Let’s face it, when it comes to IT, there are just too many IT people chasing too few jobs. In today’s fiercely competitive economy, only the most experienced, degreed, certified people will get jobs and be promoted. So in which direction should you aim your IT career? Some suggestions:
Stay Clear of Web Work
Common certifications such as the MCSE, CCNA and A+ used to carry some street cred, but everyone is getting them. Employers now have an abundance of qualified candidates to choose from--including people who are experts in web development languages and web platforms. If you’re just starting out, you’ll find this career path way too crowded. An Infoworld article entitled, The 9 most endangered species in the IT workforce, hit the nail on the head regarding certifications. “The days when you could slap some Cisco or Microsoft certifications onto your résumé and write your own ticket are long over,” says Lenny Fuchs, owner of My IT Department, which provides contract tech services to small businesses. "Without the work experience to back it up, certifications are almost useless," added Fuchs.
Avoid Network or PC Support
While these jobs have a certain cache in IT, chances are you’ll be working your tail off nights and weekends. These jobs call for lots of long hours setting up and troubleshooting hubs, routers, switches, proxies and more. The ubiquity of client/server networks has driven up the need and salaries for pros who design, install and configure networks. It’s challenging work, but once these networks are properly configured and running, network support can lose its seductive lure. Even the pay eventually tends to flatten out for support people. The same goes for PC Support, which calls for lots of driving from one location to the next, burning up $4/gal gas and your new car—which eats into your salary. Here again, the chance to move up is practically nil.
Just Say No to “On Call” Work
With this job, you’ll have no life. You’ll always need to be available 24/7 to “put out a fire.” Some companies get around paying extra for your on-call status by including the on-call allowance in your regular work hours; others will offer a ridiculously low stipend for being on call.
Okay, you pretty much know what to avoid, so where should you steer you career?
Go for the Gold--Solutions Architect or Analyst
This is a highly strategic role with lots of visibility and upward mobility. As a Solutions Architect/Solutions Analyst, you’ll need a solid grounding in many technical aspects of the IT industry. You’ll also need to thoroughly understand a company’s business needs and strategies—more so than a developer. It helps to hone your communication skills as well as your project management and business analysis skills. And needless to say, you’ll need to keep your “hands” on code and keep abreast of what’s happening technically.
And don’t worry too much if you hop from job to job to find your niche. According to a recent CIO article, IT Career Tips to Avoid the Job Hopper Label, the industry is changing. Today’s hiring managers and recruiters see job hoppers as "someone who is young but wants to gain experience rapidly, someone who is also flexible, resourceful and learns fast," says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates. An article in IT World entitled Career advice for new IT professionals offers some additional, valuable advice from IT pros.
Steering your career in the right direction can keep you from a dead end job or one that works you to death with little upward mobility.
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