2008 IT Career Survival Guide

For the most part, I try to avoid the forums on IT job boards. I can't help but to walk away feeling like there's no hope out there for a career in IT. Granted that it can be a tough industry, particularly with outsourcing and downsizing, but when I talk to IT recruiters they tell me they are still having trouble filling some positions in under 90 days. So somewhere in between must lie the truth.

What I've found in working with IT professionals is that the good ones don't wait around for their opportunities -- they make their own opportunities. Though this can be said about any profession really, it's particularly important in IT, where stagnant skills can derail your career permanently! That means that you need to actively manage your career. How? Try the 5 K approach. 

  • Keep current. (Before you completely discount these, read on a bit more.) Can you honestly tell me that you are on top of the latest technology, have kept your certifications current, have attended at least one conference in the last two years, and read at least one technical book in the last year? Now, let's move onto those non-technical areas... how are those communication skills coming along?
  • Keep connected. So if you were laid off tomorrow, how would you start circulating your resume? Post it on Monster along with the hundreds of other folks who just lost their jobs in the last couple of months? Try to find a technical recruiter? Or email your buddies at the top companies in your area? Referrals are the best source of new talent for organizations. How wide is your network of friends? Don't have any? Start making some.
  • Keep differentiating yourself. What makes you unique from all the other X's out there? Should you lose your job or be applying for another position within your company, how can you tip the scales in your favor? Is it the type of work you've done? The industry you've worked in? The breadth of experience? Technical expertise?
  • Keep proving your value. If I were to ask your manager what three things you've contributed to the team in the past year, what would he/she say?
  • Keep your resume current. If you were laid off tomorrow, how long would it take you to update your resume? You should be updating it at least once a year if not after the completion of each major project.
    The 5 K's may seem simple but how many can you really check off? I would love to hear your thoughts on whether these have worked for you in the past and what other survival tips you swear by.
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