You’re either satisfied with your IT job or you’re not

Whenever we publish the results of IT World Canada’s annual salary survey (buy the full report here), everyone automatically looks at the big numbers and compares how they rank with their peers. That’s the whole point of this project. But beyond the coverage we’ve already provided, there were a couple of other points around job satisfaction that I think should be highlighted and further explored.

First, the good news: Overall, 87 per cent of all technology professionals said they would recommend IT as a career choice. Think about that for a minute. Despite all the budget constraints, the outsourcing, the user griping, the unrealistic deadlines and the manipulative vendors, a lot of people would encourage others to follow in their footsteps. That’s a ringing endorsement of this industry, and a healthy sign that IT presents the kind of variety, challenges and (yes) compensation that provides personal fulfillment.

But when you look a little deeper, the picture becomes a bit murky. For example, 60 per cent of those we spoke to said they are either satisfied or very satisfied with their job. Fourteen percent said they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. But there was another entire quarter of respondents, 25 per cent, who said they were “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” with their jobs in IT.

You could blame this on the question, of course. What does it really mean to be neither/nor? In fact, it means a lot. It means you’re not sure how to gauge your overall job satisfaction, and that depending on your circumstances, outlook and options, the pendulum could swing either way.

Looked at another way, it’s possible to interpret that 25 per cent as being unable to make up their mind because their job is changing so much. They might have been hired on for their technology expertise but are now being thrown business-related responsibilities for which they are unprepared. Or they are in training mode, trying to adjust to a new reality and simply need more time to make up their mind about how satisfying it is.

Having that many people sitting on the fence is not healthy for the long-term retention prospects of the enterprises that employ them. Making them more satisfied could come down to pay – the average salary this year was nearly $78 – but it will also be about how well companies can define what the role of IT departments will be. If they properly understand what their responsibilities are, and if their efforts are recognized appropriately, they might at least say they’re satisfied. But even to have more IT people dissatisfied or very dissatisfied would be better, because the root causes would likely be easier to identify.

Can you really say it’s a good idea to go into IT when you’re not sure how you actually feel about it yourself? It doesn’t really seem to make a lot of sense. Unless . . . maybe 87 per cent say information technology is a good career choice because, their personal satisfaction notwithstanding, they still see possibilities in it. Buried within all the statistics around what ends up on an IT manager’s paycheque, perhaps we have stumbled on a measurement of hope.

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