First To Go in a Recession? Project Management Jobs

Back in September 2002, Janet Ruhl of the now inactive Computer Consultants BBS wrote the following about project managers bearing the brunt of a downturn in information technology projects.

“Years ago, back before IT people got used to being in demand all the time, it was well known that it was career suicide to take the project management path, rather than continue on in a technical career path.”

“I wrote about this extensively in my 1988 Programmer's Survival Guide and received a bundle of letters from ex-project managers who had worked at companies with names we all recognize who agreed with my warnings and lamented that they had fallen into this particular trap.”

“There's no easy solution. When there are fewer projects there is a greatly decreased need for project managers and unlike programmers, a manager can rarely use their skills to generate earnings for a smaller company or for themselves.”

“In the past, laid off IT managers often became brokers because of their network of internal connections. But in those days there were very few IT brokerages since IT consulting was a very small almost invisible pursuit, so during recessions you didn't get the shakeout you get now.”

“The other alternative is to use those managerial skills to transformed yourself into an entrepreneurial consultant. Your business knowledge lets you speak the same language as clients. If you still have some technical skills, you should be able to get the client's jobs done. Or you should be able to put together a team to get the job done.”

“This isn't easy, particularly not during a recession, because you have to go out and find the client yourself and sell them your ability to get that job done. But people do it.”

Whether you agree or disagree with her now 4 year-old assessment, you should always have back up plan. Assume that in a year's time a recession does hit, how will your fare in the job market? Are you skills likely to be in demand? If not, what will you do until the job market picks up again?

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