Surviving the Recession

Act now to demonstrate that you’re an indispensable IT pro.

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | November 2008


The much anticipated global recession is here. While there¿s no
denying that downturns produce career angst, some IT professionals will
retain their jobs and still others will seize upon opportunities
created by the downturn and increase their value with current and
prospective employers. Whether your objective is to survive or thrive
through the current recession, achieve your goals by having the right
attitude and strategy.

Watch the video.

 

"Think
through what it would take to eliminate your job," says Charles
Wallace, IT director and chief technology architect with Rohm and Haas
Co., a technology and solutions company based in Philadelphia, Penn. "If it seems like you could be easily replaced, move on to a new
opportunity or find ways to make yourself more valuable and meaningful
to the organization."

Act now on these recommendations to demonstrate that you are an indispensable IT pro.

Align Your Role with the Organization’s Objectives.

IT
professionals who directly impact business outcomes have the best job
security and growth opportunities, but company priorities often shift
during a recession. Talk with your boss to understand the current
strategy and then connect the dots between your daily activities and
the business plan. If necessary, suggest ways to recalibrate your role,
so it is better aligned with the company’s objectives. If realignment
isn’t possible, begin a proactive job search, just to be safe.

Stick with the Basics.

"Now’s
not the time to jump to a hot technology," says Wallace. "Companies
will be focused on creating operational efficiencies and delivery of
the basics through installed and proven technologies."

There’s
no doubt that prowess with emerging technologies creates financial
opportunities and longer term job security, but accepting a role using
an unproven technology with limited market share is risky. Postponing
that move for six months may have little impact on long term earnings,
yet six months without a paycheck could be devastating.

Transfer to a Mission Critical Project.

"Core
projects that are vital to the execution of the strategic plan will be
the last areas cut during a recession," says Margaret Meloni, an IT
career strategist based in Long Beach, Calif.

Projects
with approved budgets that enhance or maintain existing applications or
improve workforce productivity are more likely to remain stable during
a downturn, while projects that require new funding are often cut or
placed on hold. The sooner you request a transfer to a strategic, fully
funded project, the more job security you’ll have.

Suggest Ways to Increase Operating Efficiencies.

Could
a few programming changes eliminate several steps in accounts payable
transactions? What would be the cost of the change and the ROI?
Businesses look for every possible way to save money during downturns.
Demonstrate your value by showing that you understand business needs
across the company and that you can adapt the technology to drive
operating efficiencies.

Propose Project Cost Savings and Containment Strategies.

"Show
that you can think like a manager and suggest ways to save money on
current projects," says Tony Habash, executive director and CIO for
the Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association.

Habash
suggests that IT professionals review the current application
development process, contractor usage, outsourcing potential and vendor
agreements for ways to generate cost savings.

"The
key is to be proactive and don’t wait for someone to ask you for
suggestions, because the current leaders may not be aware of the best
cost savings options," says Habash.

Upgrade Your Skills.

 Take
advantage of your employer’s tuition reimbursement program, because
acquiring new skills will increase both your present value and your
future marketability.

"Following a lay-off, one
database administrator I know didn’t receive a single offer for six
months," says Meloni. "As soon as he completed a Microsoft SQL Server
boot camp, the offers just started coming in."

Declare Your Value.

"Now’s
the time to make sure you’re noticed by management," says Steve Haag, a
Dallas-based VP and technology officer with professional services firm
HNTB Corp. "Write up notes from classes you¿re taking or client visits
and share some intel with your boss to get attention in the right way.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day, but go to the trouble
of documenting your ideas and celebrate your accomplishments."

Create Revenue Opportunities.

Generate revenue, not overhead and you’ll be irreplaceable. While
techies may not see themselves as marketing or sales gurus, Haag
suggests that IT professionals network with their counterparts at
client companies or rub elbows with clients at classes or community
events. In the process, you may uncover an unmet need, and then suggest
a new service to meet it. Also being connected to clients demonstrates
skill versatility and engenders job security.

Be a Team Player.

If
you’re meeting performance expectations ask for a raise, but do so
judiciously, because you don’t want to appear selfish, if your company
is struggling financially. Be a calming and positive voice within your
IT team, because it’s a chance to show your leadership skills; don’t
underestimate the advancement opportunities that might arise due to
company downsizing or reorganization. Habash suggests that IT
professionals think of other ways they can help the enterprise, so they
can offer to fill those roles, if their present job is eliminated.

Take Charge of Your Career

Even
if your job seems secure, update your resume, make contacts and get
your reference list together because doing so will make you feel
confident and in control. Resume creation is worthwhile, because it
forces you to detail your value and accomplishments, then you can use
the info to highlight your value during discussions with your boss.
Plan for the best, yet prepare for the worst and you¿ll not only
survive the recession, you’ll thrive beyond it.

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