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The outlook in the IT job market dimmed markedly in a few short months, turning from hot to cold in what could be termed a figurative eye blink.

The dynamic and rapidly evolving market landscape is creating no end of anxiety among those with skills that were in high demand a short 18 months ago.

A recent thread in Reddit's IT Career Questions group suggests that IT jobs are increasingly hard to find. “The market is flooded these days—even when you match what they're looking for 100%, so do 10 other people,” said one Redditor. “The job market is a battle royale RN,” said another.

With the IT job market in the tank, what should current IT job seekers do to succeed?

First, it’s critical to recognize the market has, in fact, become more competitive. However, this is basically a regression to the mean, as the world continues to climb out of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In the early days of the pandemic, tech workers could figure out their roles and receive higher wages because technology had to be configured to work virtually overnight. In addition, all physical walls were broken down, where workers no longer had to be in the same building or even the same city as their office. This created an extreme pendulum swing in the opposite direction, where workers had the leverage. 

However, that started to change last year with some very public rounds of layoffs at major companies, which have continued into 2023. To date, almost half a million tech workers have lost their jobs. 

The market has now swung back to pre-pandemic days. Gone are the days where a generic resume sent to 20 different companies was all it took. Today, candidates need to research companies, learn about the people that work there and tailor their resumes and skills sets to come across as a person who belongs at that specific company. 

Employers still need excellent workers. If job seekers are talented, hungry, have good communication skills and can market themselves correctly, the jobs are there, particularly in the areas of engineering, security and big data. 

There is also a high demand for those with skills in data analytics, cloud computation and AI. The catch, though, is that because it’s so new, it’s not possible to hire someone with five years experience. What is in demand, though, is talented people willing to learn and experiment, and, often, that requires a new mindset. 

Those coming into the industry tend to be focused on wanting to learn the new and latest technology. These are the people willing to undertake and receive their AWS certification and then practice and experiment because it doesn’t even feel like a job to them—it feels like a hobby. For employers, there’s never been a better time to be more selective with who they choose because there’s simply a larger talent pool.

Potential hires also have to ensure they catch recruiters’ eyes. Today, LinkedIn is a prominent tool for recruiters and they want to see that the online profile and the resume actually look like they support each other. And when it comes to resumes, candidates often make the mistake of mentioning their technical skills in bullet points, but recruiters then find no evidence of the skills or training in their job descriptions. 

One element that can’t be stressed enough: Networking is essential. This can be done through professional associations and making the effort to get to know people at companies they’re interested in. It can also be as simple as contributing to conversations that are happening around the technology that they are well-versed in or commenting on online articles and tagging and sharing them, so that item starts to spread and helps the person build credibility. 

Candidates also should not overlook their soft skills—their business acumen, communication and presentation skills. At the end of the day, communication is paramount. If candidates don’t have soft skills, it's going to be hard for them to really climb the ladder. Even in the tech industry, the ability to communicate across any role type is crucial, both verbally and in writing. There is a lot of marketing and selling that goes on in the IT industry. Everything comes down to how someone can actually persuade people to adopt an idea or influence a decision or an outcome. 

The market today absolutely is and will remain competitive, but there is still a strong balance between employers needing smart tech workers willing to learn, and potential employees eager to tackle new tools and who are smart, driven and bring both the necessary hard and soft skills to thrive in the ever-growing, competitive IT industry.

Shannon Wilson is Vice President of Information Technology at University of Phoenix.

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