How to Jump Start Tech Career Plans

Half Full Glass

Spring is meant to be a time of renewal, rebirth, and opportunity. But this is 2011, and for some reason — actually a lot of reasons — the April showers seem especially heavy this year. It’s as if any motivation we have to do some spring cleaning is smothered by the realization that everything around the house is old, stained and just plain worn out. Why bother trying to spruce anything up?

Half Full GlassIn IT these days, the vibe seems to be the same. Woe to anyone who scans the trade papers for good news. Right after I finish reading IT Workers: Under Pressure and Underpaid, I come across 5 Signs Your IT Career Is Stuck in a Rut. Maybe I’ll just go back to bed.

IT salary surveys have blips of good news about a burgeoning recovery over the past year, but also note that the bounce back hasn’t bounced all the way back to the good old days of 2008. We may never get there as some downsizing becomes permanent and new efficiencies in cloud-related technologies render some network management positions unnecessary.

Even if we’re in danger of losing our jobs, we still seem to find ways to complain about them. Computerworld’s latest survey of IT workers finds that only half of respondents are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their pay in relation to their responsibilities. Almost a quarter are less satisfied with their jobs than they were a year ago. Part of the reason: a lack of clarity on where healthcare benefits will ultimately end up — just one more thing we ultimately have no control over but have to worry about anyway.

While we’re at it, did you know that 77 percent of Americans are stressed at work? April is National Stress Awareness Month. Great! Thanks for reminding me.

About that rut you may be stuck in, Computerworld provides these warning signs:

  • You receive lower pay increases than your co-workers.
  • You’re not being trained or re-skilled.
  • You’re doing two or more jobs with no reward in sight.
  • You’re a telecommuter (and therefore in danger of being outsourced).
  • Your specialized skill earns less than it did five years ago.

Here’s hoping you can’t relate to anything on that list.

So what to do? By now you know the career counselor’s drill: be professional, volunteer for new and challenging assignments, frame your successes in brazenly financial terms (“My database revamp will save $30,000 in labor costs this year.”), become your department’s cloud-computing guru.

Then there’s the more radical, expensive, and harder-to implement advice: Collect more certifications, move to Silicon Valley or Washington, D.C., get into the healthcare or aerospace industries. They’re all good ideas if the predictions are accurate, but not everyone can give his or her career a nice jolt simply by moving.

Maybe in the end, a mental spring cleaning should be nothing more than another swing at your New Year’s resolutions. It’s never too late, right? How did you imagine this year would play out? Is it happening? If not, aren’t there a few concrete steps you can take to improve your situation, even if they involve the kind of energy you may not be feeling after two years of bad news? Have a second cup of coffee tomorrow morning, clean up your desk, erase some old files, sit down with a blank pad and write down some thoughts and ideas. No one can take away the pressure, or relieve your stress, or pull you out of a rut but yourself.

Feeling the rut? Want to share? Post a comment below.

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