Laid-off IT managers consider pay cuts, demotions

Sporting gray hair and a preppy sweater at a recent pink-slip party in Manhattan, 37-year-old Nicholas Hart looked distinguished in the crowd of black-clad twentysomethings.

But even with his 15 years of IT experience, including two management jobs, Hart said he's ready to take a hefty pay cut and a demotion to find work. That's a good move, according to recruiters and economists, who warn that like the early 1990s, much of the downsizing in the near future will come from the ranks of middle management.

"They may never have those kinds of jobs again," said Alec Levenson, an economist at the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Milken Institute.

A study released last week by the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va., revealed that IT hiring plans have been slashed by almost 44 percent compared with last year. Companies will hire a total of 900,000 IT workers this year compared with 1.6 million last year, according to the study's findings, which were culled from telephone interviews with almost 700 IT managers.

"I don't see the market changing for the next six months," said Tammy Anderson, managing partner at Lysen Anderson Executive Search Inc. in Cumming, Ga. IT job seekers shouldn't be surprised if they see their salaries drop by 15 percent to 20 percent, she added.

"Many companies are scaling back and doing so at the manager and director level," said Anderson. "The hard-core techies are the people who are still in high demand."

Hart said he plans to rephrase the three years of IT management experience on his resume to "network engineer," a title he said he believes will call attention to his hands-on technical experience rather than his management skills. He has been job hunting since he was laid off in January from a company that sells wholesale licensed handbags to Kowloon, Hong Kong-based retailer Tommy Hilfiger Corp.

Hart also expects to take a 25 percent pay cut. "Obviously, I can't just sit here forever without a job. If I knew next month I'd get [a comparable job], I'd probably wait it out," he said.

Similarly, 37-year-old Rob Camp (not his real name), who was laid off several weeks ago from a New York-based Internet consulting firm, said he expects that his next job title will be less prestigious than that of vice president of partnerships and content.

"I'm not necessarily interested in retaining the title. I felt the title was overblown to begin with," he said.

Instead, Camp is looking for work as a product manager, a job he said he believes can eventually land him in the executive ranks. But he said his once six-figure salary will likely be slashed by US$20,000.

But 45-year-old Michael Berch has been holding out for a job in middle or even senior management. Berch was let go as an IT director at Internet Pictures Corp. in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which features online virtual tours of real estate properties.

Berch said he probably wouldn't take a job in an area such as systems administration because it wouldn't be a good career move. But he's also not counting on getting his former six-figure salary.

About six weeks ago, Berch was about to begin a consulting assignment until the start-up offered the position to a less-costly temporary worker.

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