There are times when we all might wish to get a small
glimpse of the future. Then again, we might not be very happy
with what we see. Thank goodness we can only make suppositions and guesses
about the coming year, otherwise we might not want to face it at all. Regardless
of whatever comes your way, though,, here are a few thoughts to help you in
your high-tech career planning for 2004 and make it the best year possible.
The bottom of the hill
While we will probably continue to see layoffs in the high-tech job sector,
it appears that things may bounce back within the first few months of 2004.
If the economy rebounds even a small amount, this will drive the need for
more high-tech workers. If this falters, job gains/losses will probably be
much the same as they are now.
High-tech manufacturing jobs, though, are in dire straights. Manufacturing
is abandoning the US in alarming numbers. If you work in chip fabrication,
PC assembly or any other “hands-on” high-tech manufacturing job,
you could be in for some bad times. It would be worthwhile to invest some
time, and even money, in re-training for some form of high-tech service job
to provide a buffer.
I am somewhat concerned about the lack of manufacturing capability remaining
in the US. It seems a dangerous precedent to turn over all manufacturing to
others. The opportunities for price gouging and price fixing seem large and
threatening. I will have to leave it to wiser minds than I to assess the true
danger of this, but to me, it seems a bad precedent.(dangerous twice in one
With open eyes
Even with an upturn in high-tech jobs, I think employers are going to be a
lot more circumspect about the compensation packages they are offering to
new hires. Gone are the days of the “tech stars” with company
cars, flextime schedules, the “irrational exuberance” of the DotCom
days. Be aware that some companies may even be purposely “low-balling”
their offers in an effort to trim costs while still expanding their workforce.
Do your research and keep abreast of current salary levels and benefits packages
so that you can make good decisions about any job offer you might receive.
Don’t dismiss the possibilities of working for yourself in the coming
year. Due in a large part to the DotCom fall out, high-tech workers have lost
the respect of their peers in many companies. Some managers seem intent on
punishing high-tech employees for having the temerity to even think about
larger career goals. You may find that working as an independent might be
the only way to regain some control over your career. If you really want to
have some control over your work hours, work decisions and choice of projects,
working as an independent could be the answer.
Goals for 2004
In the days after January 1, there are some important goals you should be
thinking about and acting upon to help make this year better than last.
Protect your health care
One of the most troubling issues recently has been the systematic reduction
or removal of health care benefits across the board. We recently suffered
two strikes in Los Angeles due almost entirely to this issue.Take some time
to analyze your current health coverage. Are you getting everything you
need? Are there ways to reduce your costs while maintaining the level of
coverage you require? What happens if you lose or change jobs? Can you afford
the COBRA payments to maintain your coverage? Seek out independent assistance
in analyzing your health care benefits, if you can. Remember, it is always
best to think about these issues now, before you really need them.
Education and training
Whether you engage in self-driven education or take formal classes, you
need to be expanding your skills on a daily basis. The more skills you have,
the more easily you can shift jobs or find a new one. Don’t underestimate
the power of education to improve your high-tech career. Read books, magazines
and the Internet and immerse yourself in the possibilities of your high-tech
Work for yourself, even inside of a company
The single most important way to protect and build your career is to think
like an independent even when you are working for a larger company. Do whatever
it takes to insure that you and your career are benefiting as much as your
employer. Employer/employee loyalty has disintegrated over the last few
years and you need to take direction to insure that you are building a career
while also providing a service to your employer. Anyone that expects their
company to look out for their best interests is putting their career at
While there might not be a lot to look forward to in 2004 right now, you can
never tell what changes we will see as it progresses. Regardless of what happens,
if you are focused on your goals and concentrate on adapting to change, you
and your high-tech career can still flourish.
about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys,
California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining
the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at email@example.com