Outlook 2010 IT skills checklist: The vertical climb

IT professionals battling for fewer positions could gain an employment edge with industry-specific knowledge.

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"There has been a lot of spending around virtualization skills already," Foote says.

Companies today are seeking talent in virtualization and employment watchers expect the existing numbers to only continue to grow.

"We have more than 1,000 jobs on the site right now that call for understanding virtualization and how that technology can be applied to a company's infrastructure," Dice.com's Silver adds, "If you have experience in virtualization, if you essentially know how you can help your company's data center run more efficiently, then you are already in demand."

Looking ahead

Industry watchers report IT staffs could remain lean in the coming months and that economic recovery might not indicate a full job recovery to pre-recession numbers. That doesn't mean there isn't opportunity for IT professionals to expand their careers and take advantage of the opportunity to become a critical part of their company's business in the long-term, according to Gartner's Mok

"IT departments during the downturn were very cautious about where they reduced and more organizations plan to keep staffing levels flat for a period of time. As the recovery continues, they might not even add too much, so I don't think we will ever go back to the big IT departments of 2000 or 2001," she says. "But companies realize today that these business-savvy technology skill sets take time to develop and they are doing a better job of workforce planning and training staff on the technologies they feel their business will need in the future."

Some IT watchers argue that high-tech remains a successful career option for many. The fact that many jobs remained open during the recession points to a continued need for high-tech talent, and job seekers should consider this a positive sign going forward, researching in what vertical market the skills they possess are most in demand.

"We've seen throughout the recession the interesting phenomenon of unfilled jobs even though people are actively looking for work. That is just one measure of the skills gap," Deloitte's Schwartz says. "The job market is different than in boom time, and the problem remains to be about matching available skills to open positions."

And while some say the future for IT professionals continues to look promising, they are quick to point out that it also looks very different from the past.

"Market influences such as outsourcing and budget strain is forcing clarity on how money is spent on high-tech talent," says Adam Lawrence, vice president of service delivery at Yoh Talent Solutions. "Ultimately it comes down to the worker to move up the value chain from being a great coder to becoming an architect savvy in the business, for instance. Technology workers must know how the business is intricately underpinned with technology and use their technical talent toward making the business a bigger success."

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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