CXO

Recession-proofing your IT career

Not so long ago, a career in IT was regarded as "recession-proof". But not any more, as large numbers of IT managers and consultants have found out. ZDNet Australia compiled this guide to shoring-up your long term job prospects.

Not so long ago, a career in IT was regarded as "recession-proof".

But not any more, as large numbers of IT managers and consultants have unfortunately found out.

In fact, it seems now that no profession is free of job cutbacks.

Wendy Enelow, the author of the new book, '101 Ways to Recession-Proof Your Career', believes that the curses of downsizing and retrenchment have to be accepted as part of modern life.

"Over the past decade, companies have learned some important lessons and, in turn, streamlined and reconfigured themselves for life," Enelow says. "In turn, job seekers need to understand that the companies that our parents and grandparents worked for will never be the same".

"In today's economy, it is unrealistic to expect that you'll graduate, get a job and work there until you retire. The reverse is actually true. You'll most likely have 10+ jobs throughout your career and you've got to take control and be in the driver's seat. You have to proactively manage your career; no one else will! You've got to move from company to company, whether as an employee or consultant, to take advantage of opportunities today".

"The opportunities 3 to 5 years down the road will be different and, in many situations, it will be time to make a change. Don't look at your current employer as your cushion for life; your employer certainly doesn't see you that way anymore".

Fortunately, it's not all doom and gloom.

Enelow points out that there are practical strategies that people can adopt to make themselves recession-proof. And Enelow is highly qualified to give career advice, since she is the founder and president of the Career Masters Institute (www.cminstitute.com), a global training, development and professional networking organisation.

In order to be successful, Enelow says that professionals need to:

"Change their mindset so that they understand that career management and growth are proactive functions. They don't happen to you ... you have to make them happen!"

"Continue to get training - both technical and management - to stay on 'top of your game'".

"Network, network and network some more. The more people you know, the more you'll know about what's happening in the job market, and the opportunities will present themselves to you".

"Build a lifelong career success team (mentoring team) that can help guide your career. In turn, you provide guidance to others in the group".

Enelow has some additional career advice that pertains to the information technology profession in particular.

"Technical training is critical for any IT professional. The industry changes with each blink, and to stay competitive, your technology skills must be competitive. Even for executives, whose primary functions are focused on the 'business' side of the house, sharp technical skills will make you a much more attractive candidate".

Enelow also warns that professionals must be constantly looking out for the typical signs that their current position might be in jeopardy. These include, for example, not being invited to business meetings; organisational changes being made; changes in the management team and/or the reporting structures; a merger, acquisition or divestiture in the works; company relocation; discussion about next-generation products, or technologies being developed in the company, and finding out that you're not part of the development team; and stagnancy - no promotions!

And what course of action does Enelow recommend if the worst happens and you find yourself out of a job?

"Decide what type of position or career you're seeking, package yourself to promote the 'right' skills and experiences, market yourself intelligently, and then network yourself into your next job".

"Looking for a job 'today' is not simply a task for today; rather, it's an ongoing process that must be part of your overall career plan. This is even more important in today's economic and employment climate where the status quo of long-term job stability has virtually been eradicated, and each professional must assume ownership for where and how their career progresses from here on out".

And if you're an IT professional who has been with the same company for a number of years but who can now see trouble coming, but who, unfortunately, is also rusty when it comes to writing a resume, searching for jobs, and handling interviews, Enelow suggests that you get professional help.

"The small investment will pay for itself over and over and over," says Enelow reassuringly.

In summary, Enelow states that her top five recession-proofing strategies are as follows:

  • "Take control now! Taking control of your career and your career destiny requires just one thing - action".
  • "Sharpen your technical skills".
  • "Assemble your success team".
  • "Create your own personal brand".
  • "Know that job security comes from within".

In conclusion, what does Enelow regard as the best piece of career advice that she personally has ever been given?

"Realise that you have to proactively manage your career. If you allow it to be managed for you - by your employers - you'll be at someone else's mercy and, thus, have no control. In today's volatile market, that can mean job search death (unemployment)".

Tony Stevenson is the author of the two best selling Internet books, "The Australian Guide to the Internet" (www.mkdsoftware.com.au) and "The Australian Guide to Online Business" (www.mkdsoftware.com.au/online). His company also publishes the two popular, free e-mail newsletters, "Internet Update" and "Sites of the Day". These newsletters are distributed to readers in more than a dozen countries.

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