Things are looking up

commentary It looks like the days of the long lunch and the headhunter are back!For all of you who have been wondering what to say when you get asked the inevitable question, "Do you think that things are getting better?

commentary It looks like the days of the long lunch and the headhunter are back!

For all of you who have been wondering what to say when you get asked the inevitable question, "Do you think that things are getting better?", I've noticed the first signs that the IT industry is turning the corner--the imminent end of the IT "recession". The one we've had since 2001, in case you've forgotten pre-Y2K times. Shouldn't be too much longer until the long lunch is re-established as a regular institution!

The first portent of this change is the regular slew of radio advertisements I couldn't avoid hearing last week for IT training. "Discover your dream job in IT with Spherion's vocational training." "Ring now and within six months you could be in a rewarding IT career." It seems like it's the first time since about early 2001 I've heard the words "IT" and "career" in the same sentence.

I've spent the last few years finding euphemistic expressions for my line of business. I work in a knowledge management capacity for a services-based company. This sometimes even includes "helping customers with their technology infrastructure". But working in IT--it's not something you'd readily admit to.

Now I can proudly say I work in IT, secure in the knowledge that people are jostling to join our privileged ranks. (I'm trying to forget the fact that most of the training companies we used have been acquired or gone bankrupt. I'm presuming that Spherion knows something the rest of us don't.)

Secondly, I've received the first call since I can remember from a headhunter. After reading every week about companies reducing their workforce, there must be some organisations hiring people. Maybe it's Spherion? Plus, this sign is consistent with reports that IT jobs were up 25 percent in the second half of 2003, while total jobs have decreased by 13.8 percent since June 2001.

It all makes sense though, as those few people who have left our company haven't returned the following week asking whether they can have their job back. For a lower salary. Not that this is a necessarily a good thing for us, but it's another sign that other IT companies are hiring. Or that people are ready to have another punt on the surviving dot.coms. (It's also possible that they've finally found a job in a different industry. They may have heard a radio commercial promising that within six months, you could secure an exciting career as a private investigator.)

Thirdly, there are definitely more lunches, golf days and other corporate entertainment events happening. The ratio of invitations to events versus requests to sponsor an IT trade show is still hovering around 15:1, but it is improving. Even some of our more upwardly mobile sales managers--who were rarely seen in the office between lunches and golf days--complained last year about the number of days in each month they had to spend in the office. In fact, rather than the various recruitment indices that are published, a straightforward "Entertainment Invitation Analysis" of incoming mail would prove a reliable lagging indicator of IT industry health.

This scientific analysis covers only a few of the positive signs of recovery. Let me know what other signs you've uncovered (if you're not at a long lunch or updating your resume).

And in case my boss is reading this, I didn't reply to the headhunter. I'm too busy deciding what invitations to accept. But I'm still waiting for that bonus from 2002.

Oliver Descoeudres is marketing manager at network IP/Internet network infrastructure builder and solutions provider NetStar Australia.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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