If you're a coder, don't rely on your expertise in the latest version of your software to maintain your career. Instead, seek out opportunities for leadership. Aim for a lead developer position, and from there progress to project analyst, architect or project manager.
The availability of thought leadership positions is increasing; try to position yourself further up the value chain.
A safe bet in health care IT
Thanks to advances in medicine and a deeper understanding and appreciation of healthy lifestyles, the U.S. population is living and working longer than ever. The result is a growing demand for qualified and experienced workers in health care -- not only for those who deliver health care services (i.e. doctors, nurses, etc.), but also for those who develop and maintain the technologies that support health care.
Insurance companies are among the largest consumers of technology talent, and as Americans grow older and shift more spending into health care and insurance, the need for IT professionals in insurance product and service development will continue to expand.
Health care IT is a safe bet for the U.S. worker. President Obama's administration has already focused spending on the health care industry, and with such funding likely to continue throughout his tenure, employment in that sector will be strong for years to come.
American government, American jobs
There's also likely to be high demand for IT professionals in the government and defense sectors. For example, the U.S. Army has been undergoing an SAP implementation for the past nine years or so. The Army, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and all of the other agencies charged with protecting our country will continue to boast job opportunities for several years.
Many of these jobs require security clearances, which put the workers who obtain them into an exclusive class. Because it could take a year or more to achieve top-secret clearance, and since companies often can't afford to wait for a new employee to be cleared, people who already have security clearances have a high degree of versatility and mobility.
What's more, because of the sensitivity of many government programs, there's a lower likelihood that those functions will be outsourced.
Preparing for the future
The good news is that outsourcing has been alive and well in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, and it certainly has not led to the doom of the American technology worker. Rather, it has created gradual pressure for technology professionals to move higher up the value chain into business-focused IT positions.
From a career standpoint, now's the time to make an honest evaluation of your skills. If you find yourself still feeding off the latest software version or language, strongly consider training that will move you up that value chain and away from the code. Many organizations will provide or subsidize continued education for their employees. For project managers, the Project Management Institute offers courses and resources for career advancement.
Moving forward, though, the most important skills for the U.S. IT worker -- whether in health care, government or any other sector -- will be communication and collaboration capabilities. These skills are crucial for people who want to lead and manage projects, teams and outsourcing engagements, and they are invaluable when it comes to furthering your career. For technology to advance, knowledge and expertise cannot be hoarded. Only by sharing and discussing this knowledge can we hope to improve current standards and develop better ideas that will propel us into the future.
Adam Lawrence is vice president of service delivery for Yoh, a workforce solutions unit of Day & Zimmermann. For more information, please visit Yoh.com or www.theseamlessworkforce.com.