Focusing your efforts on jobs in growing industries and demonstrating how your work has generated revenue are just two simple ways to distinguish yourself from the rest of the job seekers competing for positions in a down economy.
Most of the job search engines, career sites and economists agree that the top industries for 2008 include
* Health care
* Federal government
* Legal (attorneys)
* Aerospace manufacturing
* International business
* Security (physical and systems)
Experts from the executive placement industry recommend selecting two or three industries along with the region(s) where you are willing to live, and then selecting the top ten firms you’ll target based on your industry and location criteria. Focusing your attention on a shortlist of prospective employers (as opposed to following up on every job ad you see) will make your research more manageable and will make it easier for you to identify the key decision-makers inside those companies with whom you need to connect.
It’s important to be realistic about the industries and firms you’re choosing. In my own job search, I initially attempted to change industries from financial services to defense. But after four months of disappointing results, I learned how difficult it is to overcome the new security clearance requirements enacted after 9/11—especially in today’s economic climate. That lost time sapped my finances and a bit of my confidence. Luckily, I was able to recharge and rebuild my plan over the holidays. My new plan included evaluating the types of firms and business environments I enjoy working in beyond just top-ranked corporations. I also significantly reduced the time I spent searching for positions outside of my immediate region, since my relocation costs have repeatedly been cited by prospective employers as cause for dropping me from consideration over the past few months.
Within the IT profession, the areas of specialization in highest demand today include
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* IT management
* IT consulting
* Wired telecom
* ISPs and Web search portals
* Internet publishing and broadcasting
* Lead application developers and Web design professionals
* Data warehousing, data modelers and business intelligence analysts
* Senior administrators (DBA, network, security)
The highest paid individuals in these specializations are those who have earned industry certifications and possess in-depth technical and managerial experience, according to reCareered’s Rosenberg. So a useful tactic in finding a new job is to expand your subject matter expertise in those key technologies, which can include earning an industry-rated certification or master’s degree. If you lack technical certifications or advanced degrees, you can still impress cost-conscious employers by presenting yourself as a lower cost, increasing-value team player. Demonstrating your commitment to your industry and specialization with ongoing, self-directed (read, self-paid) training towards key certifications impresses employers.
4. Consider different business environments.
There are many more job opportunities than most people realize. In addition to the large national firms that the Dow Jones and Fortune magazine track, there are numerous other business environments to consider, such as startups, spin-offs and fast growing midsize companies. These organizations may be hiring more staff than traditional Fortune 500 companies. Also consider nonprofits and the public sector. In a down economy, some of the largest job growth comes from federal, state and local governments.
David P. Winston, a principal with Heidrick & Struggles, advises executives not to discount startups. “Many candidates have shied away from venture-backed firms as too volatile, but they fail to consider the potential career benefits of such a firm,” he says. “Venture-backed companies can serve as a stepping stone, an opportunity to learn (or expand) a key skill, or to explore a career interest,” he says.
What’s more, the impression of startups’ volatility is more stereotype, born of the dotcom-bust, than reality, according to leaders in that industry. In fact, venture capital insiders don’t see the industry pulling back in this recession the way they did during the dotcom bust. Tim Tonella, CEO of MatchStar Venture Search, says that venture-funded firms in their second and third round of funding in particular are generally very good opportunities for executives with experience in business growth and risk management. After all, startups and venture-funded companies often require experienced leadership to take them to the next level.
Each of these business environments—startups, midsize firms and the public sector—require a unique mindset and attitude. For example, smaller, entrepreneurial firms call for flexible individuals who can change their priorities on a dime and who operate effectively in environments without a lot of process. Some people thrive on the energy of a startup and the chance to wear multiple hats, while others are frustrated by what they perceive as an unfocused or chaotic environment. Job seekers need to decide which environment is right for them and then convince prospective employers in interviews that their personality and work habits are a good fit for the business environment and culture, says Winston.
Being open to new environments requires self-examination. Consider what you’ve liked and disliked about the corporate cultures you’ve worked in. Also, ask yourself the standard interview questions: What is your ideal job? Describe your best (and worst) bosses. What do you look for in a new employer? Your answers to these questions will help you determine which environment is best for you.