Feast or famine? The IT job outlook

IT professionals claim there's a shortage of jobs, while CIOs say there's not enough qualified talent. Which is it?

Dear Bob ...

I've read more than once that CIOs are having trouble hiring qualified talent. I've also read more than once that it's hard for out-of-work IT professionals to find jobs.

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How can both of these situations be happening at once? Or is someone just spinning things?

- Wondering

Dear Wondering ...

The answer isn't all that complicated, and it provides guidance for everyone in IT who wants their career to last.

Off the Record submissions

CIOs are having trouble finding qualified talent -- that is, people with the specific skills they need to take care of business. This is truer on the applications side of the house than the operations side, by the way (I think -- I'm basing this on conversations I've had, not any formal studies or statistics).

For CIOs, it's a double-headed monster: not enough applicants with experience in the not-all-that-new-anymore technologies and methodologies used to build modern applications (Java, .Net, SOA, Agile/Scrum and so on); also not enough go-getters willing to work on legacy technologies like Cobol and CICS.

I say "go-getters" because I doubt there's a shortage of potential employees who know Cobol and its associated technologies, but on average (yes, it's a generality), the folks who want these jobs are more likely to be coasting than charging hard. They might possess the right skills, but having the desired attitude is a different matter. The go-getters want positions that gain them experience in the new technologies and methodologies.

From the perspective of out-of-work IT professionals, it's mirror world. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. IT unemployment rate is relatively low, at 6 percent or thereabouts according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobs are there -- sort of.

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