University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Please forgive me for my bland and non-descriptive discussion title but nothing better has come to mind.

 

I am currently battling the unemployment market and one career option I see for myself is highered web work as while my traditional education has not been in computer science I have worked as a web manager for two departments at two higher ed institutions.

 

Due to cercumstances (wife's job), I am unable to search for jobs outside of Hawaii at the moment. As such I feel that if I can't get a job with my current skills (still looking after 8 months) I need to improve upon what I have and learn new tricks of the trade.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions to accomplish this? I'm trying to attend webinars and the like, as well as reading books (would like to attend WordPress University but there's noway I could afford that $350 fee). I'm sure everyone here has good thoughts I should consider so I look forward to hearing your answers.

 

Thanks a bunch,

Don

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Don, you've just won the 2011 Higher Ed Experts Paying-Forward Scholarship (yes, I just made the name up, but I'm not kidding).

I'm happy to offer you a free pass to attend our WordPress University Webinar Series if this can help you increase your chance to find a job in higher ed.

Just email karine@higherexperts.com so I can get you registered.

The more knowledge you can accumulate, the more you can bring to the table. One thing that is often overlooked is content. I'm reading, and getting a lot from them, "Content Strategy for the Web" by Kristina Halvorson and "Letting Go of the Words - Writing Web Content that Works" by Janice (Ginny) Redish. I'd also recommend you learn all you can about PHP, JavaScript, and MySQL.  I live in a very financially strapped state and around here, when a Web job does come up, they want to get the biggest bang for their bucks and the more you know, the better off you'll be.  And kudos to Karine for getting you the free pass to the WordPress Webinar.  Good luck.

Nancy hits the nail on the head. Higher ed web teams are generally small and everyone needs to fill multiple roles. If you can code well and write well, you are a much more appealing candidate. Coding, design, and content are so interrelated on many web projects that an assignment to code/recode something often involves content creation, too. This might be microcontent (navigation label, link text) or longer-form content. As the manager of a higher ed web team, I rest a lot easier if I know that my team members can handle basic writing and content creation (if they are primarily coders) as well as basic markup and coding (if they are primarily writers).

 

I'll also note that in hiring, I look very carefully at portfolio pieces, both writing and coding. If your portfolio has prominently displayed navigation text that is misspelled—as I saw on a candidate's site a few months ago—that's a big concern for me. The faculty would eat me alive if that happened on our website. Similarly, if your code is all Dreamweaver-generated, table-based HTML, I'm going to be concerned that you don't have the HTML chops to solve the kinds of coding problems I need you to be able to solve.

 

So, if you're looking to improve your skills, just make sure you pay attention to both sides of your brain as you go!

I'll echo the words of others here that you need to be able to write content as well as code to stand out. In addition, I'll add that you need to develop your portfolio as in an industry such as this it will mean far more to you than your resume. 

 

Finally, if you're serious about moving forward in higher ed, just like any other industry who you know can be as important as what you know. Get in the crowd with twitter and other services and find a way to attend conferences such as higheredweb or eduweb. Together with a good portfolio this will go a long way to getting you noticed.

 

As a side note, UH Manoa was looking for a web person a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure if the position is still open but you might want to look at their site. 

Thank you all for your words of advice. I'm positive your suggestions will be beneficial in my search.

Thank you Karine for the generous opportunity to attend the WordPress University Webinar Series.

I never thought of developing my web copy writing skills. I knew they were important though I never attempted to actively improve them. I agree that misspelled navigation labels can be killer though. I've had some dyslexia issues so I've payed close attention to such things since I flipped the o and a in download once in a website I managed years ago. While I write my code in Dreamweaver I don't believe I have used Dreamweaver-generated code since maybe the days of Dreamweaver 7 save times here and there where I can't remember a code snippet and have Dreamweaver auto generate the skeleton for me.

Chris, I believe that I did see the web position your referring too (w/ the VCAA?) and applied to it. Unfortunately I got my "Sorry, you were suggested but not selected for this position" letter in the mail yesterday. I'm not giving up though. I'm also looking for positions that while may not be "Web position" are involved with the dept. website. Honestly my ultimate career goals would be to work in an Education Abroad office assisting students and maintaining the dept. website. Slightly random but that's what my previous job was and I enjoyed it (was a graduate assistant position and once I no longer was in school full-time I was ineligible for it).

I realize I do need to develop my portfolio now. At present I only have my previous position's website active (http://www.studyabroad.org) and I need to increase that so I need to update other sites I'm working on for myself and friends to add to my portfolio. I learning more and more abut PHP everyday in developing my WP sites since it's a core function. I also have used JavaScript often but have yet to code something from "scratch" and most uses I find myself needing it for are already available from the net.

One thing I'm worried about is what happens if I create a site then leave the position and then the person after me does things that make it look less professional. How can I protect myself from that making me look bad?

Once again, thank you all for your wonderful suggestions and words of support.

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