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2/3/2009
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How To Find A Great IT Job In A Bad Economy

Job-finding tips from IT pros who were pink-slipped, but survived to work another day include aggressive networking and skills training.

John Senne is one of the lucky ones. He got the news that his team at Torex, a global point-of-sale systems provider based in Chicago, was being eliminated in mid-January. Senne, who supported the sales group by building demos of POS systems for potential new accounts, went home that night and logged onto his Facebook account. "Damn, damn, damn," he wrote. "I'm getting laid off at the end of the month."

The following morning, an e-mail marked URGENT was in his inbox. "It was an offer from my former boss at FTD to come back and work for him," he said. Although his new job at the flower delivery giant has not yet been defined, Senne knows he dodged a bullet. "I'm not going to miss a single day of work," he said. "I feel a little embarrassed talking to people who have been laid off and have no prospects, but it shows that if you work hard and keep up a good rapport with people, that it pays off."

Many aren't so fortunate. After holding its own despite the economic turmoil plaguing other industries, IT employment finally plummeted in December. According to the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses, which tracks these numbers every month, the economy lost 34,000 IT jobs in November -- a drop of 0.87 percent, representing the most serious monthly decline in more than three years. "The fact that IT employment continues to outperform the general employment marketplace is small consolidation for those who have been affected," said Mark Roberts, CEO of the NACCB.

So, what to do if you're one of the ones unlucky enough to have been tapped to leave the building? Here's some advice from people in the trenches.

Network, Network, Network

When Nilo Sarraf got laid off in December from her job as a usability engineer at Yahoo, she looked around at her colleagues who had also received pink slips and saw an opportunity. She went home and reserved the Layoffs Café URL for $10 and put out a notice on MeetUp for anyone in Silicon Valley who had recently been laid off to come to a meeting at an independent coffeehouse in Mountain View, Calif.

Twenty people showed up, and within days Sarraf had more than 80 other local laid off workers clamoring for a second meeting. She's had inquiries for starting up Layoffs Café chapters in other states, and is excited about the buzz her idea is generating.

"Because I'm fairly junior in my field -- I'm still working on my master's thesis -- I've come to terms with the fact that I'm going to have trouble finding my next job," she said. "Networking is key -- not just with people in your field, but in other industries, too. You never know when you're going to bump into a great opportunity."

John Senne agrees. "Your network is the first place you should turn to when you've been laid off," he said. "People like helping other people. And the social networks like Linked in and Facebook make it easier than ever to stay in touch."

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