Today's job market is not as dismal as some would have you believe. Stuart Packham, director of UK recruitment agency Michael Page Technology, describes the latest trends.
With a conservative number of available jobs and an increase in the volume of job applications, recruitment consultants have their work cut out for them these days.
As job seekers try to get visibility on their career prospects, what kind of opportunities exists and what sort of recruitment is taking place?
The answers depend on a number of factors. Here are the major trends we're seeing - and how you can best navigate today's job market.
Replacement cycle hasn't stopped
While there may be less advertising for senior IT managers and IT directors, the natural cycles of recruitment are still very much alive - as people leave for pastures new, in most circumstances they are replaced.
The nature of the current economic climate has certainly changed the parameters for senior-level hiring on a number of levels. For instance, a number of our clients are using the recession as an opportunity to reassess the role of IT within their organisation, and ultimately the brief for their new hires.
Making the right hiring decision has never been more important, and this is often manifested by the CEO and the board taking an active role in the recruitment process, as opposed to a cursory coffee when the decision has been made.
I recently worked with a client to recruit an IT director where the process took six months, including a number of trips overseas to meet business stakeholders. By the time the offer was made, all parties knew it was the right decision.
Projects, what projects?
Are all IT projects on hold or canceled? I am asked this question every day by clients and candidates alike. The answer is no.
While potential projects for the future may be undergoing intense scrutiny at the proposal stage, the majority of projects factored into current budgets are still very much alive and kicking.
For many of our clients, delivering key strategic IT projects represents an opportunity for their organizations to get a step ahead of the competition, increasing productivity and in many cases opening up new revenue streams and maximizing their current workflow.
One of the biggest recent changes has been the shift in resourcing strategy around enterprise projects. Historically, large software implementations have been staffed by a few key full-time personnel along with a significant number of consultants or contractors. I am now seeing a drive to recruit this consulting expertise on a permanent basis, providing companies with the skills required to deliver projects but also the ability to retain the intellectual property and business knowledge for future projects.
Bigger doesn't always mean better
The war for talent has taken on a new dimension over the past few months, with a number of large global businesses putting the brakes on new hiring whilst they assess their resourcing needs for the changing economy.
Whilst previous years have seen intense competition for the best IT talent amongst corporate 'superpowers', 2009 is rapidly becoming the year for the challenger.
Smaller, flexible businesses are using the current market conditions to hire talent that would have proved difficult to attract in boom times. These organizations offer growth and development, the ability to make a real difference to the business and often the remit to build something new - all big draws for IT leaders.
Change can be a good thing
With all the talk of downsizing in the media, it would be easy to see the current economic downturn as a purely negative trend for IT workers.
However, it is clear that for a number of companies, the changes they've made as a result of the recession have been essential to allow them to continue to trade, whilst maintaining a platform to facilitate future growth.
In the short term, this often means doing more with less, and changing the requirements for the IT leadership team. The ability to operate at all levels of the organization, both at strategic and tactical levels, will be critical to anyone looking to develop their career these days.
Every day I talk to IT directors who may move from a meeting with the CEO where they have presented the IT roadmap, to a project meeting where they are overseeing the data migration plan for the new ERP system, to speaking to an end user with a password problem.
Demonstrating that you are the best IT leader to help your company through this period requires pragmatism, flexibility and genuine hard work.
The role of IT contractors has changed in line with the market. IT contracting is often synonymous with boom periods - large projects and big budgets have driven the need for a readily available and flexible workforce.
The demand for specialist contractors is still evident, though often for highly specialized requirements for a definite period or phase of a project.
Interim positions are an avenue that a number of IT professionals who are faced with redundancy are considering for the first time. For businesses interim posts give them access to a wealth of experience and talent, without the commitment of a permanent position. For candidates they can present an opportunity to experience a different industry or market sector.
So what do the coming months look like for ambitious and career-minded business and technology leaders?
The marketplace for talent has not come to a halt, though it has clearly changed. My clients are looking for IT leaders with a broad portfolio of skills - technical, commercial, strategic. They must also be highly pragmatic and flexible.
A challenging climate allows the best IT leaders to shine - if they're ready to take on the challenge.
This article was originally posted on silicon.com.