The news seems bleak for the job market, but that may not be the case in IT. Here are some things to keep in mind in terms of your IT career.
The job market for IT professionals in this economy is tough. Company closings and mass layoffs have been prevalent in the media these days and IT professionals are not immune. That has caused a flood of highly qualified candidates to flood the job market looking for jobs that just aren't there.
Recruiters are one key resource for IT job hunters. Danny Castleman, President of Ebit Information Systems, an IT recruiting and staffing company servicing markets in the midwest has been in the IT industry for over 14 years. He has seen the down turns and the upswings in IT hiring trends for years now. "There is no doubt that things are backing up," says Castleman.
But there's an interesting trend begun recently that talented IT professionals can start taking advantage of. According to Castleman, yes, full-time IT employees are being laid off, but the contract market is picking up. "Projects still need to get done," says Castleman. "And the closer you are to technology, the safer you are. Managers (who have been laid off) should look at moving closer to coding or hands-on technology management."
Companies have been realizing that, in many cases, the cuts may have been too deep. "The contractor community is starting to show some life." The challenge, however, is that these contract positions are for the heavy lifting, such as senior system administrators, project managers, or software developers working with .NET, C#, and Java. Middle managers and upper management skills are not in demand in this market. IT professionals that are landing gigs are "the get-it-done folks."
As many of us already know, these layoffs are having adverse affects on those left behind. The job still needs to get done even without the added resources. "Managers are saying, 'You guys are just going to have to work 70 hours a week for a while,'" says Castleman. Eventually, Castlemen believes that this will force a quick upswing in hiring once things settle down, but when that will happen is anyone's guess.
"There is an intriguing data point," says Castleman. "Candidates are not looking (for new jobs) as much. They are staying where they are." There is a fear factor involved in this. They see the news and feel that they need to stay put and focus on the work at hand. But you have to be careful about how you interpret the news, warns Castleman. What may be true in California is not true in other parts of the country. "If I talked to a guy in Louisville, Kentucky, and asked him how much value local real estate has lost in 2008, he would say 40% because that number is all over the news. In Louisville, however, real estate values have only dropped 10%." The same goes for the IT job market. Know the news for your area. It has been sensationalized by the media and may not be accurate for your local market.
It's not all gloom and doom, however. Castleman was recruiting through the dot com implosion in 2000-2001. "Not sure it will go to that extent," says Castleman. "Even then, it (the job market) came back very strong. It's all about being a survivor right now. The guys who can weather this will be in a good position when it turns around." Many times IT professionals start to look for different careers than technology. If you are thinking about this, Danny urges you to reconsider. "It's too early to give up on IT."
Other advice from Castleman:
- "Looking to move up is going to be tough," says Castleman. If you're looking for a promotion regarding your next job, the odds are against you. "If you're on the bench, consider consulting for a year."
- "Stay engaged." Leverage your network and, if you don't have one, build one. Relatives, friends, colleagues, LinkedIn, Facebook and vendors are all options for you to leverage to extend your network and get your name out there.
Danny is also seeing an interesting trend from those companies laying off. "Clients laying off are reaching out to recruiters asking 'Can you help this guy?'," says Castleman. "'He is a really good resource, but unfortunately we had to make some cuts.' I have not seen this before at this level. Unless it was a rock star, we didn't hear anything."