How to find -- and keep -- a good job in IT, even today

There are several basic but important steps to take: broaden into the hot tech skills, invest in yourself, and show what you've got

This isn't going to be one of those "how to write a résume" articles we see so often today. But let's be honest: These past five years or so have been tough on IT experts looking to find and keep a job, and I've seen many IT pros dusting off and updating their résumés recently, whereas they felt completely secure in their positions in times past.

So what are the keys to finding and keeping a job these days? If you have a position and want to maintain your relevance, there are several important hoops you might want to jump through for the sake of keeping that job. And for those of you seeking employment, you're in the unique position of going up against your peers (who are unemployed), as well as competing with existing employees who feel it isn't necessary to work hard to maintain relevance -- a foolhardy assumption on their part that may help you.

[ InfoWorld uncovers the six hottest new IT jobs in the market today. | Two hot areas today in IT are Windows 7 adoption and private cloud computing. InfoWorld's expert contributors show you how to secure the Windows 7 in the "Windows 7 Security Deep Dive" PDF guide, and how to deploy private cloud technology in the "Private Cloud Deep Dive." ]

Expand your scope of knowledge: UCC, virtualization, and the cloud

In the past, the expression "jack-of-all-trades, master of none" was considered a bad thing because it was better to be an expert in one field than to know just bits and pieces about everything. Today, neither the "jack of all trades" nor the "master of one" concepts are accurate. Instead, you practically need to be a master of all trades. You'll hear people pigeonhole themselves into their specialty and say, "I'm an Exchange guy," or "I'm an Active Directory expert." Well, it's time to broaden that scope to include other avenues of technology. 

Some of the hottest trends today include unified communications and collaboration (UCC). This category is broad in Microsoft's definition and includes Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. Within Exchange, you have unified messaging to allow for a unified voicemail/email inbox. Add SharePoint for greater collaboration and Lync for in-house presence and telephony to get a full solution set to offer a company. You want to find and keep a job in this economy? Don't just be "an Exchange guy" -- be a UCC expert.

Virtualization is another important avenue to pursue. And versatility is key. Hyper-V, vSphere, and XenServer, as well as others, are all equally important in the modern job search. Don't find yourself on an interview and be able to cite just one of these when asked, "What virtualization platforms are you comfortable with?" The person coming in after you will have some experience with the three major ones and, thus, nab that job. If you cannot obtain hands-on experience with them all, consider video-based training to get you started.

Cloud-based services are worth your time as well. You may not have a need in your current environment to play with Windows Azure or other cloud-based infrastructure or platform offerings, but you need to be at least familiar with the concepts involved, such as the pricing plans and features. Knowing how software solutions like Office 365 work and being able to provide intelligent pros and cons to solutions of that sort will make you invaluable to any employer (existing or future).

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