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Layoff survivors (and other gainfully employed IT) unite

This sure was a gloomy week. If you subscribe to any regular newsfeeds, your inbox has probably never seen anything like it. My WSJ News Alerts flowed in like a drumbeat of despair:

Japan’s NEC to Cut 20,000 Jobs, Posts Wider Loss ; (today, 5:34 a.m.);

Kodak to Cut [3,500 – 4,500] Jobs Amid Sales Slump (Thursday, 7:43 a.m.)

Ford Posts $5.88 Billion Loss (Thursday, 7:29 a.m.)

Starbucks to Close 300 Stores, Cut Nearly 7,000 Workers (Wednesday, 4:20 p.m.)

Wells Fargo Posts Loss; Wachovia Loses $11 Billion (Wednesday 8:53 a.m.)

Japan’s Nomura Posts $3.8 Billion Loss (Tuesday 1:51 a.m.)

Worst of all was Monday, which set the tone for the week with 35,000 layoffs announced before I’d had my second cup of coffee. By the time the day was over, the layoff total was something like 62,000, including:

Sprint Nextel to Cut 8,000 Positions (Monday, 8:17 a.m.)

Caterpillar to Cut 20,000 Jobs (Monday, 8:25 a.m.)

Home Depot to Cut 7,000 Jobs, Close Expo Home-Design Business (Monday, 9 a.m.)

Since the downturn-cum-recession began, tech companies have also been in the mix, as have companies of all sizes in many industries — supply chains for financial services, housing/construction, cars, consumer goods, media (especially newspapers) among them. Most of the layoff announcements don’t go into any detail about who’s being let go or why; we all know there’s probably restructuring involved (i.e., layoff survivors Joe and Mary can now do two jobs each, and Sid and Tom will be underemployed for a while) and that the cuts probably involved IT.

In one layoff where I knew some folks who were let go, the IT tally was almost 25% of the reduction in force. Why? Many projects were canceled. In fact, many organizations are finding that their project management office is busier than ever, helping to choose what’s still essential and, sadly, what must go under the guillotine.

How else are organizations hanging on? Recent research by our site found that more than 40% of 319 respondents have had budget cuts so far this year. Other organizations are resorting to the kind of outsourcing we saw in the ’90s, like Warner Brothers divesting IT to Cap Gemini, which will hire back a portion of the employees.

As the recession continues, as most experts now say it will through at least most of this year, many of us (layoff survivors and all) are simply hunkering down, making the best of sparse resources and finding creative ways to stay energized and hopeful for the projects that remain. The new administration in Washington may also have something to do with this. How are things at your organization?  What are your survival techniques, innovative shortcuts, techniques for staying optimistic? If anything, community is one thing that will keep us all going, so let’s talk about it here.

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My employer is in the biotech - healthcare space, and we have not been hit hard as a company. Hence, no cuts, but, expansion of resources has dried up. For those of you who are looking for a job, healthcare is a space that needs good IT folks, and is likely to get some stimulus funds. Do not overlook the many software companies who provide software, implementation and support services, outsourcing / hosting services, or consulting. There is a lot of need, and a lot of depth and breadth of areas to consider. Good luck going forward.
Also good bets are professionaland technical services and esp. public sector jobs. But IT professionals will outperform the overall employment market by a wide stride anyway. Even if projects are cancelled, many IT workers will be shifted to other work that the recession is actually stimulating. Somebody should do an article on that---work created by a bad economy, not work disappearing courtesy of the downturn. We are seeing some of these shift at my company.