Career Watch: Finding a job when times are tough

Dave Willmer, the executive director of Robert Half Technology discusses finding a job in a deep recession.

Dave Willmer, the executive director of Robert Half Technology discusses finding a job in a deep recession.

How is IT holding up in the downturn?

Companies are downsizing, but IT has been more resilient than other areas. In fact, the unemployment rates for many positions within IT are significantly lower than the national average.

In our quarterly Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, 8% of CIOs polled said they plan to expand their IT departments in the second quarter. Those that plan to hire cited reasons such as the increased need for customer/end-user support, rising workloads, corporate growth or expansion, and system upgrades. CIOs planning to reduce staff said the primary reasons are reduced IT budgets, postponed IT projects and companywide layoffs.

When companies are doing mass layoffs, it's even more difficult than usual to find another job. What can help?

A good way to jump-start your search is to reach out to members of your professional network. Be specific about the skills you can offer and the type of position you seek to give people a better chance of helping you. Candidates should take a high-touch and high-tech approach to networking. Be active at industry, business and community events, and explore online professional and social networking avenues like LinkedIn and Facebook to track down job leads.

Make sure you update your résumé, and not just with details of your last job. Look at it from top to bottom to determine if it needs a complete overhaul. Employers want to see the quantitative results you've helped a company achieve, whether it's saving time or money, or improving IT efficiencies.

Another good way to double up your job search effort is by registering with a specialized staffing firm. They often can open doors to opportunities that haven't been advertised. You can build skills and earn money by taking on project assignments, many of which can turn into full-time roles.

Do you foresee a lot of people leaving the industry?

IT is actually one of the safer professions to be in now and for the longer term. IT jobs continually beat the national unemployment average and post some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While many companies have downsized, they are experiencing rising IT workloads. And as the economy turns around, there will likely be pent-up demand for IT projects that were put on hold. While I don't foresee a large number of people leaving the IT industry for this reason, some may consider switching directions within the field.

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