Image: Jack Wallen

If you are just now ready to graduate from college, I feel for you. The job market is already overrun by applicants seeking the best of the best… and even the second best of the best. The descriptor “cutthroat” doesn’t do the market justice. And in the coming year, this will only be made worse by companies desperate to recover from failed social media and a glut of competition.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared. With a bit of planning you can ensure that your navigation of the murky waters of the 2016 IT job market is as smooth as possible. To help you out with that, I have 10 predictions I believe will drive the IT field next year.

1: Network systems and data communications analysts will top the field

This should come as no surprise, as network systems and data analysis have become the foundation upon which business is built. However, as we see continued growth in the likes of streaming services, the Internet of Things, and big data analytics, networking and data will become even more crucial to the enterprise. Anyone with high-level skills in either field will be valuable.

2: Internet of Things will become the Internet of Everything

When the Internet of Things began evolving, it was met with a laugh and a shrug… mostly because no one had a clue what it was. Now we know. And we know its importance in the scope of technology. In the coming year, the Internet of Things will explode with even more technological breakthroughs that promise to “smarten” every aspect of our lives. With that in mind, those looking to expand their resumes will need to consider the Internet of Things as the horizon to gaze upon.

3: Freelance will be on the rise

Companies will continue to look for ways to cut costs. I believe that 2016 will see a dramatic rise in the world of freelance—everything from development to design to data analysis… just about any IT specialty that doesn’t require an onsite presence. What does this mean for a number of job seekers? A lack of benefits and less than ideal job security, but quite a lot more freedom.

4: Social media 1.0 will fade away

Facebook and Twitter, as we know them now, will die. In fact, I have been claiming that Facebook has “stripped the social out of social media” for a while now and made it more and more difficult for companies and artists to promote their products. Within the realm of IT and the job market, that may not be a bad thing. As social networking attempts to redefine itself, it will be on the lookout for new ways to bring people together and to bring people and businesses together. As you wind up the end of 2015, gather your best ideas and start creating apps and services geared toward building Social Media 2.0.

5: The first generation of “mobile-only” users will disrupt the market

It never ceases to amaze me that an entire generation of users will opt out of the desktop or laptop experience and interact (and even work) solely via mobile devices. This means a number of things: 1) The sites you maintain must be mobile friendly. 2) You will have to know mobile devices as well as you know desktops. 3) Wireless security will be critical. Without a sound understanding of mobile technology, you could find yourself left behind in 2016.

6: Multimedia will drive technology

It used to be that games drove technology. I’m fairly confident that 2016 will begin to see a shift in the landscape, with multimedia becoming one of the primary drivers of technology. As streaming services continue to expand, the need to grow network backbones, security, reliability, and redundancy will increase. When data pipes fail, people lose their primary source of entertainment (as well as the ability to work). Couple this with the need to develop better and better compression tools, players, and curation apps and you can see how the field could easily grow.

7: Mobile payment systems will drive up the value of security expertise

By the end of 2015, chip and pin cards should be the norm in the United States. Add to this the continued rise of Apple Pay and Android Pay, and mobile payment systems could easily drive up the need for businesses to further tighten network security. It’s not like we needed yet another reason to clamp down. But now that more and more companies will be accepting mobile payments, they will be on the lookout for security all-stars. If you’re on the fence as to what you should focus on in the remainder of the year, this might be your ticket.

8: Political cyber warfare will ramp up dramatically

I hate writing this, but the clues have been scattered throughout the year. Politically driven cyber warfare will see a massive rise in the coming year. The implications of this are far reaching. Security, backups, redundancy… so many specialties in the field of IT will be in high demand, all driven by fear of attack. And this won’t fall only onto the shoulders of government agencies. Companies of all sizes will need to batten down the hatches, keep up with patches, and secure all the latches. Otherwise… your data could be fair game.

9: Big data becomes bigger data, increasing the need for engineers who specialize in massive databases

If you think big data is big now, just wait until 2016, when the Internet of Everything has expanded to nearly every device and service imaginable, Social Media 2.0 arrives, and mobile payment increases dramatically. Big data requires specialized skill sets, heavily focused on managing massive databases. If you want to land something seriously demanding, something with the potential of incredible payoff, think Bigger than Big.

10: Prospective employees must begin to think creatively, as businesses become desperate to entice customers

Thanks to the crash of Social Media 1.0, businesses will be clamoring for the next big thing. Businesses will have to start thinking creatively if they want to bring in new customers (especially those of the millennial generation). For that, they will need fresh ideas, newer and more connected apps, and staff ready to focus a creative lens on development and evolution.

Your job strategy

The new year is almost upon us. If you know you’ll be back in the job market, I would highly recommend giving some thought to these predictions for 2016. Although it’s impossible to predict with any more accuracy than a weatherman predicting rain in Louisville, KY, the trends are there and the signs all point to change.

What are your plans for the 2016 job market? Will you stay put? Will you reach out for something new?

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10 predictions for the IT job market in 2016