The landscape of the IT industry has changed significantly since the tidal wave of the high-tech crash in March and April of 2000. By now, you’ve probably been affected by the slowing economy as IT budgets shrink, or you have even felt the sting of losing a job. Finding a new position in this market might be difficult; finding your dream position is likely to be especially difficult. However, if you possess solid IT skills and are flexible about employment opportunities, there is a light at the end of the layoff tunnel, according to Dayle Bowen, a former recruiter and founder and CEO of Tapestry.net, an online IT recruitment service.
In this article, Bowen and other IT career specialists explain their view of the current IT job market and how you can still find a good position in a slowing economy.
Hiring has slowed, but it hasn’t stopped
IT pros, especially those in urban areas, had their pick of positions before the bottom fell out of the tech sector. Many IT positions were eliminated in the aftermath of the tech crash, which included thousands of layoffs at Dell, 3Com, and Hewlett-Packard.
But do the state of the economy and the altered landscape of the industry mean that unemployed IT professionals cannot find work? No, said Bowen, because organizations still need workers with IT skills.
“People are still getting jobs out there; companies are still hiring. It’s slowed down a bit, but it’s not ‘the sky is falling,’” he said.
But you can’t be as picky as you used to be, he said. Relocation or starting a slightly different career path might help you find the position you want, though experts warn that you should relocate only to a place that suits you.
While it’s not a buyer’s market, or one where the demand for jobs exceeds the number of qualified applicants, the job market is leveling off, said Bowen.
Follow Bowen’s example: When the economy is stable, an organization with 50,000 employees might have an average attrition rate of 10 percent a year. This translates to a turnover of 5,000 positions in one year.
During an expansion period, the same organization might hire employees at a rate that’s 3 percent above the average attrition rate of 10 percent. To expand the example, compare the 13 percent hiring rate during an expansion period to the average 10 percent.
This demonstrates that the demand for positions has dropped roughly 30 percent. But this doesn’t mean that there are 30 percent fewer jobs.
“What’s going on right now is that the 3 percent is getting trimmed, but the 10 percent really isn’t. Last year, everybody was talking about the huge shortage and if demand has dropped 30 percent, the real question is how much was the shortage? If the market was 30 percent shorter in applicants and the demand has dropped off 30 percent, then we’re pretty much back to even,” said Bowen.
Bowen’s example follows the hiring practices of a large organization; these are not always the same as those of a small or medium-size organization. Smaller organizations often lack some of the pressures large organizations face and, as a result, may not have to lay off employees to pull itself out of the red.
“In smaller companies, which represent a large piece of the total job market, IT pros are quite insulated from industry-wide trends,” said Ed Joseph, director of the Consulting and Training division of The Performance Institute, an Alexandria, VA-based management consultancy.
Plan your attack by opening your mind
So what do you do if you can’t wait for the job market to right itself in your area? Take a step back and look at what you want to do and where you want to be as an IT pro.
“Dramatic economic change requires that we all ‘reconfigure’ ourselves,” said headhunter and TechRepublic career columnist Nick Corcodilos.
But, as they say, knowing your next move is half the battle. Once you know what you want your next position to be like, aim for that place.
Start looking for a great company and not a perfect job. “I believe the solution is not to find the jobs. It’s to find the great companies that you really want to work for and show them how you will contribute to their profitability if they hire you,” Corcodilos said.
Consider these other job-hunting tips:
- · Keep an open mind. If you do, a position you never considered might appear. “Maybe step into a slightly different (career) area,” Corcodilos said, adding that a down market is a good time to make a smart career shift.
- · If you have skills that are in demand, capitalize on this fact during your job search. Kevin Grossman, recruiting services director for Tapestry.net, said that Web development, wireless applications, and application development are skills currently hot with Tapestry.net clients.
- · Prove yourself. Sell your skills to a company and show what you can add to the organization if hired. Find work you’d love to do and show the company how you can do it profitably, advised Corcodilos.
- · Accept movement. Your next IT position will probably not be your last. Always be on the lookout for new positions, just in case.
Remember these words of wisdom from Karen Childress, a certified professional business coach and TechRepublic columnist: “Good people can always find good jobs. If a person is competent and confident, there is a place for them somewhere.”
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