Editor's Desk

A Different Take

Many people, many stories.

This month, we offer our annual report on salaries for technical professionals who possess Microsoft certifications (http://mcpmag.com/salary2003/). The news is positive—salaries are mostly up—reversing a several-year trend. But if you’re one of the 10 percent of respondents who said they had been laid off in the last 12 months, you probably wouldn’t care about that, viewing it as nitpicky when you don’t have a salary at all.

During the course of working on the survey, we heard from literally dozens and dozens of experienced people who can’t find work. Once you get past those few who blame politicians (one reader holds liable the “the U.S. Republican Guard” for their woes, while another takes a dig at the “RADICAL DemonCats...er...DemoRats...”), the stories are worth hearing, because they help keep the salary numbers in perspective for the rest of us.

A reader in Duluth, Minnesota said she’s open to relocation at her expense, but that employers in her area find her “overqualified for many positions or else cannot pay enough” for her to make it worthwhile to work. She recently applied for a job at a local college in software support. “The responsibilities are considerable.” The job pays $30,000 to $35,000. She’s not sure what to do next because “scoring a job in IT these days is...like aiming at a moving target.” The challenge she sees: “Assuming I pony up the big bucks to master [new] skill sets, who’s to say that demand will not change by the time I’m ready to take on a job [that] makes use of those skills?”

A reader in Austin, Texas says the IT market in his area is “pretty bad.” Most unemployed tech people “are taking extremely low-paying positions at Dell (under $12,000 for MCSE-certified individuals) when they become available.” If it weren’t for his wife’s job and an occasional consulting project, his “economic condition would have rolled over.”

A reader in Akron, Ohio with 23 years of experience and a slew of credentials says employers in his area blamed the economy for not hiring, then they blamed the war, and “now it’s back to the economy.”

A reader who says he’s been working with computers “since hard drives weighed 75 pounds” believes he’s almost ready “to cash in my chips and go to work for McDonald’s.” This after realizing he needed to be certified for employment, took out a student loan, finished the program, and then saw the entire industry collapse beneath him.

A reader in California’s Bay area has turned her imposed time off to good use, planting a vegetable garden and learning how to barter her services. Plus, she’s come to the realization that “rather than becoming more desperate and more malleable” as her search wears on, she’s giving up “the 70-hour week and the 70-mile commute... Life is just too short.”

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Sep 16, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Right on!

Sat, Sep 13, 2003 Peter Alabama

All of these complaints about IT unemployment are ridiculous. A certification (or spate of them) does not entitle you to a job. Years of experience do not entitle you to a job! Prove to your potential employer that you will be an asset to the company, year after year, and they will beat down your door. Customer service is job one. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED to a job. A job is something you earn and keep earning.

Thu, Sep 11, 2003 journalgirl Anonymous

Is this really an article? When did journalism take such a downturn? "A reader says" is not a credible source. It's an interesting topic but these e-bytes do not a story make!

Thu, Sep 11, 2003 Gary Australia

Well this is what we get for letting the movers & shakers blow $billions$ fighting imaginary threats to world peace.We'll all be paying for decades. P.S. I'm still working but for peanuts.

Thu, Sep 11, 2003 Bill Merrick Wisconsin

Interesting article. Great follow-up here on your web site. How about more "True Stories" in future articles?

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Stank Indianapolis

Anyone who stays in IT is stupid. The industry will just continue to contract. Structurally Unemployed is right. IT is finished. Any job that doesn't require face to face is a candidate to be offshored. Back to school for a real education.

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Graham England

The IT job market is in a similar state as the USA and Canada. We have approximately 100,000 IT people chasing jobs. I've applied for 500 jobs and have an interview this week where I'm one of 700 applicants !
I am trying to hold out for an IT job because I love the work.
Good to see a column that mentions what it is really like out there.

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Charles Los Angeles

Corporate IT jobs are going away - live with it - Corporate IT is nonsense anyway - it takes too many people way too long to get very little done. In fact, our company provides outsourced IT services at a fraction of what a company would pay full-time people - and we're growing. We get paid for actually getting things done - and business owners like that!

Tue, Aug 26, 2003 Structurally unemployed Vancouver

After 7 years, my IT career imploded in 2001 due to a corporate restructuring. I can say from experience that no employers care about the Microsoft certifications, which are equivalent to a tax on fools, whether they be MCSE, MCDBA, MCSD.

