A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch




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December 19, 2003

2004 Approaches

© 2003, Douglas E. Welch

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 sentence)

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 career.

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 risk.

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 douglas@welchwrite.com

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