I am amazed at how volatile the computer industry has become over the years. The IT field used to be a very stable field to be in. IT workers were almost “untouchable” when it came to company cutbacks. Unfortunately, now, many IT workers are considered “overhead”, and are included in the first wave of layoffs. After working for the same computer company for 15 years I left for a “Dream Job”. It did not work out quite like I thought. In the last 5 years I have been caught up in 3 corporate layoffs by three different companies. It has been some hard times, but you do gain wisdom along the way. So what do you do when you find yourself suddenly without work?
You have many options. Maybe it is time to go back to school. Due to the high unemployment rates, many states are offering college and continuing education opportunities. Not a bad deal. Also, it may be time to consider a career change. Most of my friends that I have worked with over the years have left the IT field all together. Again, many states will cover re-training expenses for laid off employees. Or maybe you want to start your own business. Some states offer training and support for displaced workers that want to start their own businesses. The best thing to do is to talk with your local unemployment office to see what is available.
If you want to stay in the IT field, but can’t afford or don’t want to go back to college, there are other options. Take the time and update your skill set. SANS training is excellent and is beginning to be required for many government security jobs. But it can be very pricey. Updating your IT certifications is a good idea too, but again, many IT workers are used to their company covering the costs for training classes.
Here are some cost effective ways to increase, sharpen or update your IT skills.
Online training is a good choice. There are numerous options for online training. VTC Online University offers almost 900 IT video training courses, many presented by Microsoft Certified Trainers, for $30 a month. You will find server, network, application and even certification preparation training. It is very similar to training classes that large corporations offer employees, but at a fraction of the cost. Multi-user licenses are also available. I have completed numerous classes through VTC and I was very impressed. I was so pleased with VTC that I became an associate. One perk as an associate is that you are allowed to place VTC ads on your site and you get paid for referrals. But don’t let that turn you off. VTC allows you to preview the first section of most classes for free, so you can decide for yourself if you want to join or not. If you spend some time searching, you can find online training that meets your needs and is easy on the pocket book.
Watch online seminars. What better way to stay up to date than to watch videos from top security experts. And most of them are free. SANS offers a library of archived webcasts that you can watch. Most top security conferences will offer videos of past conferences, including whitepapers and handouts. The Blackhat and Defcon security conferences come to mind. Government Computer News and FS-ISAC also sponsor many free online conferences. With so many companies doing online training now, just check the Video section of your favorite computer security sites, you will probably find some great training material.
Online Forums. Online forums are a great way to learn new skills and network with others with similar interests. One way to search through the mountain of information is to use google groups.
Go to College, for free. Really, not kidding here, and not just computer classes. Want to take C++ from MIT? Or how about Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from Yale? Check out College Open Course Ware (OCW), you take real college classes by real professors and it is free. Many top colleges from around the world are offering several of their classes for free. You don’t get the credit for the class, but I do believe that you can challenge the class to get credit if so inclined. Also, Sam Bowne (City College San Francisco) offers a lot of his Ethical hacking and Network Defense class material, including class videos, for free.
Read a book. There are some great security titles out there to brush up on skills or to learn new skills altogether. Or if you are a self-learner, there are many certification prep type books available. Many online book stores also allow you to purchase used books for a fraction of the price of new. I recently purchased an $80 security title from a big name online book reseller used for $10. The cover was a little scuffed up, but other than that it was in excellent condition.
Volunteer. There are several not for profit places that would greatly appreciate someone with your talent. And you just may learn something new in the process. Anyways helping others is always a boost to morale.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas that will help you out with your career choices, or just give you something creative to do. The best thing is to remain positive, move forward and keep your eyes open; a door will open for you.