never see windows or routers, desktop techs never touch printers, DBAs literally do nothing but database management, etc.

    At what size do Desktop techs stop touching printers? When I worked for West Teleservices (a fortune 500 company) we were responsible for printers too.



  • @Dashrender said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    @ChrisJ no, only in the SMB. In the enterprise what you describe is completely unheard of. Jobs a rigidly cordoned off and a network admin touches nothing but routers and switches, unix admins never see windows or routers, desktop techs never touch printers, DBAs literally do nothing but database management, etc.

    At what size do Desktop techs stop touching printers? When I worked for West Teleservices (a fortune 500 company) we were responsible for printers too.

    I STILL work on printers and I'm not even local.

    Damn that giant print server that serves out every single printer in one location.



  • i touch everything. all the time. Servers, switches, firewalls, asa's, desktops, phones, pbxs, network cabling, patch panels, even have a few folks that still have 66 blocks....remember those? haha I like to refer to myself as a Nerd Mercenary.



  • @Hubtech said:

    i touch everything. all the time. Servers, switches, firewalls, asa's, desktops, phones, pbxs, network cabling, patch panels, even have a few folks that still have 66 blocks....remember those? haha I like to refer to myself as a Nerd Mercenary.

    66 blocks are still really common for digital or analog phones.



  • @Dashrender said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    @ChrisJ no, only in the SMB. In the enterprise what you describe is completely unheard of. Jobs a rigidly cordoned off and a network admin touches nothing but routers and switches, unix admins never see windows or routers, desktop techs never touch printers, DBAs literally do nothing but database management, etc.

    At what size do Desktop techs stop touching printers? When I worked for West Teleservices (a fortune 500 company) we were responsible for printers too.

    Desktop attached printers or the big units on the network?



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    @Dashrender said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    @ChrisJ no, only in the SMB. In the enterprise what you describe is completely unheard of. Jobs a rigidly cordoned off and a network admin touches nothing but routers and switches, unix admins never see windows or routers, desktop techs never touch printers, DBAs literally do nothing but database management, etc.

    At what size do Desktop techs stop touching printers? When I worked for West Teleservices (a fortune 500 company) we were responsible for printers too.

    Desktop attached printers or the big units on the network?

    In my case it was both. Granted we rarely tore them apart, a maintenance contract covered them, but we definitely had to do level one troubleshooting, replace toners, paper, make sure it was on the network ,etc.



  • Wow. Even in 1,000 person shops I've never seen desktop specialists wasted in paper changing chores.



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    Wow. Even in 1,000 person shops I've never seen desktop specialists wasted in paper changing chores.

    Either lazy or ignorant or both, they are all welcome there (or at least were).


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