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Want a new IT job? Now's your chance

Unhappily employed IT pros are seizing on an improved job market and shifting into job-hunting mode

By , Network World
February 03, 2011 03:08 PM ET

Network World - It's time for a change. Across the board, the IT job market is showing promising signs of life, and IT pros who stayed in less-than-ideal jobs during the recession are jumping at a chance to move their careers forward.

"The IT employment market has definitely improved and is continuing to improve every month and every quarter," says John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology. Of CIOs surveyed by the staffing firm, 11% said they plan to add IT staff in the current quarter, up from 9% in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Likewise, CareerBuilder reports in its annual job forecast that 24% of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2011, up from 20% in 2010. Among those companies in hiring mode, 26% plan to add IT jobs (second only to sales jobs, cited by 27%).

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The number of job listings at Dice.com, a career site for technology and engineering professionals, is another positive indicator. "The job count on Dice.com, which is at roughly 72,000 jobs right now, is up about 40% from where it was a year ago. That's a pretty good indication that employer confidence is up," says Tom Silver, senior vice president at Dice.

While these estimates don't presage dramatic hiring sprees, the trend is enough to spur the unhappily employed to take action. Across all industries, workers are becoming more optimistic about their job prospects. CareerBuilder reports that 15% of full-time, employed workers are actively seeking a new job. Another 76% aren't actively looking, but said they would change jobs in 2011 for the right opportunity.

That's a big shift from recent years, when employed workers were content to stay put. During the recession, employees accepted heftier workloads and put in longer hours, grateful to have a job. Many stayed on despite pay cuts and decreases in benefits. These concessions have taken a toll on worker morale, however, and restless workers are preparing to take action.

"There was a 'safe harbor' mentality previously. People stayed where they were because it was a secure situation. But now they're going to be more aggressive about looking for new opportunities," Reed says.

One obvious driver is the desire to make more money. IT salaries have been flat for the last two years, stalled at an average of about $79,000, Dice reports. Roughly 40% of tech professionals believe they can make more money if they change jobs, Silver says.

To help prevent an exodus of talent, 61% of companies plan to increase compensation for their existing staff, up from 57% in 2010, CareerBuilder reports. In addition, 31% will provide higher initial job offers to job candidates, up from 29% last year.

"Some companies have come out of the gate and immediately begun to address pent-up demand for additional compensation for their staff. They're being proactive to try to retain their teams," says Robert Half's Reed.

On the flip side, companies that are playing things conservatively and aren't ready to raise salaries should be prepared for IT turnover. "They're basically sending a message to their teams that if you want to improve your financial situation, you're going to have to go elsewhere to do it," Reed says.

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