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I'm educated and skilled but still can't find work. Things are depressing - what should I do?

I am recently unemployed due to politics and a plant closure. I am a NT4 MCSE and CCNA. I recently graduated with a 4-year degree in IT. I have been very depressed about jobs going overseas. I seem to just get a certification or training right after there is a great need -- only to be too late.

I am going to be 40 this year and tired of being too late! What would you recommend for someone like myself? Go for more school? Open up own business? Get out of IT? I have thought a lot about that.

I just am getting tired of having to fight to learn what I know, only to never get the opportunity that less experienced get.
Things really are tough in IT all over. I've got friends who are also in their 40s who have left or lost senior IT jobs, only to find themselves unable to get work for a year or longer as they start searching for a job.

While your NT4 MCSE isn't worth very much any more, your CCNA is really just an entry-level credential that doesn't buy you much credibility in the workplace (it's not a bad place to start down the Cisco trail, but it's by no means a place where you could stay for very long). Thus, your degree – and whatever work experience you bring to the table -- are probably your most valuable assets.

If you did just finish a degree, why not talk to the granting institution's placement office to see if they can help you with some job leads? You may also have to consider moving outside your current location if its local economy happens to be particularly down or depressed (for example, though general unemployment in my home town is just under 5%, IT unemployment here is still around 10%, which translates into very tough times for IT professionals seeking work locally).

At this point, I'm not sure more school (at least, in IT) is the right move. If you were to open your own business, it would have to be on the basis of a sound, well-designed business plan that shows how you can capture and grow a business while times are tough. It's also a very tough question about how much of your hard-earned money (and that of friends and family) you want to risk, versus the kinds of burdens that business loans or equity investments can impose.

If you were to "get out of IT" you'd also have to have a pretty good idea of where to go from there. You say you've thought a lot about it and I believe you. But you'd really have to weigh the costs and risks involved in staying in IT against the costs and risks involved in moving to another field.

While I feel for your frustration and loss, I urge you to take a nation-wide look at job availability in whatever area of IT you like to call home. If things are bad all over, maybe following your "get out of IT" thinking is a good idea. But if relocation could put you back to work, it might be worth doing that instead. Obviously, some changes are needed to get you back to work. But only you can decide what kinds of changes you're ready, willing, and able to embrace (and pay for).

Good luck as you ponder these tough decisions. Given time, energy, ingenuity and some of what I just wished you, you will find something to do with yourself. --Ed--

This was last published in January 2004

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