It's time to move on from IT to something else, maybe the trades, anything with the potential for a reliable income. It's too bad that no one had the courage (or honesty) to tell me this, so that I could have avoided incurring $15,000 in student loans to earn a degree to try to resurrect a career that is over, in a field that is finished.

Sat, Aug 16, 2003 Greg Neilson Anonymous

Bryan, I think you may have missed the point. Training and certification are about skills and career advancement. Given the threat of work going offshore, this is exactly the kind of thing we need to do to stay employable in IT.

Mon, Aug 11, 2003 Bryan New Jersey

I feel that the training and certification industry has tried to take a blind eye to the loss of IT and IS jobs due to offshore hiring of workers. Why can't MCP Mag Wake up and see Microsft with the offshore hiring are making the technology traing industry a upside down. I want to see an article on how the off shore hiring of workers is hurting the Training and certification industry. I refuse to get recertified to be paid a hirer salary to train an off shore working how will in an year or two take my job. You people are out of your minds to keep pushing certification when your not completing against equally matched applicants, but lower priced ones.

Fri, Aug 8, 2003 jobless US

Your are right but everybody see this according to their own experiences and I'm loosing my job too!

Wed, Aug 6, 2003 Hors Buffalo, NY

Is it possible to have a follow up story about people who actually DO have jobs? I understand its tough to be out of work, but can we also have some quotes from people did find a job in this market. I see a lot of companies around, I know they have IT departments, so someone is employed there-- unless computers have learned to program and administer themselves. I'm just saying by reading this story you come away with the feeling that IT unemployment is near 100% and I know that's not true.

Sat, Aug 2, 2003 Jim Mannheim, Germany

Wow. The first thing I did when I heard about the job market turning south was - UPDATE my resume. Since then, I took a great job with a large defense contractor (that has over 1300 positions open!) and had them relocate me (and my family of 6) 5000 miles to the center of continental Europe. In exchange, I get: relocation (both ways, if I stay 12 months), a VERY competitive salary (tax-free!!!) and a "normal" corporate benefit package. Anyone complaining about lack of jobs or lack of pay has set their expections too high, IMHO...

Sat, Aug 2, 2003 Dave VA

What about H1B's? No mention was made of the concern over foreign outsourcing and H1Bs.

Sat, Aug 2, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Dude! That's rough stuff! But true! There is no way that this salary survey includes the MCPs with a zero in their column...

Sat, Aug 2, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

What's wrong with you people at MCP mag? Why do you consistently find it impossible to produce a survey that accurately reflects what's going on in the real world? This report is ludicrous! Have you NO conception whatsoever of the true extent of the un- and under-employment going on out here? If you are incapable of taking the effort to mass the resources needed to do a credible job, then you should quit this nonsense. Stop wasting our time with useless drivel. It does no one any good--except, possibly, help MCP mag's editorial staff justify their own existence and (I'm sure) overpaid positions.

Fri, Aug 1, 2003 Perry San Diego

I am working in the same market as all of these other folks. I didn't depend on my certs to get-keep me employed. I made myself valuable to my employer. I know a lot of good folks were "downsized" but if I were to loose my job right now I still would have enough time to do everything customers want me to do. I have a full time job as well as a consulting biz on the side.....I have to turn down work because of a lack of time. I charge a premium to keep only the good jobs. I found my niche in security and remote access. Companies are crying for someone to secure their remote access. I suggest either getting with or starting your own VAR for remote access products as well as personal firewalls for companies.
Get smart on those products and you can have all of the work you want. I work with a small VAR and we always have biz. Good Luck!

Fri, Aug 1, 2003 Contractor Iowa

About the only hot markets here is security. Employers are looking for CISSP's and stuff, but nobody has the goods. Tons of MCSE's laying around though... Some working helpdesk positions for now. I took a 50% pay cut myself to work contract crap but was out of work for long...

Wed, Jul 30, 2003 job hunter MO

This is the reality in IT. There is no ROI in getting certified these days. It's an employer market. I'm looking for the next big thing....

Mon, Jul 28, 2003 John Rosa Michigan - USA

interesting, wish there were more article. I will look at the Salary Survey.

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