Networking and being well-connected to those who can help you get hired is by far the best way to a good career.
Keeping technical skills updated can often be prohibitively expensive for anyone who has been out of IT for 1 to 2+ years or even less. This advice is so commonly dished out, yet has not made sense for many, many capable people.
It is not uncommon for experienced staff to get shackled supporting older software and hardware "because the younger staff does not know it as well". Layoffs are not uncommon and do occur to the older and to the less-connected but still very capable staff who then are behind in experience with newer software/hardware. And for those who know what it is like to work 50 to 70+ hour weeks keeping up the old stuff without being allowed to self train on newer software and hardware, "keeping up technical skills" is very difficult. Also, expecting everyone to jump to a new job as soon as you find you are not working on the latest/greatest products, is not realistic. Why companies are so complacent about training younger/cheaper staff only to lose them in a year to job hopping and then reinvest in bringing in new hires and again complain that the staff just doesn't have the business/soft skills seems common but shows that poor management is also too common.
There appears to be a systemic problem in IT and high tech in general where college aged and younger people are turned off to science / high tech careers because they've seen their parents' careers cut short due to layoffs without a reasonable solution for retraining that is not prohibitively expensive yet sufficient for another company's position.
Enterprise servers, software, routers, switches the latest upgrades to such and maintenance contracts can run into 10s of thousands and 6 figure sums in order to work on the products to get the experience that another company expects looking at someone in their 40s, 50s+ and sometimes earlier in their 30s.
Expecting so many individuals to pay astronomical sums to "keep up technical skills" in our world today is wrong and will continue to discourage enough youth to enter high tech. Given "less skilled people", companies push for increasing visa numbers or sending jobs and
dollars overseas which just increases the problem of discouraging good people from investing in science and high tech careers.
There needs to be better, reasonable ways for people to retrain on the expensive products and the new revisions sufficiently enough for good people to obtain new, decent paying jobs even if the jobs do not pay as high as their last job. Companies, in general, have shirked responsibility for helping with retraining as it is "too expensive" yet expect individuals on their own to take a risk and shoulder the expensive retraining. Working on "30 day trials" of expensive software does not typically impress prospective employers (unless the prospective employee is very young).
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