Workers in the United States are optimistic about opportunities to change their careers, although a "confidence gap" of real or perceived barriers continues to deter some from considering a career path in technology.
These were among the results of a report on job seeker trends from CompTIA, a nonprofit association for the information technology (IT) industry and workforce.
The survey, conducted by research firm Morning Consult in January, revealed the rate of job seekers exploring opportunities in their existing field remained unchanged at 63%.
The share of those looking to make a career change into a new field ticked up slightly to 61% from last June's reading of 60%.
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The study also revealed job seekers retain the feeling that IT and healthcare fields are relatively more difficult to transition to, with more than a third of Gen Xers and Gen Zers concerned that they lack the required skills.
IT Workers Feeling Confident
When it comes to IT workers, their confidence in overall job prospects stems from a few factors, according to Dr. James Stanger, chief technology evangelist at CompTIA.
"They know that their organizations have been trying to hire qualified IT professionals for years and that they have had serious problems getting people to join in," he said. "That problem has not gone away, and the pace of hiring has not slowed."
CompTIA research indicates that in most countries and in most regions, the hiring rate for IT professionals would have to decline for many, many months before we even leave record territory in terms of hiring IT professionals, he said.
"Much of the layoff news is generated by organizations that tend to be in very specific geographies and very specific sectors," Stanger said. "Plus, most of the workers laid off are not IT workers, per se."
In addition, IT workers instinctively know that the "tech sector" — that found in Silicon Valley or similar areas — no longer represents the overall IT hiring picture.
"Yes, various huge 'tech companies' have laid off workers," he admitted. "But for the most part, any of the IT workers that might have been involved in those layoffs have found jobs quite readily in other sectors, especially in manufacturing, fintech, and healthcare."
Stanger said IT job seekers must realize that the hiring process is effectively a risk management activity, and hiring managers are acutely aware of the risks of hiring someone.
"In their minds, they look for ways to lower that risk," he said. "When hiring IT pros, hiring managers want someone who is responsible. They want someone who is skilled. They want someone who can work and play well with others."
The more that candidates can demonstrate that they are reliable, possess uniquely important technical skills, and can get along with a team, then they'll get that job.
"For example, if you're in an IT support position, you can't just settle for learning a few Linux skills," Stanger explained. "You need to understand how to troubleshoot what happens when a Linux system stops working properly, either in the cloud or in a traditional on-premises environment. It means that you need to know how to scope, maintain, automate, and troubleshoot serverless applications."
Keeping Pace with Tech Changes
Technology changes quickly. However, many IT pros aren't given sufficient time to learn about these changes, according to Stanger.
"As a result, they feel that their skills have become stale," he said. "Combine this with being considered a mere tactical asset that must often contribute to the organization during non-standard work hours, and you can have burnout."
In addition, organizations often see technologists as technical assets, rather than as strategic assets. Therefore, technologists aren't given the opportunity to retrain and upskill.
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Stanger said IT job seekers will continue to see job opportunities if they have obtained unique skills and find a company that is ready to use them.
"IT pros — folks with experience — will be looking for opportunities," he explained. "They'll be looking for an organization that has the wherewithal to appreciate the incredible things a properly empowered IT pro can do."
IT professionals aren't a particularly unified group of individuals when it comes to priorities — there are many nuances involved, just as with any sector of the workforce, Stanger said.
"I would argue that the priorities of a typical IT pro are no different than the priorities of a lawyer or HR professional or researcher: work-life balance, the need to feel fulfilled, and the ability to rise to challenges," he explained. "This last part is especially important for many IT professionals."
Many IT pros have great technical ability, but if they aren't placed into the right situation to rise to those skills, that can be frustrating, he said.
"The typical IT pro is looking for the ability to apply their skills for an organization that has done its best to appreciate and apply those skills to move things forward," Stanger said.
About the authorNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.