Where IT jobs are headed

New surveys show job cuts are on the way for 2009, especially in entry-level to mid-level IT jobs. Higher-level jobs are under strong pressure to do more with less. And there are all those offshore firms who want these jobs.

So where are the jobs disappearing to?

Clearly, the reliance on technology is not going away, so who's doing the work for the vanishing jobs? It's the usual suspects: contractors and automation, known today as outsourcers, consultants, and cloud providers.

What does that mean for my job?

Some jobs are going away via automation, and these are not likely to come back. Others are moving to where labor is cheaper, such as India and China, but demand in those countries, plus mixed results from outsourcing, mean some will return. Others are still here, but are now managed through consultancies.

The tech skills in demand

Despite the hype over moving basic jobs to India and the Philippines, surveys show that entry-level positions such as admins and support technicians remain in demand. For more senior people, the hot skills include Web 2,0, virtualization, and all the stuff you read about at InfoWorld.

Old hot skills still in demand

It's easy as a technologist to get overly focused on the latest tech trends, but there are several previously hot technologies that remain in high demand today. Project-oriented and, in some environments, analytics skills are still big needs.

Focus on these basics

Businesses have made huge investments in their technology infrastructures and platforms, so being skilled in those areas can help ensure steady work. Make sure your foundational background -- Microsoft or Java/Linux -- matches your work environment's, and identify the steady demands it has in those environments.

Think "career path"

In a bad economy, things change. Even if painful, the detours can bring opportunities that let you clarify, reinforce, or modify your career path. Choose carefully based on what you're good at and what you want to do.

What size company fits you?

The size of the firm you work for has a big effect on the fit. Large companies may seem more stable, but they are more prone to sweeping layoffs. Small companies are usually more hand-to-mouth but also have less waste to cut. Consultants often thrive, but you have to be good at sales.

You already know this, but ...

If you've just started to think about your career because of the troubled economy, you're too late to the game. Learn from that, and make self-improvement, personal networking, and self-evaluation a regular activity so that you're better prepared to handle future challenges.

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