Career Central - 7

A brief compendium of the IT workplace

Lose the Attitude

Years after the tech-bubble years of scarce IT professionals, the "stupid users" attitude among tech professionals still exists. But in todays business environment, the sneering and condescending approach is increasingly intolerable. Where it has not happened already, it soon may be met with a slew of ill effects, from outsourcing to bad end products and compromised careers, experts say.

"Ill often warn IT guys that Im technically challenged so bear with me, and they usually respond more patiently, but why should I have to explain or give a disclaimer to get good service?" said Elaine Berke, founder and president of EBI Consulting, in Westport, Mass., which specializes in customer service improvement.

Even the word "users," some argue, sets up an us-versus-them mentality that starts the relationship off on the wrong foot. "Users ... become these mindless, faceless people at the end of a network and not individuals youve gotten to know," Matthew Moran, an IT consultant with Kreative Knowledge, in Cave Creek, Ariz., and author of "The IT Career Builders Toolkit," told eWeek.

Berke argues that IT professionals, especially those who man help desk phones, have forgotten that its their job to be approachable and responsive. "Its their job to be friendly. ... And yet, there is an element of not just frustrated artists but entitlement—a really imperious attitude," said Berke.

If users arent happy with the support they receive, they eventually will complain to those higher up, which doesnt help make a good argument against outsourcing. "Technology wont survive with its thinly disguised contempt for users, aka customers," Berke said. "With enough complaints from customers, IT departments will either change or be outsourced."

Job Cuts Jump in September

Due to auto supplier and telecommunications cutbacks, U.S. job cuts surged in September, with the economy losing more than 100,000 jobs for the first time since January, according to a monthly job cut report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a New York-based global outplacement consultancy.

Job cuts jumped 54 percent in September, according to the Oct. 3 report, up to 100,315 from 65,278 in August.

Septembers cuts were the first six-digit job cut announcement since January. The cuts were driven by heavy job slashing in the automotive industry, which cut 33,745 jobs in September and 36,299 in January.

The telecom industry also contributed to the job losses, with 10,059 jobs cut in September—the industrys largest number of per-month job cuts since March. The computer industry as a whole announced 27,291 cuts in August and September.

"September is just the beginning of what is typically the heaviest job-cutting period of the year. It is not out of the realm of possibility that we will see another 300,000 job cuts by the end of the year. The economy grew at an annual rate of just 2.6 percent in the second quarter, and consumer spending, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.1 percent in August, factors that could lead employers to make further adjustments to production and staffing levels," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a statement.

Report: Ill-Prepared Work Force Looms

Young people entering the U.S. work force lack critical skills essential for success, according to a survey released Oct. 2 by a consortium of business research organizations.

The consortium, made up of The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management, released a report filled with gloomy news about the readiness of the next-generation work force, yet IT was called out as an adequately prepared "bright spot" among high school graduates, who are considered critical for current and future workplace needs.

Though areas of teamwork and diversity were encouraging, most of the report brought sobering news about the generation poised to replace the retiring baby boomer work force. The report deemed this next generation sorely lacking in academic and applied skills and concluded that "the future is here, and it is ill-prepared."

"This study should serve as an alert to educators, policy-makers and those concerned with U.S. economic competitiveness that we may be facing a skills shortage," said Susan Meisinger, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, of Alexandria, Va., in a statement.

—Compiled by Deborah Rothberg

Caveats of Cashing in on Contracting

Here are four critical elements for success as a full-time consultant:

1. Flexibility and Independence Independent workers must respond well to change, flourish under a range of challenges and cope well with isolation.

2. Marketing Skills Contractors serve as their own public relations and sales departments and must market their work or risk gaps in workflow and income.

3. Fiscal Smarts It is essential that consultants know what sets them apart from the competition and how to set and maintain their rates accordingly.

4. Business Savvy By understanding IT as a business-supporting role, consultants hold the potential to maximize their impact.

Source: eWEEK reporting