State offers IT professionals a career, not a gig

The state of California employs over 9,000 information technology professionals–it is one of the largest employers of IT professionals in the United States. These are great jobs that provide a career to IT professionals, not just the next “gig”.

And while the state employs thousands of IT professionals, tens of thousands want these jobs–including just about everyone in Silicon Valley. Here are a couple of reasons why. First, the state of California is a quality employer, one offering a “defined benefit” pension plan (no one in Silicon Valley offers this). In addition, the state provides for 52 weeks of pay a year (quite different than working as a “contractor”), job security and health insurance in retirement. That’s what we teach our children in school about quality employers, right?

Last year, Hewlett Packard and IBM closed their “defined benefit” pension system to new employees and most current employees. Just closed it, using a “subject to change” provision. The New York Times provided an analysis that showed that IBM employees lost between $250,000 and $750,000 in future “expected” benefits due to this closure. IBM has annual profits of more than $9 billion and expected to save $300 million per year by discontinuing its “defined benefit” pension plan.
Over 20 years (a career, not a gig), a defined benefit plan, such as the one IBM used to offer and the one the state of California still offers each and every new employee, will pay nearly 4.61 times more than a 401(k) plan.

Second, the state of California will undergo no massive re-organization over the next 20 years. The state doesn’t have facilities in other countries to “consolidate” with and so forth. The state of California can’t go bankrupt and walk away from its promises–a big plus in our economy right now. The state of California can’t outsource its computer facilities and work. Why? The taxpayers would be pretty upset if they knew their personal information was being massaged in Costa Rica or any other country. And the state of California doesn’t have one of those magical “subject to change” marking pens. When you land a state job and you are promised a pension and health insurance in retirement, you can count on it.

Tens of thousands of IT professionals want careers, not gigs. Therefore, the various state agencies and the State Personnel Board play a cat-and-mouse game with their “open examinations”–the first step in landing a great state job. They are generally few and far between.

Open examinations available until April 6! The SPB’s centralized examination approach was closed in 2002. However, at least one state agency a month has held an open examination since, and they don’t post these opportunities widely. State agencies prefer their own “lists” over anything produced by the SPB, so keep looking for open examinations by department.

Last year, the SPB offered a one-time centralized open examination for the Senior Information Systems Analyst and Staff Information Systems Analyst classifications. Until April 6 this year, the SPB is accepting applications for the two lower IT positions: Assistant Information Systems Analyst ($36,048-$56,904/year) and Associate Information Systems Analyst (Specialist) ($53,604-$65,172/year). You can apply until 5 p.m. on April 6 by viewing the SPB’s Web site at

There are two things to consider when reviewing these classifications. First, if you are currently employed in the private sector, you can negotiate your state pay to the highest of the range if you are currently making more. When you have a state job offer in hand (and only then), ask for higher pay–you will get it. Don’t skip this test because you think you will only get paid $36,048/year. You’ll probably end up at $65,172/year.

Second, the minimum requirements are quite loose with this classification. For the Assistant Information Systems Analyst classification, the minimum qualifications read “one year of progressively responsible analytical experience in performing a variety of information technology systems analysis, design, development, installation, implementation, procurement, or technical support duties in connection with information technology systems, multifunction office automation systems, microcomputer systems, or teleprocessing networks, including independent analysis in one or more of these areas.”

The key word in the requirement is the word “or.” If you’ve been involved in “technical support” for one year (i.e. helping to keep your office’s computers operating and connected), you qualify. If you review the promotions pages of Capitol Weekly monthly, you’ll note that many Office Technicians easily promote to Assistant Information Systems Analyst. You may not think of yourself as an IT professional, but you just might be.

Test to be held at Cal Expo on May 5-6. The test is likely to be similar to the one the SPB is currently utilizing for the Associate Programmer Specialist classification. To prepare yourself for the May test, we encourage you to take the Associate Programmer Specialist test in April. The Associate Programmer Specialist purports to be a more programming related classification, but the test doesn’t have much programming content–mostly logic, project management and similar concepts. You can sign up for this test on the SPB’s Web site,

Most state tests have coefficients of 0.1 or 0.2, meaning they only have a 10 percent to 20 percent predictive ability for employment success. With such a low predictive ability, why does the state utilize them? Because they need a gate keeping system: hundreds of thousands of people are at the door wanting state jobs, and the state needs an ability to narrow down the list. A test with a 0.1-0.2 predictive ability is easy and cheap to administer and the state gains a list.

When a test has such a low coefficient, the correlation with the actual job and your skills is suspect and therefore your score may or may not be related to your abilities. However, people do end up on top of the list and get jobs. Therefore, we recommend that you take the test and take your chances.

If you are a veteran, be sure to sign up for veteran status sometime in April. You can retrieve the form at under FAQs on the left side of the home page. You get an extra 10 points. In years past that meant you received a 10 percent advantage. However, test scores are now between 70 and 100, that means you get a 33 percent advantage. Don’t miss it!

Compensation. As for the pay level, you know the deal. A quality employer provides more than just what’s in your paycheck. And the benefits with the state are not only great–for the most part they are tax free. Here’s what you can expect as a total compensation package:

Pay $65,172
Health insurance $12,500
Paid time off $9,038
Pension $54,092
Health insurance in retirement $24,692
Total compensation $165,494

And you can expect that total compensation package of $165,494 every year for 20 years, a total of $3.3 million. The state doesn’t lay off anyone, it won’t merge with the state of Nevada, it can’t go bankrupt and it can’t outsource its computer services to Costa Rica. Sign up for the test today!

Ken Mandler teaches a monthly workshop on How to Land a State Job. The workshop focuses on a variety of tactics and strategies designed to make the state job process an effective one for you. The workshops are three and one-half hours and include over 400 pages of information for your review. The cost is $75. The next workshops are scheduled for Tuesday, April 24 6:30-10pm; or Tuesday, May 15, 6:30-10pm. You can sign up at or calling Ken Mandler at (916) 443-6788 today!

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