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InformationTechnology Career Feature

Today's IT Market

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Despite a slowing economy made even more uncertain by the terrorist disasters of September 11, Information Technology (IT) jobs do exist for professionals with the right skills and attitude. But job placement and recruiting professionals warn that this is not the IT job seekers' market of a year ago, when you could show up for an interview 20 minutes late in jeans and a T-shirt and land a job in your desired specialty. These days, IT is the employers' market, so candidates should heed the following: What's Hot, What's Not That said, placement experts point to IT areas that are hiring. Phillip Christopher of Xavier Associates Inc., a contract recruitment company in Easton, MA, says he sees opportunities in product support, including traditionally technological and development support. Some openings exist in hardware support as well, he says, particularly for people creating products at the chip level--for example, engineers creating the next wave of "smart" refrigerators.

Despite a slowing economy made even more uncertain by the terrorist disasters of September 11, Information Technology (IT) jobs do exist for professionals with the right skills and attitude. But job placement and recruiting professionals warn that this is not the IT job seekers' market of a year ago, when you could show up for an interview 20 minutes late in jeans and a T-shirt and land a job in your desired specialty. These days, IT is the employers' market, so candidates should heed the following:

What's Hot, What's Not That said, placement experts point to IT areas that are hiring. Phillip Christopher of Xavier Associates Inc., a contract recruitment company in Easton, MA, says he sees opportunities in product support, including traditionally technological and development support. Some openings exist in hardware support as well, he says, particularly for people creating products at the chip level--for example, engineers creating the next wave of "smart" refrigerators.

Christopher and other employment experts see less demand for consulting and IT system customization, in which they say companies invested heavily in better economic times. System support and quality assurance remain strong hiring areas, according to Christopher.

Shaefer notes that those were trends in the slowing IT market before the terrorist situation, which she says could have a "tremendous impact" on an already slowing economy. Shaefer expects network security to be a key part of companies' efforts to move forward.

Chuck Kane, CEO and partner of Weldon Partners Inc. of Brookline and Norwell, MA, says there are some openings for both program and system analysts. He notes the high demand for customer support and network security professionals, and predicts that "teleconferencing will be hot." And Beverly Kahn, president and CEO of New Dimensions in Technology, a professional placement firm in Marblehead, MA, singles out senior engineering management and Internet security as areas where IT jobs are available.

IT job seekers who had grown accustomed to having an array of innovative start-ups from which to choose will have to settle for more conservative, less exciting employers, experts say. Doing most of the hiring these days are:

They also expect defense contractors and security companies to be good prospects in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

Generalists Wanted Whatever the company or job, placement professionals offer similar advice about how candidates should present their skills. Don't stress a single specialty, but rather play up a variety of skills. Employers want IT professionals with multiple skills, from solid C++ experience in the programming realm, to engineering expertise, to firewall experience. "Companies are looking for people to wear more than one hat," Christopher says.

"There was a time when if you went into an interview and called yourself a generalist, you had a hard time," says Jim Badeau at Xavier Associates. "That's not the case anymore."

Beyond technical skills, employers want candidates with business knowledge and experience, as well as people skills, experts add. Candidates also should do their homework to get an understanding of a potential employer's industry and products, as well as that of its competitors.

Take Heart Geographically, most recruiters say the East and West Coasts remain the best regions for IT opportunities. On the East Coast, Christopher says the best spot is still the Interstate 495 belt in Massachusetts. Kane suggests that Dallas has a good IT market and Atlanta "is still hot." The Chicago market is holding its own, Christopher adds, and Minneapolis is strong in the health care area.

Here's more advice on how best to land that IT job:

Overall, Shaefer adds, don't lose heart. "The country is in a six-month delay," she says. "In the end, it's IT folks who are going to be in the highest demand and there are still not enough of them."

Micky Baca is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience in business, political, and general assignment journalism. She has worked as a daily newspaper staff writer for the Lowell Sun and the Nashua Telegraph. Baca writes about careers, business, banking, real estate, environmental issues, and manufacturing for YourWriters.com.
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