Still no luck on my end yet but seeing that you have a new gig, definitely gives me hope that companies are still hiring regardless of what the media is telling us.That's from a friend of mine that I've known for ten or so years. We worked together at Butler and he saw me in the lobby the day I interviewed at MediaOcean.
The last part is the most telling. Regardless of political affiliation, all we seem to hear from the media and the White House is doom and gloom. You'd have to be an idiot to say that the economy is doing well. Either that or have a severe case of rectal cranial inversion. However, let's be realistic for a moment. Just because the economy is doing poorly doesn't mean that:
1) All sectors of the economy are frozen
2) There are no jobs to be had
I'll try to be as general as possible but understand that I come from the IT side of the house. Companies still need employees. There are plenty of established companies that have survived worse than this. There are plenty of NEW companies springing up because right now is the PERFECT time to start a new company. The cost to market entry is amazingly low.
What companies AREN'T doing is hiring entry level or basic skill set people. They want to get the biggest bang for the buck. Example - There are very few positions for Linux Administrators available but there ARE several positions for Linux Engineers available. The difference is in the details. Companies don't want some guy who's only Linux experience is from a help desk perspective. They want people who've implemented Linux. Engineers.
Enterprise experience is a phrase you see a lot. We're talking multi-server management. Production experience. High availability. Clustering. Those types of concepts. This is NOT the market for 2 years of experience. This is the market for five or ten years of experience. It's great that you can install Ubuntu but can you build out a kickstart infrastructure for thousands of servers? Sure you've set up MySQL but have you set up and managed a 500+GB PostgreSQL datawarehouse?
Additionally, companies want experience outside of the area they're hiring. SAN experience. Networking experience. Load balancer experience. Experience with products running on top of Linux. J2EE application servers. Commercial databases. Message queues. These are the things that set you apart from the next guy.
Community involvement speaks a lot as well. I actually have a section under my resume called Community Contributions. It's nothing but a list of links to things I've done online that relate to the resume. In my case, links to my Nagios plugins. Links to my monitoring notes for DB2 and Websphere. Links to some Linux tips and tricks I've written. Links to scripts. You may be the only person who has ever read this stuff but it gives a prospective employer some insight into your capabilities. Just be prepared to answer questions about it.
One last thing I can suggest is to not burn any bridges. When you leave a company, formally ask peers and non-direct managers if you can use them as a reference. If you leave on good terms with your direct manager, feel free to ask them as well. Many companies have an official policy on references for legal reasons but everyone I've ever worked for has provided a reference off-hours in an unofficial capacity for me.
Anyway, that's all I really wanted to say. The market is rough but companies are hiring. You just need to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd.