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.
Government Projects: Increased attention to homeland security has opened the floodgates for private-sector vendors and services providers to garner more dollars from government-sponsored projects. The demand for technology related to intrusion detection (of the physical or cyber variety), IT security applications, and asset tracking utilizing RFID technology is on the rise. Companies like Siemens AG and Symbol Technologies are gobbling up talent in this field, says Martin Mendelsohn, partner at Christian and Timbers.

Changing IT Careers

•  Introduction

•  Where The Jobs Are

•  Making A Switch

Pay can be as high as six figures and up for a VP of business development doing specific security applications, says Mendolsohn. Many government-sponsored projects require the private-sector companies they hire to have high-level security clearances from the Department of Defense, Department of State, or other government agency. "If you have the proper security clearances, you can almost write your own ticket," says Dice's Melland.

To get a clearance, applicants must be U.S. citizens and able to prove themselves trustworthy, honest, reliable, discreet, and loyal patriots of the United States. The process of doing that can take longer than a year. Oftentimes, individuals leaving government positions are in high demand at private companies because of the active security clearances they've already acquired.

Consulting firms and technology vendors working with government agencies in the Washington, D.C. area are anxious to hire, says Melland, pointing out that the Beltway has the lowest unemployment rate for IT workers in the country. Among the most common requirements posted to Dice's sister site, a site that matches IT professionals holding current Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Energy security clearances with private-sector employers, are professionals with aerospace engineer, network administrator, J2EE software administrator, and Oracle database administrator credentials.

Making A Switch
Recruiters say those considering a change of industry or a change of position should carefully consider their options and take note of what they really want out of a job. Different fields have different pressure and corporate cultures. A dot-com might provide a relaxed atmosphere, while a financial services firm will probably be more structured, with a more complex hierarchical structure.

As for O'Brien, he admits he's still in the honeymoon phase with his new employer, but he feels the change better suits his skill set, offers him a challenging environment, and provides him with a business he can finally feel comfortable in. With a little effort, those searching for new employment can find the same.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

If you're interested in jumping from your current IT position into one at another company, or another industry altogether, take these tips to heart:

Write it: Make sure you provide your potential employer with a cogent and complete resume, including all your experience and certifications. "Certifications will show you have a skill, and that will get you through the weeding-out process. What gets you hired is your experience," says president and CEO Scott Melland.

Practice it: Practice makes perfect. Technical interviews can be tough. Make sure to take note of the questions you answer incorrectly, and fix your mistakes before the next interview.

Sell it: Willingness to work hard, learn fast, and understand the business you're entering are key characteristics of any good hire.

Take it elsewhere: Don't be afraid to take a position in a different part of the country, or to venture outside the U.S. to get the experience you seek, whether it's global exposure or experience with an unfamiliar technology.

Find it: Make sure to align yourself with the right recruiter. Find out what kinds of positions each recruiter specializes in and what clients they've worked with in the past. "And always take a recruiter's call," says Melland. "They may not have the right job for you at that moment, but if you maintain a good relationship with them, they'll remember your name when another, more appropriate position pops up," he says.

Jennifer Maselli is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of journalism experience covering information technology and business issues. You can reach her at [email protected].

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