Where to Look for IT Jobs as the Stimulus Plan Takes Hold

To determine where opportunities may lie, you’ve first got to identify
which federal or state agencies are likely to be involved in funneling
money to technology initiatives that might involve technology you’re
skilled with, or companies you’re interested in working for.

By Mark Feffer | Dice News Staff

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – popularly known as "the stimulus plan" – is designed to re-employ or retain some 3.5 million people, a large proportion of the Americans who’ve lost work to the current recession. Because so much of media coverage has focused on the plan’s "technology" emphasis, many candidates are trying to determine where and how the plan’s spending could impact them.

With $111 billion allocated to the broadly defined "infrastructure and science" category, it certainly seems IT people will have new opportunities somewhere. But it’s important to understand that not all of the jobs funded in this area will be IT jobs. Both the government and media define "technology" broadly, and consider "technical" positions to be those that do things like build solar energy systems, construct smart electrical grids or lay communications lines. While these tasks will certainly include IT components, those will represent a relatively small portion of the overall efforts.

What technology companies will benefit from the stimulus plan? Those that are proactive. "The IT vendor community must be both aggressive and agile in their strategy to capture this newly addressable market," says research firm IDC. "This once-in-a-lifetime flood of new technology money requires a new way of finding and following opportunities. Due to the aggressive timeline, success will not come from the traditional business development via relationships and RFPs."

Indeed, the timetable on $499 billion in overall spending (the plan’s $787 billion total includes the cost of tax cuts) is quick. Contracts, competitions, grants and cooperative agreements, agency plans and a flow of money from agencies to states is already underway.

What to Consider  

To determine where opportunities may lie, you’ve first got to identify which federal or state agencies are likely to be involved in funneling money to technology initiatives that might involve technology you’re skilled with, or companies you’re interested in working for. Bear in mind:

  • As mentioned, both the Act’s language and media coverage often consider "technology" to be things far removed from IT. Much of the money earmarked for projects such as data center modernization may go to construction firms as opposed to IT specialists. 
  • Hardware, software, networking equipment and similar purchases will often be made on the local level, through agencies many small and medium-sized businesses are already familiar with. Many areas have wide flexibility in how they spend their funds. This means IT opportunities aren’t always readily apparent. In education, for example, money from some stimulus programs can be used to maintain teacher salaries, thus avoiding layoffs, or for new computers and other equipment. How the funds are eventually spent is up to the local school board. So: Pay attention to what’s going on in your area. Local companies who are positioned to take advantage of local projects may need more staff to handle additional work.
  • In an area like healthcare, companies such as Hewlett-Packard and General Electric are positioning themselves to sell more of the systems they’ve already created, or have in the pipeline. On the ground, local VARs should find business installing and maintaining networked systems in medical practices, most of which are, essentially, small businesses.
  • Funds are funneled through the federal government’s departments, each of which is required to maintain a Web site dedicated to its recovery efforts. The sites offer information on funding, actions taken and planned for the near-term. You can find a listing of the sites here.

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3 Responses to “Where to Look for IT Jobs as the Stimulus Plan Takes Hold”

  1. Warren Dyes

    Most of what we were told about this “stimulus package” was that it would go to “shovel-ready projects”. Well, as I have been seeing, that is not the case and besides, does anyone really want to work for the Government and be told every little thing to do and how to do it by some pencil pusher who does not have a clue about what you do? Tell the Government to get out of industry and let the market work. That is how this great counrty was built, not by Washington DC telling who should do what and how.

  2. Jon K. Evans

    My situation is not only unique, but is peculiar ONLY to me.
    I am a trained Technical Writer. However, it took me 4 years after I graduated in 1996 to find a job in my field. Then, I only worked for 49 weeks. I have yet to find another job in my field, and I have been told to find another field. Imagine a doctor who has passed his/her boards and completed training being told that he/she cannot practice medicine.
    I have also been accused of some dastardly charges whenever I have discussed my situation with people.

  3. kbertrand

    You sound demoralized. Technical writing is a different sort of job which, unlike medical and technical skills, has come to depend on social networking connections much like consultants and that’s harder to do feeling demoralized. But not impossible.The jobs posted as “techical writer wanted” are throw away jobs that regular corporate writers don’t have time for – short term and unremarkable – and quickly snapped up by the itinerate writer. To get stature in the field requires chutzpah to land the client – and not the work per se, often a disposition change for the writer. Writers, solitary workers by nature, generally don’t like the schmoozing aspect of finding work. But it’s a reality. It’s also fun. LinkedIn groups, tricks to getting your business card out, technical conferences, and concentrated effort to build experience into a resume gets more offers. Have you done an informational interview with a successful writer and then taken his/her advice? Sent a thank you note to a mentor or an employer where you DIDN’T get the job? I read the article above for the same reason you did, for technical writing work, and got all sorts of ideas on how to approach the market, how to revamp my cards and tweak my resume. I have been homeless and broke and yet able to pull out of it by taking the good advice of people around me and I graduated over 10 years before you did. It’s not being too old to compete, it’s not serendipity, it’s not even nose to the grindstone stuff. It’s about flexibility to change THINKING about work to build your client base, doing what it takes and not depending on people to stumble on a resume. Concentrate on proven tactics to put it in their hands. Join a technology group and just “listen” to the trends coming up and think: How does a tech writer tap into that? Then make your pitch. If you’re not that sort of personality, then yes, you probably will need to change your line of work or slowly become bitter. You’re a good writer. You like the work. You WANT to continue in the work. Now, you have to make the mental changes to net the work in its natural habitat. Think freelance while you search for security, because to sell writing is to master the schmooze factor. Good luck!