In a previous column I considered whether the current downturn in the network industry is a plateau or just a short resting place (www.nwfusion.com, DocFinder: 2525). While job opportunities will decrease, there still will be opportunities for people who are willing to adapt to the changing marketplace and scale down, relocate or shift gears.
My recent unscientific survey of a popular online job site showed that in the last 30 days there have been openings for 139 network engineers, 348 network administrators, 286 network analysts, 111 network operations personnel, 78 network support technicians and 158 network security personnel. If I extended the search to include sales engineers, project managers and voice personnel, the total number of openings increased to more than 1,600. Nothing to cause one to change careers, but still a respectable number of positions being advertised.
While TCP/IP was the overwhelming experience being sought, 50 of the postings were looking for SNA experience, 38 were requiring IPX experience, eight were seeking Appletalk experience and one wanted Banyan Vines experience.
So jobs are available, but to have a chance at one, you need to be flexible. Salaries are being scaled down. The days of getting a high-five-figure salary for being able to spell T-C-P-I-P are over.
Relocation might be necessary. I love living in Colorado, but less than 50 of the total openings were located here. If I were unemployed, I would have to make a life decision to either stay in Colorado and find another career, or move to another region where more IT jobs are available. Many people probably will have to make a similar decision.
You also might have to shift your career focus. You might want to be a network engineer focused on designing new networks. But in today’s economy, companies want to get more out of their existing networks. Operations, support and security personnel are more in demand than designers. And while TCP/IP is the focus of most networks, SNA and IPX experience is valuable as companies attempt to squeeze more out of their current investments.
Is the willingness to relocate and become an SNA analyst at US$20,000 less than your previous salary going to guarantee you a job? No, but it will at least improve your chances. IT careers are becoming harder to obtain. Opportunities are fewer, competition is tougher, and salaries are lower. Not everyone who wants to be in this field will be able to get a job. But you can say the same thing about journalism, accounting, public relations and a host of other occupations. And still everyday someone obtains a position in one of these fields.
The network job market is down, but not out. Networks are an integral part of the business, consumer and scientific worlds, and they’re here to stay. But IT is no longer a treasure chest of job opportunities. It is like any other field that will have good times and bad times.
Yoke is a business solutions engineer for a corporate network in Denver. He can be reached at email@example.com.