Re-entering the job market after an extended time off can be a struggle, especially if you are in the IT industry. The tech job market took a beating during the worst of the recession and the current high unemployment rate and wavering self-confidence can leave you wondering if your skills are obsolete and if anyone will hire you.
Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence that the IT job market is poised to make a recovery. When job board Indeed.com analyzed millions of 2010 job postings to find the fastest-growing key words, the top 10 were HTML5, mobile app, Android, Twitter, iQuery, Facebook, social media, iPhone, cloud computing, and virtualization. In fact, their job trends report showed an emerging demand for information technology and all of the top 10 in-demand skills were in IT. Even more encouragingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for IT workers will rise 32% by 2018, with employers looking to hire more than 295,000 software engineers.
Despite the hopeful news, re-entering the work force after a break can be overwhelming and challenging. Your job search can be made more difficult by the slumping economy and a bias against people who have extended gaps in their work history. Depending on how long it’s been since your last job, you may have to deal with not only with your mental barriers but also with the tasks of updating your technology skills, presenting your time off in a positive light, and jump-starting your professional network.
However, with effort and determination, you can position yourself to pick up where you left off or even better. The key is to prepare yourself to re-enter the work force. The following tips will help you get you back on track:
- Network, network, network. Networking is essential. Job hunters are most likely to get a job through someone they know or through someone introduced to them by someone they know.
- Set up a professional portfolio, website, or Google profile to promote yourself professionally. Also use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well as professional networking sites such as http://www.linkedin.com/to make connections with other IT professionals and former colleagues. HR teams and recruiters are increasingly using networking sites during their search process and having up-to-date and meaningful profiles can increase your chances of being hired.
- Keep current with new technologies. Information Technology is a diverse field–from IT systems for finance, to new car technology, to social media. Decide which industry you are interested in and study that field. Familiarize yourself with new software and technology and learn the trends and the terminology, so that when you go into interviews, you can show employers you have some knowledge and understanding of the industry
- Register with IT recruiters or headhunters who are experts in your job function. Working with a recruiter or headhunter can be an effective way to advance your career since they often have access to jobs that are not advertised elsewhere and can speed up the hiring process.
- Be open and flexible to various forms of compensation. You might be hired full-time, part-time, or as an independent contractor. Contract jobs often provide great experience and contacts that can help you land a job. More companies now prefer to try an employee out as a contractor, with the possibility of hiring them full-time.
Successfully returning to work after a career break requires focus, determination, and preparation. It’s an exciting time for IT professionals. The pace of change is accelerating and new technologies are creating a fresh set of career opportunities for technology professionals. With the growing demand for IT skills, the IT job market is looking rosy for technology professionals. Be prepared to take advantage of the new opportunities.