Now What?

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The technology sector may not be getting hit as hard by the economic recession as the financial or automotive industries, but most IT departments are still feeling some negative effects. With the forecast cloudy, the best thing you can do is make sure you are prepared for continued uncertainty. Here are some tips to help you survive — or even thrive — during a downturn.

Focus on the bottom line. Companies are looking to cut costs, so you should look for ways to save your organization money. For instance, you might take the initiative to identify a data-storage vendor that offers lower prices or recommend renegotiating an existing contract. Calculate the potential cost savings to give your manager specific data. Also, have a clear understanding of how your efforts allow the organization to achieve its goals. For example, what can you do to help identify new customers, improve service levels or make the company’s products or services cheaper?

If you are searching for new employment, augment your cover letter and resume to highlight instances in your work history where you have helped previous employers save money, become more competitive or increase efficiencies.

Don’t be a wallflower. Now is not the time to blend into the background. Companies are looking for leaders to help them manage through tough times and grow again once economic conditions improve. Make an effort to become a go-to person on your team. By volunteering for new projects or taking on additional responsibilities, you demonstrate initiative and the desire to expand your knowledge base.

At the same time, work to keep your skills sharp whether you are employed or not. This is especially important in the IT profession, where you can be left behind if you don’t keep up with the newest hardware or software. Staying abreast of the latest trends and adding new skills to your repertoire increase your likelihood of either staying in your current position or being able to transition into another one.

Strengthen your network. You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” While this may be an oversimplification, a thriving network of professional contacts can be one of your biggest assets during a recession. If you are searching for employment, members of your network can alert you to new opportunities or provide a personal referral, which could be invaluable in your quest to capture a hiring manager’s attention. Even if you are employed, maintaining professional connections can be key; those you know can provide advice for dealing with challenges.

Keep in mind, too, that you shouldn’t limit your efforts to the IT field. Having a broad range of professional contacts can provide you with greater resources. You can meet people outside your profession through volunteer work, job-search support groups and everyday interactions. After all, your physician or your auto mechanic may have friends who could assist you in career pursuits.

Keep your eyes open. You always should be alert to new opportunities that allow you to advance professionally, no matter the economic climate. Even today, some firms are hiring, and highly skilled professionals remain in demand for many IT specialties. You don’t want to jump recklessly from one employer to another, but you should be prepared to make a move if the right position presents itself. In fact, that’s why it’s important your resume remains up-to-date: Having a current version of this document allows you to react quickly to promising opportunities or immediately launch a job search if you find yourself in the market unexpectedly. It goes without saying that your most recent accomplishments and skills should be reflected on your resume.

A final word of advice: Attitude is key. It’s easy to be pessimistic in the current environment. Instead of allowing negativity to creep in, remain as upbeat and open-minded as possible. You may need to adjust the way you work — assuming different job responsibilities, for instance — as your employer reorganizes or streamlines operations. Embracing new developments will reinforce that you’re capable of adapting to the company’s needs and allow you to remain marketable should you need to search for new employment. 

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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