Michael Kirven, co-founder and principal of IT staffing and consulting firm Bluewolf Inc., talks about keeping a job and finding another in the current economic climate.
With the economy in the doldrums, what can an IT professional do to stay employed?
First, they can keep their technology skills fresh and take advantage of training opportunities, such as free online courses and certifications. "Free" is important, though; this is no time to ask your employer for money.
Second, they can leverage their technology expertise to help their company perform better. For example, they might develop an application that helps the company's sales professionals. It's important not to be afraid to take the initiative with these sorts of ideas.
Third, stay positive.
Fourth, stay busy, and never say no to an assignment.
Isn't that good advice anytime?
Yes, but it is easy to get complacent in good times. When times are difficult, these things can help you keep your job.
Advice like "stay positive" seems simple enough, but that can be tough to do in such a grim environment. How can we do that?
I can't emphasize enough the importance of staying positive. Avoid the negative people in the office -- they will probably be the first ones fired, but negativity is contagious. For that reason, you should also turn off the news during the day. The news on Yahoo, CNN [and] NYTimes.com is mostly negative and will distract you from your job.
And if you do all that and still lose your job, what should you do then?
Make sure your résumé is concise and well written and contains all of your updated contact information. Then, make sure it is optimized for keywords by describing your skills precisely -- .Net, for example. Post your résumé on all the job boards, such as Dice, LinkedIn and Monster, as well as the niche job boards, for jobs in financial services, media, etc.
Take advantage of recruiting firms. And when you meet with a recruiting firm, treat everyone with respect, because these are the people who could help you land an interview and a job. Recruiting firms will also work with you to optimize your résumé for the job boards.
Finally, in this highly competitive job environment, if you have an interview opportunity, let the prospective employer know you are available immediately. Don't say that you will be on vacation or only do interviews on Mondays. Make sure you are easily available and show a strong interest in the job; otherwise, you will lose the interview opportunity.
Pay Trends: Not Universally Grim
There's good and bad news in the latest quarterly update of Foote Partners LLC's IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index. The index, which looks at pay rates for 354 skills and certifications held by 22,550 IT professionals in the U.S. and Canada, found that the recession has hit IT salaries. That's the bad news, and it's hardly unexpected. The good news is that pay for several skills is bucking the trend and continuing to rise.
"Clearly, an urgent demand for talent in several areas is eclipsing broad, knee-jerk reactions to reduce budgets and cut people, projects and purchases without thinking carefully about the consequences," said David Foote, the firm's co-founder and CEO. "Employers made mistakes in past downturns -- huge miscalculations in the heat of cost-cutting that hurt them later on, limiting their options when the smoke cleared and the rebuilding started. It just shows how far IT management has come since they were in this position last time." Managers have learned that it's not just about cutting spending, according to Foote. "It's about how smart they're spending what they have," he said.