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The new IT job search

Don't snooze through the recovery. Spend your time building skills, scouting out hot job segments and priming for what's next.

By Mary K. Pratt
April 5, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - The days when a decent résumé could get you into the right position are gone.

Now more than ever, career experts say, you have to take a strategic approach to your job search and application process. And you have to pursue that strategy all the time, not just when you're in the market for new opportunities. The best candidates are always taking steps to manage their careers, assess the market and build relationships to keep them employed during good times and bad.

"You have to do everything you can to get the right job. You've got to maximize your opportunities. You've got to use all the tools at your disposal," says Allison Nawoj, a career adviser at CareerBuilder LLC in Chicago.

That's particularly true in this economy. Of the 2,090 manager-level respondents to Computerworld's 2010 Salary Survey, 47% said their companies will hire new IT staffers in the coming year. However, cutbacks and layoffs have made competition for those positions fierce.

This new reality might push job seekers (particularly unemployed ones) to take whatever comes along. But that approach is short-sighted -- and old-fashioned, says Thuy Sindell, vice president of client services and a leadership development coach at Mariposa Leadership Inc., a San Francisco-based career consultancy for managers.

Companies in this modern global economy will create or tailor jobs for top-notch workers, if you know how to look for such opportunities, says Sindell, co-author of The End of Work As You Know It. "Sometimes jobs are created for certain people, so that means talking to a former colleague about current initiatives and then saying, 'That sounds very exciting, and here's how I can help,' " she says.

But because most people don't get hired that way, Sindell says savvy job seekers pursue all channels to find positions that could be good matches for them. They check in with current and former colleagues, recruiters and search firms, visit job sites and attend career fairs.

Top-Paying Industries

Time to Pack Your Bags?

Job prospects for techies aren't evenly dispersed. Some sectors are doing better than others -- such as defense/aerospace, where bonuses increased by 19% and salaries by 2.2%. Some regions are doing better than others too. For example, in the West and South Central U.S., IT workers saw slight increases in their total compensation.

Such statistics might entice people to enter a new industry or move to another part of the country.

Adam Alexander, vice president at career consultancy MasteryWorks, says IT professionals are generally open to switching industries, but many are reluctant to move to new regions.

"Geography can be an impediment to career growth. Even with promotions, people will often turn them down if it means moving," he says. "I think it does hurt their careers."

While Alexander says staying put can be detrimental to career growth, he and others acknowledge that the decision to relocate is a personal matter.

"It's really around values and what's important to you," says Thuy Sindell, a leadership development coach at Mariposa Leadership. Some want to be close to their families or certain cities and are willing to forgo opportunities. Others put their careers ahead of other considerations and will move anywhere for a better position. Still others simply like the adventure of moving and seek jobs that let them experience new places.

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, says the key is to be flexible. "Today's economy demands flexibility to a certain extent," he says. If you're not willing to move, you might have to be more flexible on, say, the industry you work in or your salary.

However, while flexibility is still important, Willmer says it's not as crucial as it was just several months ago, particularly for those who have in-demand skills, such as business intelligence expertise.

— Mary K. Pratt

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