In the IT arena, change is part of the job. Any time you doubt it for even one second remember the following facts:
- The first Mac was only introduced in 1984
- Java is only just over 20 years old
- Android OS is less than 10 years old
Anyone who works within this exciting, maddening and constantly developing industry routinely puts aside time to keep up with their particular field because they know the speed at which obsolescence can happen. Fortunately, an interest in the developments within your specialism is usually fuelled by your enthusiasm for the subject.
As IT recruitment specialists, we see a lot of clients looking for team members and of course, top of the list of requirements is the skill-set. “We are looking to contract someone with experience in…” or a variation thereof is usually the start of an appointment conversation. That’s the easy bit. It’s a signpost telling us where to start the search for the right person.
When we visit our clients and often when candidates are in the office here, we hear conversation after conversation along the lines of ‘Did you see that Microsoft have…’ and ‘You know in Java, can you…’? or ‘I was reading something about…’ and most of the time it happens in what you would call ‘off time,’ by which we mean the corridor conversation or the kitchen sink discussion rather than scheduled meetings. It happens because professionals keep up with their professions.
Jobs that don’t yet exist
Now let me throw one more thing into the mix. There has been a lot of discussion recently about a statement made by Professor Cathy N Davidson, a noted scholar in the history of technology, that 65% of younger school children will grow up to work in jobs that don’t currently exist. At first, this seems a startling number, but it makes sense when you consider the three facts in the opening paragraph. We supply highly skilled and experienced people and graduates to work in all of those areas, yet none of them has reached the ripe old age of 35 – a time in most people’s lives when they are settled into their life choice careers. Many of us already operate in areas that did not exist at the time our parents were making career choices, and we do so in probably the fastest moving industry ever known to humankind. That’s a pretty sobering thought. It’s no wonder that so much effort goes into keeping up with our particular specialisms.
However, there is an inherent danger in this that we also need to remember. That figure of 65%, even if it proves to be inaccurate, should be warning us of the need to step outside our specialist areas. While it sounds common sense to do so, we often see candidates with experience and skills that are waning in terms of need or popularity for employers.
This is an industry with a clear skills gap and part of that is being driven by the development of the technology within the very industry we work in. The best way to help bridge that gap as a client is probably to consider the role played by continuing development in any positions you are looking to fill. As a candidate, you really do need to look to gain experience beyond a niche skill, because the more niche you are, the less flexible you become. Job roles that offer an opportunity for long-term development are very much on the radar of the best candidates, and flexible team members are very much in demand by the top employers. Keeping up with changes is about more than a single specialism, it is about career development and the long game.
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