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5 Things To Do If You Lose Your IT Job

How some IT pros have learned to stop worrying and love the time off -- or at least make it meaningful.

As the financial crisis plays itself out across global markets, pink slips are flowing like Mountain Dew at a WOW tournament. And while it's only natural to feel apprehension about IT job security, some are discovering opportunity in the wake of unemployment.

When Robert Fleming was laid off from his job as an IT administrator for an Ottawa software firm two months ago, he went through a period of three weeks doing nothing but trying to cope emotionally to his situation. Then he followed the time-honored advice of experts. "I made looking for a job my job," he said. Even so, he found he had plenty of time left over to spend with friends and family.

Good thing, too. In the end, he got his current job -- working the help desk at a government agency -- from his mother's hairdresser's son. "I was visiting my mother, and she came home from the salon and said, 'I think I have something for you,'" he said. "It's six degrees of separation out there, and your opportunities can come from unlikely places."

Laid off. Downsized. Words that are heard often these days. That you would devote a significant amount of your time to finding another job -- as Fleming did -- is a given. But even the most aggressive job hunt won't take all your waking hours. There are only so many jobs ads to answer on Monster.com and Craigslist. Only so many recruiters who will take your calls. So to ward off what Fleming calls "the utter crazies," most unemployed IT workers are finding other outlets for their physical, intellectual, and emotional energy.

1. Get Smart: Learn New Skills

David Christiansen wasn't technically laid off, but the writing was on the wall. Christiansen, who writes the TechDarkIT.com blog -- which he calls a "corporate IT survival guide" -- had an IT position at a Portland, Ore., company that was struggling.

Budgets were being cut, projects canceled, and little by little his department was getting chiseled away. For reasons he still can't figure out, he was allowed to stay. But there was -- literally -- nothing to do.

Having had a deep-seated ambition to work for a startup, he decided to learn more leading-edge technologies. "I'd literally show up in the morning with a book and study all day," he said. Among other things, he taught himself Ruby on Rails, which helped him land his current job as senior software developer at the Collaborative Software Initiative, in Portland. "There are so many opportunities to pick up new skills -- classes, books, Web sites -- no one has any excuse for not refreshing their capabilities," he said.

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