Editor's Desk

Wise Counsel

There is another side of the coin for IT employment.

Last month, I shared the stories of readers who aren’t having great success in finding their next position. This month, I share strategies offered up by wiser folks than I about what to do to prepare for the prospect of unemployment.

Jason Lambek, an MCSA, is a relative “newbie” to tech, coming to the field in 2000. After a stint with a consulting firm, he took a job with a small family-owned company, knowing he could save them money on the support of their systems. His conclusion: “I refuse to believe I am merely lucky. I realized that one can find work in a most unlikely place… [Consider] your local 50-plus-year-old mom-and-pop outfit that will be around 50 more years from now [that] may just be throwing money away because they just don’t know that any other way exists.”

Contributing Editor Harry Brelsford has been in the business long enough to see the pendulum of fortune swing in both directions. In the midst of one of the worst downturns in the IT industry, though, he’s just moving into his second, bigger island home on an acre of land with stunning water views just outside of Seattle. How does he do it? Seeing his MCSE-related activities mature, “I dived deeper into my under-the-radar SBS niche by writing an SBS newsletter, self-publishing SBS books, starting an SBS conference and serving my 20-plus loyal SBS clients.” In other words, all of his success didn’t come strictly from billable hours as a consultant. He believes there are many other niches “waiting to be exploited in similar fashion: CRM and the other Microsoft line of business applications.”

Bruce Bibee, who works for the City of Los Angeles, suggests this: “Consider government service. Large governments rarely lay people off and the work is constant and interesting. One typically won’t get rich and there are no signing perks; but the salaries are adequate and they come with benefits: health care, generous retirement... There is minimal discrimination in government—age, race, sex—and no salary differences...”

Bill Louth, an IT Manager and MCSE who has been laid off himself, believes these “down times clear the economic forest of sick or dead wood that needs to go to clear the way for new growth.” His advice: If you’re making a good salary, don’t spend it too quickly. Set enough money aside for at least six months of unemployment. Hold off on buying that “Lincoln Navigator until the house is mostly paid off or the kid’s college funds are well on their way.” He reminds us that “the average American child with a paper route is in the top 3 percent of wage earners in the world… Visit Haiti or Calcutta and things won’t seem so bad.” He closes, “Let’s overcome these ‘tough’ times and prove ourselves people whom others look to for inspiration.”

I agree, Bill. Let’s hear it for common sense, paying in cash and getting that broader perspective.

About the Author

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

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Jan 13, 2005 Ron Wisconsin

If you think all these certs are so good and you want to help your country men and women Why don't you drop the price of the schooling. Talk about making big money CEO's CIO's look at the big profit's the schooling makes. Microsoft will let a outsource person learn at 1 tenth the price of an American. Sure we want to get the certs but when your out of work or making $7 an hr how do you pay for it?

Fri, Sep 26, 2003 Anonymous Vancouver

Dead wood, huh? So that's why we we're unemployable? Too bad that the ITAC and the ITAA didn't tell us that two years ago, instead of urging us to "keep up your skills," that the shortage of jobs was only temporary, and that the good times would soon return.

Thu, Sep 25, 2003 JJ Mid-life

Many IT jobs are being outsourced to Pakistan and Indonesia, where IT workers are making about $300.00 per month.

Years ago, America made the transition from manufacturing to service jobs. We are now in the process of changing from service jobs to 'You want fries with that'? jobs.

All while CEO's such as Gates, Dell, Ellison rake in billion$ - rewarded by laying off american workers - it's rape!

Thu, Sep 11, 2003 Fred Sacamento

A job in Government, at this point in time. Is there any state not running in the Red even the Feds aren't hiring. As for nitches like Mom and Pop shopes they don't want to pay, so you wait for payments till your gray.

