Career Coach

My company is downsizing, and so is my title. Should I bail the first chance I get or stick around and train for a new role?

Dear Career Coach:

My current role is Network Administrator for 130+ servers and second-level help desk. I am also acting supervisor when my boss is absent. I have recently been informed that the company I work for will be cutting our locations staff and equipment to less than half of its current amount in April of 2003.

While I will still have a job after April, I am concerned that my new title, Backup Site Engineer, will be less than desirable on my resume when I decide to leave. I have a B.S. in Business Management, completed coursework for an MIS degree, hold an MCSE (NT4) certification, and take continuing education classes in Unix. What should I do? Stay at my current company, endure the less desirable title and take classes toward a specialty? Or leave the first chance I get? I have been considering looking into security or project management, but Im afraid I would get bored rather easily with project management, and I dont have a lot of security experience outside of being a network admin.

Ed Benincasa

Career Coach: Ed Benincasa

Your biggest concern should be whether job skills that you have learned in your current position will no longer be used in your new position. If this were the case, leaving to maintain or increase current skills for the future would make sense. Technology changes quickly, and it is very easy to lose competence in particular areas, which could hurt your chances of a better job in the future.

If your current skills will be used in the new job, then the title change is the only issue. Titles vary from company to company for similar positions, and the title should not be as important on a resume as properly highlighting skills. In this case, you have time to develop skills in security or other areas of interest. You can always make a career change in the future. You should not rush to leave the company for another position, especially in todays weak job environment.

As for project management versus security as a possible future career, this is difficult to answer, since it depends on the person and his or her likes and dislikes. Security is a growing field, but it could be as "boring" as project management to a particular person. A recommendation would be to talk to others in these fields and maybe take a class or two to see what each career is really about. Then you could make an informed decision.

Ed Benincasa is the director of MIS for FN Manufacturing and is also the corporate network manager for the corporations wide area network infrastructure. He is a member of the eWEEK Corporate Partners and can be reached at edb@fnmfg.com.

Brian Jaffe

Career Coach: Brian D. Jaffe

You start by saying that your new role will be less than desirable, but then later mention that you its your new title that will be of concern. During changes and upheavals, the ones that have the best chance for survival are those who show they can adapt to change. If your new title is the biggest gripe about the new organization, count yourself lucky. After things have settled down, consider discussing your concerns with your management. Title changes dont cost the company anything, and are often subject to little more than managers discretion. But, by bitching about it now, you just identify yourself as someone who is difficult. Besides, your boss probably already knows youre not happy about the situation.

If your real concern is your new role, you have more justification for looking at all alternatives. But, never "leave the first chance you get." Let your unhappiness be the reason you look for a new job, not the reason you take one. As often as not, rushing to a new job because you are looking for an escape route ends up being a mistake. (See my column on evaluating job offers.)

This may also be an opportunity for some self-examination. Ask yourself (and perhaps your boss) why you didnt earn a higher role in the new organization. Technical skills? Management experience? Political aptitude? If there are some deficiencies you can work on, theyll help you with your job search.

Remember that, in corporate shakeups and reorganizations, a lot of decisions are made fairly quickly; many arent based on merit and can change again fairly quickly. Todays new organization could be tomorrows old organization.

Brian D. Jaffe is a contributing editor for eWEEK and can be reached at brian@red55.com.

Randy Dugger

Career Coach: Randy Dugger

I have to agree with the other Career Coaches that, in the grand scheme of things, titles dont go a long way. What gets you hired is what you know and have done, along with your future learning potential.

I agree that the title youve been given isnt very attractive, but I agree with my Career Coach colleagues that the title could be redone to be something more attractive. You can always use the justification that, with a different title, it will be easier to talk to vendors since it conveys what you are doing.

Since you indicate that your position is pretty secure, I would be cautious about moving to another company right now. A secure job is something to hold onto, until the job situation in IT improves. Moving to another company may cause you more problems than it solves. I would not leave at the first chance, unless things are really going downhill fast.

Security is a very hot spot to be in now, but it requires a vast amount of knowledge and some real-life experience. If you can find a firm that is willing to invest in you and appears stable (read the Annual Report and SEC 10K filings to find out whats really going on), it would be an appealing move.

In these days of a soft job market, do your research on any potential company you are talking to, and be well-informed. You should ask in the interviews if they have had layoffs in the last couple of years. If so, inquire how they were handled. Making the wrong move now is much worse than enduring a bad title until the employment situation improves.

Let us know what you ultimately decide to do. Randy Dugger is the former director of IS for SEQUUS Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (now part of Alza Corp.) in Menlo Park, Calif. Currently hes the CEO of Dugger & Associates LLC, a San Jose, Calif., consulting firm specializing in Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange and in assisting small-to-medium-sized businesses with IT services and training. Randy also is a member of the eWEEK Corporate Partners. He can be contacted at randy.dugger@dugger-it.com

Randy Dugger is the former director of IS for SEQUUS Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (now part of Alza Corp.) in Menlo Park, Calif. Currently hes the CEO of Dugger & Associates LLC, a San Jose, Calif., consulting firm specializing in Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange and in assisting small-to-medium-sized businesses with IT services and training. Randy also is a member of the eWEEK Corporate Partners. He can be contacted at randy.dugger@dugger-it.com.

Kathi Sigler

Career Coach: Kathi Sigler

I would suggest that you (1) Start by staying put and trying to renegotiate the title change. It would not cost your firm anything to find a title that you and they might be more comfortable with. (2) Start working on more training in the area of security, as everyone is looking for this expertise. (3) Not leave your current position until you have something else to go to which appeals more to you in terms of the type of work and title. However, given the state of the industry, you may have to lower your salary expectations to somewhere between what you were making before the title change and the new salary your employer wants to give you in the revised job.

Dr. Kathie Sigler, is President of the Medical Center Campus at Miami-Dade Community College in Miami, FL. She can be contacted at ksigler@mdcc.edu.