The IT market is looking up—as is the rest of the economy. According to Thomas Silver, senior vice president of the North America division of Dice.com, job postings on the technology-focused career site are up about 40 percent over this time last year. Silver said that some employers are telling him that they might have cut back a bit too much in the IT department, and now these companies need to catch up on infrastructure projects.
But the road to complete economic recovery for the IT market still has some rough patches because of the depth and duration of the downturn. Both Silver and Rich Milgram, founder and CEO of the career site Beyond.com, recently assessed the market and offered tips to IT pros in navigating the choppy tech job waters. Both experts emphasized that business savvy would differentiate IT pros in the job wars. Although the economy is on a steady upward trend, complete recovery in the IT market will be slow, according to Milgram.
“There’s a backlog of people who didn’t find jobs last year who are now looking—particularly recent graduates and people whose companies didn’t make it through the downturn,” Milgram said. “In addition to that, you have companies that are skittish. When companies are unsure of revenues and the market trends, they tend to be very careful about hiring.”
Employers’ caution translates into more lower-level hires rather than IT management hires. Milgram also pointed out that in this stage of an economic recovery, employers often test the market by hiring consultants. “Then as they see an upswing in revenue, they’ll have a staff of 10 and realize that they don’t have anyone to manage these people,” Milgram said. “At that point, they’ll need to put back that middle tier that they just got rid of. But in the meantime, in the next few months you’ll see that battle for positions because of the downturn a year ago.”
Both Milgram and Silver emphasized the importance of IT pros understanding how technology drives business. This insight can help IT pros establish themselves as uniquely valuable to a company and win jobs even as other positions are lost to outsourcing and middle-management cuts. Milgram cautioned IT pros against becoming too entrenched in a specific technology. “Technology is changing rapidly—because of the good work done by technologists, tasks are becoming simpler to accomplish,” he said. “So IT pros need to understand that although they might have specific skills that demand top dollar, the fact is that the world is becoming simpler and there is going to be downward pressure on salaries because of the evolving technology.”
How can IT pros remain relevant when tasks are becoming simpler for power users to execute? The answer is to not put your headphones on and disappear behind a stack of data. Companies make decisions to send jobs overseas not because they relish having to communicate with people in the middle of the night, but simply because of price. Milgram recommends that IT pros sharpen their communications and business skills to avoid becoming invisible—and irrelevant.
Silver said that IT managers in particular need to figure out how technology fits in with the company’s overall business strategy. “If your company is in retail sales, it lives by retail sales,” Silver said. “So any person in IT management needs to know where the technology contribution fits into the overall business.” Understanding that connection means embracing new technology that can help drive profit—such as cloud computing or virtualization. “Employers are looking for employees who can make the infrastructure more efficient, either through cloud computing or virtualization.”
Milgram had a specific example of an employee who needed to execute performance testing, but an appropriate box wasn’t available. The employee uploaded the workload to the cloud, quickly earning himself extra points for understanding and using new technology to accomplish a task for a minimal cost. Rather than worrying about whether the cloud computing trend was going to eliminate IT jobs, this IT pro used the technology to his advantage.
“I’ve never known a technologist to be scared of technology, so why is this different?” Milgram asked. “Accept it, understand it, be ready to understand the pros and cons, and be able to assess how it’s valuable to your business.”
For more tips from these IT career site execs about coming through the downturn with a new—or better—career, check out the full interviews at www.windowsitpro.com/go/perspectives. And enjoy the ride in the next few months as companies realize they need IT pros now more than ever.