How to Land the IT Job of the Future

If you're out of work and looking for an IT job, the best way to get an employer's attention is to highlight the business problems you've solved in previous IT positions and your planning and organizational skills. Experts advise emphasizing projects you completed on time and under budget, along with leadership skills, especially those related to navigating cross-functional project teams across the finish line.

Business, management and communication skills should matter as much as how many programming languages you know or how many IT-related analytical skills you possess. Although skills such as C++, Oracle, SQL, Java and Windows NT are still in demand, according to recent IT job research, it's equally important to polish your resume with information about projects completed, leadership roles attained -- anything that highlights time and cost savings based on specific projects.

"So what if you know this or that programming language; how can you help our company do more with less?" That's one of the key questions IT director Jim Naufel asks IT professionals seeking work at Matrix Service Co., a maintenance and construction services company in Tulsa, Okla.

The answers he gets from candidates vary widely, ranging from blank stares to rather intense conversations about business needs and requirements. "I use the answer to help me decipher whether an IT job candidate really understands the concept of business needs," Naufel says.

Naufel, who started his career 20 years ago in accounting and has worked in IT for more than a decade, says, "It takes more than an ability to calculate to be an accountant, and more than an ability to code to be an IT professional."

Beyond the Classifieds

Don't limit your search to the technical classifieds; you should also scan job boards for positions in marketing, advertising, manufacturing or sales. Analysts and recruiters say you should search for a new breed of job that leverages technical skills coupled with other specific skills or experience in a particular business area or industry.

It's not yet clear how widely such jobs are being advertised, however. Because of today's "do more with less" imperative, many businesses are likely to take an existing tech-savvy employee with a recognized aptitude in a specific business area and develop that employee's technology skills, or at least train that person to use specific IT tools.

Analysts say extroverted people who understand hardware and software technologies are excellent candidates for sales positions. But if you haven't the stomach for sales, consider technical support, a job category on the rise, analysts say. The challenge employers face is finding people with IT training and the fortitude to deal with customers who possess widely varying degrees of technological experience.

"If job candidates with IT skills are comfortable dealing with customers, their credibility will really help them," says Bill Coleman, senior vice president of compensation at Inc., a compensation software vendor in Wellesley, Mass.

Get Training, Stay Flexible

For some job candidates, seeking employment outside the IT field may not necessarily be the best step, says Jason Medick, director of marketing at Urbandale, Iowa-based Dice Inc., which operates the online IT job site If you want to remain in IT and you have the financial ability to stay out of work, strive to get more IT-specific training to keep your skills sharp and stay ahead of growing competition. Specifically, employers are having a tough time filling positions for database administrators, Internet/Web architects and network architects, according to a 2002 research study by People3 in Bridgewater, N.J.

Most of all, recruiters and CIOs say, stay flexible. If you have the luxury of a financial cushion, you should build skills and develop niche interests. "Project management education is a key to moving up career-wise," says Coleman, because "it's not necessary to have completed the exact project to manage others doing it."

Those who need a job now must broaden the scope of their searches, assess their skills and experiences, and then create multiple resumes targeted to specific jobs. Coleman says your resume should serve as a checklist to match the needs implied in a job posting. "The closer you can match your skills to the businesses needs, to the best of your honest ability, the better your chances of landing a job quickly," he says.

DePompa is a freelance writer and editor in Germantown, Md. Contact her at


Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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