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Positive thinking

Trying to keep a sunny attitude in the midst of a dark employment scene can be more than a little challenging. However, even in low times, it pays to keep looking up.

Q: I’ve tried to keep a good attitude about the technology job scene, but you can’t be an optimist when no one is calling you for an interview. I have certifications, I have a degree, and I have a strong résumé. Am I doomed to never get a good job again just because I picked IT as a field?

A: Not being much of a Pollyanna type, I’m not going to chirp about how everything is better than you think and you just need to adjust those rose-colored glasses to a brighter hue. As everyone in the IT world knows, things aren’t so great right now. Part of the problem is that technology professionals were treated with such reverence only a short time ago that the current malaise stings a bit more than it might have, had the dot-com bubble not been blown so large.

However, even though things are fairly bleak for many in the IT arena right now, that doesn’t mean they will be forever. Companies are increasing their technology use, new avenues for computing are being created, and more individuals are logging on to the Internet, which means the need for IT won’t just fade away. This isn’t a case of blacksmiths watching the advent of the automobile age, their hearts sinking at the death of horseshoe demand.

Given the lack of calls from hiring managers, it’s understandable that you’d be mildly distressed about your personal situation, and grouchy about your chosen field.

Added to this might be resentment about those pricey certifications and the degree that’s gathering dust. So, perhaps it’s time to grouse a little about the scene to select friends and family, or start a Weblog that other unemployed techies can read to draw comfort and insight from your emotional peaks and valleys. Also, check out relevant sites like Laid Off Land.

Then, once you’ve gotten all the poison out of your system, start fresh with a new search, or look at areas of IT you’ve never even considered before. How about biometrics, gaming, healthcare, Web development, or the hundreds of other niches where you might find a cozy home? In other words, acknowledge how awful you feel, talk to others who feel just as bummed out, and then shake off whatever dust you can, and try, try again. The present may be as nasty as you think, but the future is better than you believe it to be.

Q: For the last few years, I’ve been doing troubleshooting and help-desk support. I’d like to see some advancement in terms of income and recognition, but I’m not sure where to go from here. What types of jobs do I look at for going past this point? I’m not sure I want to be a customer-support manager, so is there some other way to go up without switching fields completely?

A: The question of how to advance can be a tricky one, given the multiple directions that veer from a single IT point. For example, an entry-level job as a Web developer can launch someone toward paths in security, privacy, or even graphic design.

Though it seems that a help desk support professional would naturally move into the next tier, managing other support personnel, there are less obvious ways to use your experience for new, higher directions.

In looking at your current and past jobs, you should ask yourself what aspects of those positions you particularly liked. Did you enjoy solving complex problems and mapping out a strategy to prevent future problems? Then you might consider looking into project management or quality assurance.

If you found that the most enjoyable part of the help desk was learning the nuances of the software you were using and pondering ways to make it better, then you may want to hustle toward a CRM vendor. There, you could help to develop software for customer service reps or manage the nuts and bolts of hosted applications.

Basically, whatever made you happy in your past jobs is probably what you do best, because when it comes to expertise, enthusiasm is often just as important as education. When you think about moving up, contemplate how to harness that gusto in a position that’s a level above what you’re doing now. After all, an increase in income and recognition is nice, but a true advancement will mean a boost in how much you look forward to going into work every day. And that is something that’s always worth working toward.

Send your career-related questions to Elizabeth Millard.

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