Studying the Job Market

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The IT job market is a wild, wonderful and — as anyone who’s been in the business long enough can attest — sometimes scary ride, like a rickety state fair roller coaster. You know there’s plenty of reward for braving it, but there’s some risk there too. Yet, if you educate yourself on the industry, follow the latest technical trends and steer your career in the right directions, you should come out just fine.


IT is a vast sea, though, and attempting to figure it all out seems awfully daunting. And that’s precisely why you shouldn’t try. I mean, it’s difficult enough for the editors of CertMag, and we follow the industry for a living. For someone who’s working 40 or more hours a week, it would be extremely taxing to keep up with it all.


Fortunately, there’s a substantial amount of industry research out there that can help guide you to the right job. The studies conducted by organizations such as Foote Partners or Robert Half Technology come to mind. (Incidentally, these frequently are covered in CertMag’s print and online offerings.) And, of course, there’s Certification Magazine’s annual Salary Survey, which outlines compensation trends based on credentials, experience, area of expertise and other factors. (See the most recent feature here.)


But determining possible next steps for your career involves much more than reading industry reports. It helps to approach your prospects in IT in these three consecutive stages:


Stage 1: Personal Interest


Obviously, you need to do something you’ll enjoy. Examine what you’ve done so far in professional and/or academic environments and discern what areas you’ve gravitated toward and gotten the most personal fulfillment from.


This can be considered in terms of specific technical niches, but I would encourage you to think more broadly about your interests. In other words, instead of simply saying you favor Web development exclusively, consider what draws you to that field. Of course, there’s always the possibility that the sheer joy of performing Web development tasks is what attracts you to that vocation. But perhaps it’s the relaxed work environment or the opportunity to express yourself creatively that you really enjoy. Thinking in these terms might help you widen your range of options.


Stage 2: Market Demand


Next, take a look at what’s in demand in IT. As indicated earlier, this will include perusing research conducted by experts on the technology market. It also involves significant virtual and physical networking: hitting online forums, attending industry conferences and so forth.


Again, it’s important to keep personal priorities in mind as you tap these various resources for information. For instance, if you’re looking for pay commensurate to your many years of experience in IT, it won’t be much help to read a report on the entry-level jobs hiring managers are desperate to fill. Instead, focus on research and advice that will help you advance your own narrowly defined career objectives.


Stage 3: The Nexus


Once you’ve determined your own interests in technology and where market demand is greatest, you should then determine where they intersect. For instance, let’s say one of your top preferences is programming, but there’s no demand for it. Cross that off your list. On the other hand, you might have to strike out database administration because you can’t stand doing it, even though DBAs are earning top dollar.


If you can find that sweet spot and get paid a good salary to do something you really like, you’ll be doing pretty well. And the industry is so large and diverse that nearly all techies probably will be able to strike career gold with enough patience, fortitude and knowledge.


Just don’t get too comfortable. Technology — not to mention people — have a tendency to change over time.

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