Dissecting recent changes in the IT job market

By Jason W. Eckert

As Julia King pointed out in the February article “IT career paths you never dreamed of”, the titles of IT people have been changing in the past few years and will likely continue to change in the future. “Network Engineer” is being replaced with terms that are specific to a technology or department such as “Exchange Software Specialist” or “Production Technology Support”.

What is driving this change? Companies today are leaner and meaner than they have been in the past. “Driving business further with lower costs” is a theme that is echoed in nearly every facet of IT nowadays. Instead of hiring a systems analyst to scope out a problem and translate it to the IT department and eventually implement it within 6-12 months, many organizations are dedicating IT people to specific jobs that have the highest business value such as the creation and maintenance of a web-accessed database system that can be used to centralize the inputting and management of data. As a result, the turnaround for technology implementation has been days or weeks instead of months or years.

However, not all organizations fall into this scheme as Scott Elliott pointed out in his comments from the previous post. Many organizations, especially those with an IT staff of less than 10 people, still want someone who is a jack-of-all trades (Network Engineer/Tech Support/Email Admin/SQL Admin/Plumber/Basket Weaver/Performer of miracles).

In my previous blog post, I speculated that the IT market may be returning to specialization. Julia King speculates that the titles of IT professional are going to change to become more business-focused (to reflect new specialized jobs??). Scott Elliott reminds us that many organizations still want a generalized IT skillset (probably with more business knowledge today).

Perhaps there are two trends that are appearing in the IT job market:
A growing number of generalized jobs (in the small-medium market space).
A growing number of business-focused specialized jobs (in the medium-large market space).

What does this mean from a career standpoint?

Well, I imagine that is means that you must decide which market space you wish to participate in before attempting to change careers or start a new career in IT. Personally, I think someone who is relatively new to IT should start in the generalized market space and move to a business-focused specialized job after spending many years in IT. This fits well with the job market since there are far more smaller organizations and better hiring prospects in the generalized market space. As experience builds in a specialized area, job candidates are better prepared to apply for those specialized jobs in larger organizations.

Additionally, I think business knowledge will fast become an IT job requirement in many organizations in the next 5 years.

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