The Devil You Know ...

Fear of change may be keeping more IT executives in their current jobs than four years ago.
More technology executives stay in their current jobs out of fear, not loyalty, and this ungrounded apprehension may be holding back many executives from otherwise promising careers.

"People are slightly risk diverse," says John Piot, CEO and co-founder of Impact Innovations Group, an IT consulting and staffing firm headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

A 2004 Network World salary survey gives voice to this risk aversion. About six percent more technology professionals are choosing to stay in their current jobs than in 2000, according to the report. And it's not because the company's are better places to work.

Steve Hall, director of professional recruiting for Find Great People, International, based in Greenville, S.C. believes IT executives hold the mistaken belief that there are few jobs worth pursuing.

"While we certainly aren't back in the IT heyday of the 1990s, supply and demand in IT is beginning to even out," said Hall. "Companies are hiring IT executives and might just head-hunt those sleepy employer's IT execs away from them if they aren't paying attention."

Time to Move On?

Career advisers and authors, including Mary Rose Remington, study the warning signs of career dissatisfaction. Remington, the author of Career Quest, a Practical and Spiritual Guide To Finding Your Life's Passion (Heartwood Publishing, 2004) notes, "Fear of the unknown is why many people stay stuck in less than ideal work situations, yet fear goes hand in hand with life changes. There is only one way to live without fear and that is to stay stuck, live without change, and without growth."

In her book, Remington lists the warning signs of dissatisfaction, including:

  • Sunday evenings depress you.
  • The quality of your work has suffered, but you don't care.
  • You arrive consistently late for work.
  • You call in sick when healthy.
  • You've become emotionally distant from your co-workers.
  • Your job has taken a toll on your mental and physical health to the point family and friends have begun to express concerns.
  • Piot has another list of signs that a CIO should start a new job search:

  • If your company and industry is doing poorly.
  • If you're in an industry that's dwindling or at a company that's not doing well, IT executives should seek out opportunities better performing industries and companies.
  • If you're in a dead-end position.
  • Consider Your Options

    Although the economy is opening up to the point where dissatisfied CIOs really should consider their options, jumping at a job isn't always advisable, especially if the conditions at the new employer are less than ideal.

    "Leaving a current job for $10,000 or $20,000 more pay is maybe a good consideration, but it shouldn't be your primary consideration," said Piot. "You're better off looking at the position as a whole, in terms of 'Are you at the right company? Are you in a good industry? And if the company's going to be able to be successful.'"

    For example, companies with a history of churning CIOs every six months are probably problematic. A good tenure for a CIO position today is 18 months and up, said Piot.

    Here are some questions to ask and consider before moving from your current position:

    Examine the industry prognosis for the company you're entering. "You don't want to be in an industry that's fighting for its life if you want stability, so you'd probably be much better off going into industries that are stable or growing in an expansion economy," said Piot.

    Get a sense of the working dynamic with the CEO and other senior level executives. "Unless (the CIO) can maintain the active supportive relationship with a senior business line executive, they really don't have much of a chance," says Woldring, a former IT executive himself.

    Ask about a company's past investment into IT operations and staff. The CIO will run into trouble if the company has a get-more-value mindset, but the shop itself is in such bad shape that there's no way shore it up without significant staffing, hardware, and software investment, said Woldring.

    Yet companies might not always be cooperative with a request for hard data. When interviewing recently for an IT executive position, Woldring found himself short listed and asked to see the IT budget, the IT inventory, and the demographics of the existing staff that's there. "They looked at me like I was crazy," said Woldring.

    It was a question that ended up costing him the job, but also saving him some heartache.

    "They ended up giving the job to someone who didn't ask these kinds of operations questions," said Woldring. "The person lasted six months in the job."

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