Coping Through the Great IT Depression
Many years before the age of the digital computer, our country faced dire economic times. The year was 1929, and the notorious stock market crash on “Black Monday” led to the Great Depression, a time of unemployment, price decline and reduced wages. Stocks on “Black Monday” decreased more than 10 percent during that day, and unemployment reached 25 percent during the next year.
Presently, times are not that bad, but it may be that bad or worse for IT professionals. My “tech stocks” are listed for a fraction of the price I paid for them, and six of my 10 closest IT friends remain unemployed.
A college student explained to me that he went for a job interview recently. He said that the employer liked him and was impressed by his attainment of a major systems engineer certification and a major routing/switching certification, in addition to his degree. But the employer wanted more; they wanted the candidate to be knowledgeable in accounting as well. “Accounting? How can they expect someone to manage their entire network and do accounting?” I was asked. “That may be a rare person to find,” I replied. Although his story seemed surreal, I wondered if this may turn out to be a hiring trend.
Most analysts see the economy and negative impacts for IT as a temporary event. Although the time for recovery is unknown, the IT professional can be a strategist during these challenging times. As is the case with most challenges, there are ways to cope through these adverse times. Perhaps opportunities may be present, and there are some strategies that will help you get through.
Tips for Coping Through the IT Depression
- Look beyond your job performance and look at the performance of your company. Today’s economy, corporate scandals and bankruptcy filings prompt employee alertness. Visit financial Web sites and read newsgroup postings about your company. Pending takeovers, lowered sales expectations and legal actions could all impact your position. Knowledge is the key, and a broader perspective can help you.
- If you are unemployed or working out of your field, consider volunteering your services to a nonprofit group. Many nonprofits, such as homeless shelters, domestic violence organizations and churches, need technical assistance but lack the financial resources to pay an organization. Some nonprofit groups have IT committees that you might consider joining. You will find that volunteering your services will keep your skill set current and could lead to referrals for paid consulting work or even a career position. Also, consider community help. Many schools look for guest speakers, student mentors and even instructors. Perhaps the greatest benefit you will find is that of giving to the community.
- You may find this the perfect time to obtain new skills. Set a goal for getting certified or taking a new course. This will make you more competitive. Some vendors, such as 3Com, offer free online training and online certification to the public. You can visit the 3Com University at www.3com.com/support/en_US/training/index.html.
- Take advantage of company-paid training that may be available. Look at projects involving new technology as a learning opportunity that will help your professional growth.
- Get involved with user groups in your area. In many cities, user groups meet regularly to discuss hardware, operating systems and application software. Examples of user groups include Linux, SQL and PeopleSoft. Attending user group meetings can sharpen your skills or help you land your next job.
- Keep in touch with your friends and colleagues. Many jobs are found through person-to-person networking. Conversely, as an employer remaining in contact, you may rapidly hire qualified staff you are comfortable with.
- Attend trade shows, computer shows and vendor seminars. Attendance will provide you with an awareness of current technology and help you make the right decisions in your present or future job.
There was recovery after the Great Depression, as there will be after this slump that has particularly affected the IT world. Try to keep a positive outlook. As the economy recovers, you should have a large advantage. If you have kept your skill set current, you will undoubtedly compete with a smaller number of qualified IT professionals, and that is a success strategy that you should consider.
Brett Moeller is director of technology and business programs for Sanford-Brown College. He’s earned an MBA and has MCSE, MCP, MCSA, MCT, CCNA, CCDA, CCA, CTT+, A+, Network+, CAN and 3Com Solutions Associate certifications.