Thu, Sep 11, 2003 Some Guy New York

One thing this article does well is describe where the bulk of the IT work will be in the next few years. Remember the dot-com boom back in the 90s where people were charging $120 per hour for simple server admin work or HTML coding? The large companies got sick of paying for those people, and got the outsourcing ball rolling. As a result, salaries are dropping for everyone and jobs are going away. (Thanks, $125 per hour guys!) There are going to be fewer tech jobs available in the future at lower wages, and that's just life. Nobody complained when all the manufacturing jobs went away, so no one is going to complain for us now. If you can get it, and don't mind a lower salary, government work is a good thing...you absolutely cannot be laid off. Smaller niche companies will also probably keep hiring local people...if you're a 30-person company, you don't want to manage an outsourcing contract. You can also go work for the outsourcers themselves, but don't expect huge salaries there either. In short, learning to adjust to a new reality is the key to surviving these times.

Thu, Sep 11, 2003 Larry Mcse Boise

Lets really think who are the real Terrorist with in our country!!! 4500 IT workers from Boise out of work since the end of 2002. Thanks Carley my Stocks have almost recovered.

Thu, Sep 11, 2003 Larry Mcse Boise

Let's look at the real world and see if the Big Corporations outsourcing is going to save any of us? They could weed out the forest and the one they keep will not be paid as well as the past! Might find a job in Bombay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Madness Anonymous

Im sorry, where is the place where I can find a job?
Another example of this piece of trash mag putting lies out there to furthur the lie they have blanketed the field with.
Why doesnt this rag come clean just once and actually start to help the problem instead of hurting us more.

Just once, I would love an article on why the H1b visa and outsource jobs hurt us. Oh wait Microsoft is fueling that too.

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Joe Boston

My advice to those looking for IT work is sacrifice pride and expectations in exchange for employment. After being laid off from my first IT job (help desk) in 2001, I sought a 1st shift, network support, conveniently located job, with bennies. Instead, I took a contract job, 3rd shift and no bennies. Location was good but they've since moved outside the city. I endured anyway, and am now a permanent employee making about 35K. Not bad for my experience level and in this economy. In short, don't overlook an opportunity just because it isn't what you're looking for. A lousy job is better than none, and it could lead to a better one.

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Bill CA

The title, "Where to Find Those Elusive IT Jobs" of this months news letter pulled me in to read this article. Well first I had to figure out this was the article being referenced.
That little problem aside. Where is the information about finding an exclusive IT Job? The information provided did provide any valuable information on finding a job.
I am not currently looking for a job but I always have my eyes open for tips on finding a better job. As another reader said "Stop wasting our time"

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Thanks to Bill Louth for pointing out that we have been laid off are "dead wood". Very encouraging. "Lets' overcome tough times". How? Any practical ideas? Even when I was working I was not contemplating buying a Lincoln Navigator.

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 joe washington state

too bad you didn't find more people who have been unemployed for more than 6 months to talk about how frustrating it is to find a job to apply to let alone an interview. Ah well!

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Chicken or Egg? Which is first Security Clearance or breaking into a $65/hr Government Contract Gig plus per diem? Please editorialize on that subject--including a how to file a self-sponsored clearance application to Uncle Sam. Give us that secret!

And such fabulous insight in a lucrative carreer in the untapped market segment of doing one-off SBS virus magnet installs, watch as you’re quickly replaced with a one stop shopping SKU from your local Gateway or SBC/Covad mass market retailer. Oh then you will miss your $10/hr career.

Please give us some real editorial insight we can use.

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Dave CA

I agree with Jeanette, that it is nice to get some advice from those who are (still) gainfully employed. Sitting on a piece of lakefront property, raking in the money!! Wow, if I had only done that decades ago when I first got into the telecommunications/Internet field. Oh well, live and learn. I am on my 6th month of unemployment (3rd time in 37 years). But, I am back in school in get my MCSE, A+, Network+, Security+, CCNA, and (if I have any money left after paying my bills), I will try to complete my BSET degree. I know that I will have to compete with all the new college kids looking for a job. So, I have to prepare, prepare, and prepare.

Wed, Sep 10, 2003 Jeanette Calgary

These people must think they are on prozac or something! Of course getting a government job is ideal - but they are hard to come by! As for landing any job there are a who have been out of people long long time. So when someone goes to apply for anyjob you are competing against hundreds, if not thousands of people! As for Contributing Editor Harry Brelsford who just bought some lovely property - better hope that you don't lose your job!

Reality is - there are colleges pumping out new tech people - there is not enough demand for the supply of tech people. Of course the downturned economy doesn't help either.

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