Ouch…career pain hurts

With the exception of bucket loads of tears from those crying poor over salary levels, the results of Computerworld’s recent career-oriented Quickpolls are a mixed bag.

From these polls, I get the sense that in terms of career satisfaction and aspirations, most readers were reasonably happy with IT as a career, even though about half would like a better IT job.

Our recent poll question, “Are you satisfied with your current job in IT?”, live from Wednesday, November 12, pulled in a healthy 131 votes to these response options: “I like the work environment more than I like the job”(12), “Neutral — I like the pay, and it’s better than being unemployed”(41), “No, I’m looking for another job in IT” (51), and “Yes, the work is interesting and allows for growth” (27). (The numbers in brackets are actual vote tallies, not percentages.)

Unfortunately, this poll restricted answers to a neutral response at worst and I’m kicking myself for not including something like, “Looking to get out of IT altogether”. By comparison, US counterparts seem an unhappy lot. This year, US Computerworld’s 2003 Job Satisfaction Survey found that some of the “cool stoicism” of the previous year was ground down to reveal a workforce where 56 per cent of the 936 respondents were less satisfied with their companies than they were a year ago, and 55 per cent dissatisfied with their opportunities for advancement. Also, 69 per cent of those US IT workers said they don’t think they’re working to their full potential, and 59 per cent were more stressed out than they were a year ago. I get the sense that many of the US respondents felt like they were straddling a large candle with each foot strapped to a melting ice brick. Things were heating up, but they could see no escape. Locals seem more upbeat, mostly because they never feasted at the tech-boom pig trough in the first place, and fewer have lost their jobs while the local economy fairs reasonably well.

More revealing about local ICT career comfort levels is our poll about ICT as a career of choice for today’s youth.

Our poll question: “Would you recommend ICT tertiary training and a career in ICT to school-aged youth?” live from Wednesday November 19 and still running at the time of writing, has so far yielded the responses: “Yes, but only if blended with business study” (24), “Yes, a great career if IT excites them” (12), “No, too few opportunities” (20) and “None of the above” (1).

I believe these partial results reflect uncertainty and fundamental changes wrought by IT automation, application hosting and global and local outsourcing. Basically, the worry is, “how many current ICT functions will end up running on push-button automatic, be available at a wall socket, or be relocated to cheap labour centres?”

Given the unyielding demand for ICT services and the growing complexity, I think not recommending ICT to youth is overly pessimistic. Obviously many opportunities will continue to exist for the rounded individuals who blend business analysis nous with technology, and also for some pure-bred, high-quality technical specialists. Jobs for the Mr and Ms patch-it and mend-it will certainly dwindle. If youth are being turned off or away then current mutterings about skills shortages in the years ahead may prove prescient.

Now about the pay cheque poll, we asked a silly question but got a great response with 161 people out of 321 saying their salaries were too low for the work they do. The QuickPoll in question: “For the IT work I do, my salary is:...”, live for a week from Wednesday, October 29, yielded these responses, “Too high” (38), “I’m unemployed” (42),”Fair” (80) and “Too low” (161).

Hmmm.. could be lots of shitty staffers out there feeling the pressure of pay and headcount freezes. They’re having to cope with more responsibility and longer working hours as colleagues depart. But I wonder if the 12 per cent (38) who reckoned their pay packets were too fat were really staffers voting on behalf of their managers.

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