IT hiring stays woefully slow, except network and virtual specialists

What's a cloud architect say? "See you later!"

It hasn't been that long since September, but the three percent increase in IT hiring CIOs expected for this year doesn't appear to have shown up yet. Or at least it hasn't seemed to make much of a difference.

The prediction was from Robert Half International's quarterly giant survey of CIOs, which was published in early September.

CIOs were optimistic then. The sun was shining; the clouds were airborne water vapor, not abstracted data-center infrastructure, and IT departments had just gotten through three months they expected would see 6 percent growth in IT hiring, but didn't.

Not for lack of optimism, though; 84 percent of CIOs expected their companies to do well during the fourth quarter.

Productivity increased during the fall. The Wall Street Journal thought that meant good things on the hiring front.

Increasing productivity allows companies to muddle along by doing more work with no additional people; not good for the people or the economy.

Salary data is out, too.

ERP geeks? Your salaries are going up 5.2 percent. Business intelligence? 5 percent. Data modelers? 4.5 percent

Network managers' salaries will rise 4.3 percent, which is strange, because it's the highest-demand skill on RHI's hiring survey.

In both reports RHI gets annoyingly vague when it comes to getting enough detail to figure your specific situation. Even "network manager" can a pretty broad descriptor -- anything from keeping a biggish LAN running in a branch office to maintaining and optimizing the SAN/WAN/virtual infrastructure and virtual network connections in the data center.

It's pretty clear anything virtual is going to get you a gig. Learn to build, configure and manage virtual servers, desktops, streaming and remote-access apps. Figure out ways to connect the security, identity management and data-access tracking and auditing software to any of the above and they will staple your feet to the floor and feed you pizza with a silver fork.

You won't get a raise, because they spent the budget on pizza and forks, but they'll be really nice to you.

Unfortunately, if you're the manager looking to hire people to whom you'll have to feed pizza with a silver fork, it's the service providers that have the budgets and aggressive hiring plans to be able to snatch up the job candidates you'd most like to hire, and lure away the employees you'd most like to keep.

The problem and the competition aren't quite as tight as they were during the dot-boom, when anyone who could breathe and spell HTML at the same time could land a gig with a six-figure salary and foosball table.

It is tight, though, and getting tighter. As more and more IT services migrate to the cloud, there's more temptation for your bosses to outsource to specialist services that are theoretically cheaper, and more work required from you to find the skills you need to show the bosses you can handle the whole cloud thing in-house.

That's not even worth thinking about right now, though, when most companies can't even get frozen FTE recs approved and there are hordes of skilled candidates beating on the door looking for jobs.

Three percent is a big improvement from this time last year, when there was a three percent decline in hiring, according to RHI. But even if it is an improvement, it's hard to see a lot of improvement with a three percent change in anything.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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