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4/24/2006
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IT Careers: Making A Change

Is your IT job feeling a little stale? It's a great time to switch companies or even industries, and some emerging fields and technologies could make a change all the more intriguing.

Not long ago, Michael O'Brien, a man with 10 years of service as a Java programmer and software design expert for a major investment bank, started to reconsider his future. Departmental reorganizations, the pressures of working in financial services, and the specter of outsourcing all convinced O'Brien to seek a new position in a different industry.


Changing IT Careers


•  Introduction

•  Where The Jobs Are

•  Making A Switch


"I grew tired of constantly having to reapply for my job," says O'Brien. "Most of the coding work was getting sent to Houston, and later most of that work was going to India. I got stuck with project planning and started to feel like my programming skills were getting rusty." Within four weeks' time, O'Brien, who began his search in February, interviewed with several companies in industries spanning dot-coms, publishing, and technology. "There's a lot of hiring going on. It's a good time for IT job hunters in New York," he says.

In fact, companies across the country have expanded their hiring efforts. Dice Inc., an IT jobs Web site, saw a 2.1 percent increase in IT job postings last month to 85,381 positions, 10,496 of which were in the New York Metro area. Overall, job postings have increased 26 percent year over year, and over the last two years, they've more than doubled, according to Dice President and CEO Scott Melland.

Other markets including Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley are also experiencing hiring increases. "A year or so ago, I heard from a lot of companies that they weren't hiring due to hiring freezes or outsourcing, but now the market is shaping up to be close to what it used to be," says Randi Blake, a senior recruiting manager for Next Search Group in New York. "It's getting back to the time when it's hard to find good talent," she says.

Unemployment among the IT segment averaged 2.9 percent for the four quarters ended December 31, 2005, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And according to InformationWeek's National IT Salary Study 2006, which surveyed 10,425 full-time IT professionals, job security is on the rise, with only 12 percent of staff and 9 percent of managers feeling insecure about their jobs this year, compared to 15 percent and 11 percent last year.

Job security was the number one concern for IT staff responding to the survey. The number two concern -- having a challenging job -- indicates that many IT pros might be willing to move on should the right position come along. Like O'Brien, who says he wasn't feeling challenged in his old position, only 34 percent of staff and 47 percent of IT managers felt challenged in their current position.

O'Brien was determined to find a position in a new industry, despite his 15-year financial services history. "To be honest, I never felt comfortable in the field dealing with all these financial calculations when I really didn't know what they meant," he said. But O'Brien found that most recruiters weren't willing to help him get a job within another industry. "Headhunters work on volume, and it's much easier and faster for them to place you in the same job you've got right now at another company," says O'Brien, who ended up getting his position at Condé Nast Publications by answering an ad on an online job board.

Blake, who helped O'Brien in his search, agrees that moving to a new industry can be difficult. "I could've gotten 20 jobs for [O'Brien] within financial services," she notes. But if the motive to make a change is there, and the right mix of skills is present, there are plenty of jobs to be had, whether you're looking to change positions, change jobs within a current field, or move outside to a new industry or geographic location.

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