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?

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What I think is going on is the confluence of a number of trends:

  • More sophistication in hiring: IT managers have started to catch on about the importance of hiring great employees. Many are willing to keep positions open longer so as to avoid hiring a mediocre employee.
  • Shift in responsibility for career management: Once upon a time, employers took responsibility for employee careers, providing development opportunities, including training in new technologies, because it was part of the implied social contract with their employees. That's largely gone. Employees either take responsibility for keeping their skills current or they become obsolete.
  • Diminished market value of experience: Back in the day, an experienced developer -- say, a Cobol programmer -- could succeed in a position that required a different language (PL/1, perhaps) with very little adjustment time. That was when languages weren't tied to entirely new methodologies. With the advent of object technologies that changed. To succeed at OO, developers needed to understand entirely different analysis and design methodologies and philosophies; SOA has had a similar impact. As a result, generic experience is worth much less than it used to be in the IT marketplace.
  • Global competition: It's hardly a secret that every IT professional is now competing in the global labor marketplace, which applies downward pressure on wages and increases competition for open positions.

I'm not going to make friends saying this: The jobs are there. Unemployed developers are unemployed for a reason. They haven't kept their skills current; they haven't learned to sell themselves well in job interviews; and in some cases they're simply on the wrong side of the bell curve -- people who have chosen the wrong field and wouldn't make good hires.

Somewhere there's an MBA student in search of a research topic who could probably go beyond my impressions to provide solid evidence. Until that happens, this is the best answer I have.

- Bob

This story, "Feast or famine? The IT job outlook," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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