Are Your IT Skills Hot or Not? (And Does It Matter?)
It is sensible for IT professionals to follow which tech skills are in high demand in today's job market. Armed with such knowledge, IT pros can make better decisions when it comes to choosing additional training, or allowing their increasingly less relevant skills to fade over time.
Dice.com is a job search site that has catered to information technology and engineering workers since the early 1990s. The hot-and-cold tech skills webpage features an interactive graph that displays the relationship between the number of job seekers who list a particular IT skill in their Dice.com profiles, and the number of job postings on the Dice.com site that inquire about that same skill.
The result is a multi-plotted cloud shape that shows the supply-and-demand relationship for an impressive 1,400 different tech skills.
Well, tech-ish skills. The methodology Dice.com is using to populate the graph creates some peculiarities. Some of the "tech skills" we discovered in the graph included the following:
? Project Management
? Talent Management
So, some of the skills listed on the graph are only tangentially related to the IT industry, or have been included out of context. Still, it is interesting to spend some time with the interactive graph and discover where certain skills fall in Dice.com's supply-and-demand formula.
There is a risk, however, in taking such data at face value, especially if you're thinking of using it to choose what category of IT training you should take next. Here are some mitigating factors that IT pros should consider before using the Dice.com online tool and other such reference guides to make training choices, or decide what their worth is in the current job market.
We'll discuss the vagaries of the Dice.com tool in particular, but these are good rules of thumb to consider when evaluating similar recommendations from any source.
It's Not Just What You Know — It's Where You Know It
The Dice.com information doesn't offer any breakdown by geographical area. Every tech skill's supply and demand rating is nationwide only.
This doesn't take any regional differences into account. It doesn't give you the most relevant information for your city, or let you know where your particular skill set is in the greatest demand (or in the lowest supply).
Trending Data Means More than Just Data
The Dice.com hot-and-cold tech skills page is a snapshot of the site's current supply and demand for tech skills. It doesn't show any trends over time for these skills, which is an important consideration. A hot new tech skill may not have many people listing it at the moment. And there may not be a lot of employers looking for it — yet. That same skill, however, could be a great pick for an IT pro to start learning so they can add it to their profile in consideration of future opportunities.
Alternatively, there's the possibility a hot skill has hit its ceiling and is going to start tumbling down the demand axis. You might not necessarily want to dive into an IT skill that has already peaked in the industry.
Hot Skills Don't Always Come with a High Salary
While the Dice.com graph shows how many employers are asking for a certain skill, it says nothing about the average compensation being offered to workers who have that skill. While supply-and-demand does act as a general influence where worker compensation is concerned, it doesn't take niche job markets into account.
Tech workers who are able to work with technologies that live off the beaten path can demand excellent compensation for their skills, as there isn't a large talent pool for employers to choose from. Yes, the number of full-time job opportunities are limited, but specialists in rare tech can make a good living as independent contractors.
Chasing the Money Seldom Works
Many IT veterans have seen workers chasing after employment dollars by getting trained in whatever tech skill has the biggest current buzz around it. When the next "big thing" arrives, these folks immediately shift gears and try to get the first seat on the new technology bandwagon by cramming their brains full of the latest data.
This practice has been popular since MS-DOS was a going concern — and it isn't any way for a dedicated IT professional to go. Yes, you are expected to keep pace on the IT education treadmill to some extent, the better to stay current and keep your skills relevant. Darting from specialty to specialty, however, in an attempt to continually cash in on the hottest jobs, is a poor way to build a lasting career in the industry.
It's Not Just About Hot or Cold
Online tools from job search sites like Dice.com can provide some useful information for candidates looking for the best job opportunities. Bear in mind, however, that they typically do not provide the full picture you need to make well-calibrated decisions about your next career move.