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Ability to relocate seen as major career advantage for IT professionals

Many articles have looked at new skill sets or outsourcing as the main issues facing IT staff. However, one that is often overlooked is the importance of geographic flexibility.

The ability to be flexible about where you live is important for both junior and senior IT professionals. For lower-level employees, the risk of jobs being outsourced offshore is growing as skills become commoditised, unless staff possess specialist skills or product knowledge.

Senior-level IT specialist leaders have to be adaptable. Increasingly, companies have global functions and require staff to travel and go on secondment overseas.

Some might argue that readiness to travel is less important in London, with its position as an economic powerhouse and its transport systems. But although 40% of FTSE 250 companies have their corporate HQ within Greater London, as outsourcing matures many of them will not even know (or care) where their IT activities are taking place.

IT work now ensures that geographic flexibility is still a major factor. As cyber-sourcing matures, so applications systems can be developed in China, managed and hosted in Grimsby and supported in India.

Geographic flexibility became far more important, and often a necessity, during the downturn in the IT market in 2001-2004. Although the market has now picked up, with many areas seeing demand outstrip supply, staff simply cannot afford to ignore the growing importance of being flexible.

Changes in the global economy over the past 10 years have ensured that CIO and senior level "fiefdoms" have largely broken down. The strategic level decision-makers for IT within international organisations are not always based nationally, necessitating travel and a flexible approach to where people work.

These global forces mean that to be successful in this changing world, IT professionals should embrace rather than shy away from this change. Wherever you choose to base yourself, you will never be immune from these global forces.

To seize opportunities to improve your career, you should be willing to relocate and travel as the needs of a role dictate.

For some, this will be a means to climb further up the ladder to CIO; for others it will be about protecting their position in a market where business demands flexibility and will achieve it with or without you.

The job may require a temporary move, forcing you to live in a hotel for three weeks, or an international relocation lasting several years. Not only will this demonstrate your commitment and adaptability to future employers, but the skills gained will prove invaluable. Indeed, they are some of the most sought-after in the current climate.

The alternative is to ignore the issue of geographic flexibility completely, but this might even endanger your existing job and make re-employment much more difficult.

Sam Gordon is principal consultant, executive IT, at recruitment firm Harvey Nash

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