Rely on your professional network to land a senior-level IT job

Q&A: Dave Opton
The CEO and founder of executive job search and recruiting network ExecuNet talks about the employment outlook.

Q: With payrolls shrinking and unemployment rising, it seems like a very tough market for IT workers. Do things look as bleak at the executive level?

A: Not at all. In fact, our 2008 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, which was just released, indicates that demand for IT executives continues to grow at a reasonable pace despite increasing economic uncertainty.

Two factors contributing to this growth are a shortage of talent and sustained economic growth overseas, which is helping improve the balance sheets of many U.S.-based companies with a global presence.

While this job growth may not be as robust as it was two years ago, companies are still recruiting executive IT talent. To take full advantage of this job growth, you need to rely less on your laptop and more on your personal and professional network, as most job openings at the executive level never see the light of day on a company Web site or job board.

Q: Speaking of networking, much has been written about the growth of online social and business networking sites in the past year. Are these resources helping IT professionals advance their careers?

A: The growth of these sites during the past year has been staggering. Many of the larger, well-known online networking services now have upwards of 20 million members, but when it comes to weighing their value, CIOs and IT professionals shouldn’t confuse quantity with quality.

Networking is not a numbers game. And trust, a critical element to any productive relationship, isn’t easily traded among executives in large, open networks.

Based upon the feedback we’ve received from decision-makers in IT and other professions, niche networks that facilitate the exchange of information and insight between members are proving to be more valuable for identifying target contacts.

Q: What other factors are contributing to the general mood of IT professionals?

A: We hear from a lot of CIOs who want to work for an organization that is on the leading — not bleeding — edge of technology. Not only do these companies present a great range of opportunities and resources, they are also much more likely to value the insights and expertise of the CIO.

Unfortunately, these companies are not as prevalent as they should be, as CIOs across a wide range of industries are still fighting for the proverbial seat at the table.

— Jamie Eckle

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