As the economy picks up again after a long, difficult time, emerging and expanding businesses are finding themselves in a new environment – one in which IT is more integral to success than ever. These are not the days of the dot-com bubble, when everything was about fast pitches, circular advertising and hasty trading; rather, IT is now firmly at the center of strong business models of diverse kinds, needed for everything from project management to customer communications. It’s a world that offers increasing opportunities for ambitious young graduates keen to join growing companies, and a world in which those with established IT skills are increasingly setting up by themselves, achieving success as contractors.
The pace of economic growth has left businesses in many areas struggling to find enough suitable candidates to fill IT roles. This includes large companies that want to take on full-time staff, either individually or as part of IT teams, and smaller businesses which can’t necessarily afford to do that but still need to get IT work done. IT itself – through the Internet – has provided a solution to this, with many now outsourcing specialist work. This means that there is an emerging market for temps and agency workers, and also for experienced professionals who are able to adapt quickly to new environments. It’s a great time for those who enjoy taking on new challenges.
Skills in demand
At present, the most sought-after skills in industry are technical support (i.e., wide-ranging knowledge of mostly fairly simple but esoteric IT issues); web design and maintenance; database administration; systems development and administration; and financial software management. Alongside skills like these, however, IT workers need a lot of “soft” skills such as the ability to communicate technical concepts to lay people and the ability to market their own talents. It’s important to be generally good at improvising and problem solving, to be patient and to be able to sympathize with those still dazzled by the world of computers.
Going into industry
IT workers are needed across a wide range of industries – not just computing and finance-focused areas but also engineering, fashion design, publishing, food production, health and education. Many people choose to get a secondary qualification, which could be something as simple as a foreign language, to complement their IT abilities and enable them to develop specialties.
Setting up as a contractor
For those with the right skills, moving into contracting has never been easier. It depends on three key things:
• Networking – successfully building up a client base and developing the capacity to keep on finding more.
• Management – an umbrella company can take the stress out of financial matters.
• Discipline – the ability to focus, meet deadlines and keep on driving forward even with nobody else there to apply pressure.
As long as these conditions are met, there is no reason why any skilled person can’t make it in contracting – it’s simply a matter of determination and hard work. It may not carry the guarantees of a nine to five job but it can be a lot more profitable and personally satisfying to boot.