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Job Search: Road Back To Employment Can Be Long

With the overall U.S. unemployment rate at 5.8% in March, business-technology professionals haven't been left out of the slump. And many looking for jobs are finding they need to take a pay cut--sometimes a substantial one--to get back to work.
With the overall U.S. unemployment rate at 5.8% in March, business-technology professionals haven't been left out of the slump. And many looking for jobs are finding they need to take a pay cut--sometimes a substantial one--to get back to work.

Dianne Mines has worked in IT for more than 30 years but hasn't landed a full-time IT job since being laid off three years ago as a consultant providing customized application development for clients of her employer, a process-manufacturing software vendor. Since the layoff, Mines has been doing some part-time work, including teaching as an adjunct professor at a university as she attends classes for a master's degree in IS. "I went from earning $70,000 to $80,000 annually to making just $10,000," Mines says. She recently lost out as one of two final candidates for a part-time database job paying $15 an hour.

Of the 522 unemployed professionals who responded to InformationWeek Research's 2003 National IT Salary Survey, Mines' experience is familiar. Just over half say the biggest challenge to finding work is that the salaries for new jobs are too low, while around 40% cite the need to take a more junior position, learn new skills, or relocate. The median base salary of the respondents before being laid off was $90,000 for management and $58,000 for staff. Of these, 17% have been out of work since the beginning of this year, but 30% have been out for more than a year.

For those who are working, the vast majority--more than 80%--of managers and staffers feel secure at their jobs, according to more than 15,000 working professionals who responded to the InformationWeek Research survey. In fact, one-third of staff and 40% of managers feel highly secure, compared with 18% of staff and 15% of managers who feel insecure. Michael Meder has been in IT for 32 years, including about 10 years at his current employer, a large insurance company that has been through major IT layoffs, such as cutting two-thirds of its systems programmers. But Meder, an MVS systems programmer and disaster-recovery specialist, is looking to work another 17 years at the same company, until he's ready to retire. "I've been doing systems recovery since 1999," he says, "but ever since that terrible day, Sept. 11, my work is even more interesting and important."

Photograph by Pete McArthur

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