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find a jobJobs, jobs, jobs. It continues to be the hot topic with discussions on a variety of job related issues happening everywhere from the boardroom to the campaign trail to the dinner table. Two headlines caught my eye recently:

Tech hiring is tough on veteran workers.

Romney sees tech skill shortage.

Taken together, these stories highlight a situation in the IT industry that exists but doesn’t make sense: unemployment and unfilled job openings. One can argue about the exact numbers on both sides but I think it’s clear that they are high enough to be a concern. Government and business leaders need to continue to work together to find solutions that will help our economy grow stronger, but IT professionals have a responsibility as well. The lack of skilled workers, and Romney’s call for increased H-1B visas, emphasizes the opportunities that exist for those willing to train or retrain themselves in the new technologies that employers are seeking. The news from Massachusetts highlights some of the challenges in doing so, but challenges exist everywhere in life and they are poor excuses for inaction.

I offer an initial, but foundationally important piece of advice to help keep you relevant and in demand as an IT professional: Invest in yourself. Take the business adage “to make money you have to spend money” and apply it to your own career. It might be an actual dollar figure but more often your investment will be one of time, a precious commodity itself. Are you taking advantage of the training opportunities your firm offers? Yes, some firms aren’t interested in training but many are and many provide tuition assistance. What about industry organizations, alumni groups, and universities? Explore and take advantage of what’s out there.

The nature of technology makes the IT professional a bit like an athlete, only able to command top dollar and job security when he or she is in demand and at the top of their game. But unlike the athlete, who faces a level of inevitable physical decline, IT “athletes” can always keep their skills new and sharp. Remain valuable by continuing to learn throughout your career and be smart about it. If you are a developer, think about mobile applications. Are you an infrastructure guru? How is cloud computing changing your world? Think of the athletes who go on to coaching or broadcast jobs – could you move into management or sales? With the right training and effort you could!

Think employers don’t care about what you’ve done unless your trained in exactly what they want? Not true. My experience in placing IT contractors compares to what the VP of CarGurus said in the article about looking for “evidence that the candidate has tried to keep current” and can “learn the new technology when it comes along quickly.” A demonstrated willingness and enthusiasm for lifelong learning often overcomes the lack of a specific skill set when we are placing candidates. In reality, it’s not possible for anyone to be fluent in every new technology, innovation or programming language, and employers understand this. But if you truly commit to continued professional education throughout your career it is much more likely that you will be ready for the changes our industry inevitably creates. Invest in yourself and employers will want to invest in you!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International

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