While the number of UK IT vacancies being advertised has declined, there are still jobs out there for techies brave enough to risk leaving familiar surrounding and taking a leap of faith in the current economic climate.
So what tips do industry experts have for job hunters this January?
Karen Price, CEO e-skills UK
Our research suggests employers are particularly looking for business-focused technology professionals. People who understand the company and the client, can work with others, communicate clearly, be creative, solve problems, make decisions and manage projects. This is especially important in the often unpredictable and rapidly changing environment of a downturn.
In terms of technical areas, our research shows a steady growth in demand for, among others, test analysts, web authors, editors and content administrators, senior programmers, systems auditors, technical support managers and systems administrators. Knowledge and skills in new technologies such as Web 2.0, which drives social media, should also hold up well.
Alan Rommel, MD, Parity Resources
Two main areas that we see in most demand are the stronger project-management skills — so things that can make sure a project is delivered within budget, on time and does what it needs to do — and then we're still seeing a lot of demand on web development.
Speak to three or four good [recruitment] agencies — a couple of established agencies and a couple that are more niche-focused with your skills.
If you spread the net as a candidate too widely you're never going to develop a relationship with the people on the agency side — they're never going to get a real feel for you and your abilities.
Matt Smith, regional director, Harvey Nash
If you're out of work and actually looking… you have to leverage any relationships you have with past employers, people that you've worked with at different organisations, use LinkedIn, use Facebook, if you've got any solid relationships with [recruitment] agencies then make sure you leverage them.
If I were in IT and I was a contractor I would be sensible — I'd be working all the hours that I could, I would be making sure — but you should be doing this anyway — that I'm highlighting successes just to make sure people are very aware I'm adding value all through the contract.
Rob Chapman, CEO, Firebrand Training
The fact of the matter is UK IT workers stand at a watershed, which means specific, in-demand skills have never been more important for job security. Being 'a bit of an all-rounder' has never been less appropriate with a focus on cost-cutting and demonstrable value in every department.
Counter to this though, techies must also become better managers and communicators. Most importantly they must be able to convince the board of the need...
...to innovate, not retrench as the economy toughens. That means learning to take the pain out of understanding IT and communicating in plain English.
So the IT worker must embrace two extremes of their role — improving solid technical skills while embracing interpersonal and communication skills.
It will prove a considerable challenge for many.
Alex Farrell, MD of The IT Job Board
There will be less choice [of jobs] but candidates can target hot areas — such as online, such as SAP. SaaS [software-as-a-service] is another area we feel is going to be a big trend in 2009… so clever candidates will be targeting these hot areas where they will be highly in demand.
They've really got to invest in their CV as well, in view of it being a fairly competitive marketplace — candidates have got to realise their CVs have to be the best they possibly can, so it's not just dusting off their old one and putting it out there. They've really got to think about making their CV as appropriate for the job they're applying for as they can.
They've really got to make the most of the sophisticated tools out there — it's a very good market from a technology perspective for candidates these days. Job boards are very sophisticated and candidates need to use all the tools available to them to make sure they're making it as easy as possible for future employers to find them.
Sean Gallagher, director at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and MD of IT Human Resources
People who out of necessity or want are looking for a new job have got to view it as a project — they have to view it that they are in competition with other people. They need to be very clear about what they want, and they need to have a very up-to-date CV.
People need to become more savvy in difficult times. If people have their CV on a generally open job board like a CV database… they need to refresh that CV, because the more it's perceived to be bang up to date, the more likely they're going to get a call from an agent.
I get 40 CVs and half of them haven't even read the job spec — all they've done is an auto reply from a job board… They have to understand if you're just going to fire your CV out to anything that's got 'software' in it then recruiters are not going to be enamoured of having an inbox full of irrelevant CVs.
Use all the job boards but specifically apply for things and make sure you're relevant and make sure you have all the skills. If you genuinely believe you do fit then you should chase the agent advertising.
Derek Pilcher, managing director, TheLadders.co.uk
While companies throughout the UK are seeing redundancies, there are still important roles out there to be filled. If a job seeker finds his or her industry has been hit hard, then reinventing your career by focusing on one's skills and passion is an important step to find a new career path.
Certain sectors are experiencing growth even now. Companies are looking for talented individuals so showcasing skills you may have thought might not be important for career fulfilment might actually be something that lands you the job.