10 smart ways to survive the coming IT jobpocalypse

Since there is no doubt that the cloud has and will cause disruption, here are some constructive guidelines on how to strengthen your career should you face your own personal jobpocalypse.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I always really enjoy participating in ZDNet's Great Debates. The one we just finished, Will cloud adoption bring about a datacenter and IT job apocalypse?, is no exception.

I will admit that winning the popular vote (I won 69% to 31%), but then losing the moderator's vote, is a bit of a bummer. Jason, my opponent, did make a strong argument, claiming that the cloud will cause disruption. To be fair, disruption and an apocalypse are very different things. Every tech cycle has caused disruption and this will be no different. A reorg and the end of the world are quite distinct from each other.

To be fair, if you're the one who gets downsized, it might feel like the end of the world to you, and I feel for you. Been there. Wrote the book on that.

Since there is no doubt that the cloud has and will cause disruption, rather than rehashing debate points here in this follow-up article, I thought it would be better to give you some constructive guidelines on how to strengthen your career should you face your own personal jobpocalypse.

1. Don't be a default empty head: I am constantly in a never-ending series of phone meetings with corporate and government officials I haven't met. So the very first thing I do when I get the meeting invite is look them up online.

While many have fully fleshed-out online presences, many of them are blank — very little in the way of a LinkedIn resume, no Twitter presence, no blog. When you find anything at all about them, their information is next to a default, empty head instead of a real picture.

The online is where it's at. Flesh out your online presence. Post a respectable profile picture.

2. Flesh out LinkedIn: Be sure to fully flesh out your LinkedIn resume. Add in all your information, and then ask people you've worked with to write and post recommendations. Participate in any appropriate LinkedIn groups. LinkedIn, today, is the first place corporate folks look when they want to know who you are.

3. Get on Twitter: If you don't have a Twitter account, get one. Use the same profile picture and a good, short bio. Tweet regularly (more on that in a bit).

4. Follow your leaders: Using Twitter (and to some extent LinkedIn), find out who the leaders are in your industry (and any industry you think you might want to jump to after the jobpocalypse). Follow them and read their tweets.

Go one step further. Don't just read their tweets. Retweet them. And read what they point to. It's a fast way to learn and a quick way to get a few followers.

5. Read the industry sites: ZDNet is a good start, but you'll need to do daily reading on a lot of topics, especially if you want to jump from regular IT to a related field (like health informatics). Read all you can so you can come up to speed with the players, the issues and even the jargon.

6. Go forth and schmooze: I'm not suggesting you take out a loan to fly to CES, but almost all areas have some local (or car-ride distance) events related to many different industries. Attend everything you can find. Mingle. Swap business cards. Help out.

I can't tell you how many jobs and deals I got in my early days because I went to all the tradeshows, but it was career-making. I met people. I schmoozed. I asked questions. I got introduced to other people. And I got hired. Do it.

7. Learn to program: Many IT problems can be solved by some neat little programming hack that mashes two separate systems into one. That mash-up usually involves some scripting or programming skills. It also allows you to cross areas of expertise, a skill that's valuable to employers and clients.

So, if you don't know how to program or to script, learn. There are a lot of continuing education courses, online classes and even free trainings. There's no excuse not to learn, so do so.

8. Don't be a one-vendor wonder: Are you all-Microsoft-all-the-time? Do you live and breathe Lotus (or IBM now)? Was Novell all you could think about? Is Oracle your oracle? Is HP your higher power? Does Cisco make you disco?

If you're all about one vendor, you're likely one of the few that are in real danger from the jobpocalypse. You must expand your skills and experience beyond that one vendor, because if that vendor makes a serious market mistake, your whole future is shot. I know it's hard, but learn something else.

9. Learn cloud systems: Jason's advice about learning cloud systems is valid: "Learn Azure, learn AWS, start familiarizing yourself with the various vendor private cloud stacks and public cloud offerings." Do it.

10. Volunteer your time: One of the biggest objections job seekers get is that they don't have experience with a given tool, platform, solution, whatever. One way around that is to find organizations (there are a lot of nonprofits out there) that need help.

Do some pro-bono work in areas where you'd like to build your career. It's a great strategy and you'll be doing some good at the same time.

That's it, my fellow IT pros! Go out there and conquer the jobpocalypse. You can do it.

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