Categorized | Job Hunting

Skilled dot-commers should feel fine

Posted on 01 October 2008

It may be hard to believe, but the world hasn’t really come crashing down on laid-off dot-commers. In the midst of economic adversity, opportunities persist. If you have the right attitude, skills, and experience in the tech and sales arena, you may still be in demand.

But make no mistake: It’s still a jungle out there, says Steve Baldwin, former Net worker and co-author of NetSlaves: Tales of Working the Web. His book chronicles the adventures of dot-commers who thought they had found their dreams and suffered through nightmares instead.

Baldwin lived and breathed the frenetic dot-com lifestyle. His work and social life didn’t extend much beyond “Silicon Alley” in New York City, a neighborhood so dubbed for its dozens of new media start-ups.

“The graveyard of deceased dot-coms gets more crowded every month,” says Baldwin. All indicators point to more of the same for the near future. Tech stocks have plummeted. Since September 1999, the market boom has turned into the deepest bear market for technology stocks in a generation.

According to the Massachusetts-based research company IDC, Internet stocks won’t come back for a couple of years. IDC’s Predictions 2001 reports: “The stock run-up in 1998 and 1999 was based on an IPO feeding frenzy. Valuations were based on deal scarcity rather than the potential to create realizable gains. The Internet crash of 2000 has sobered up a new generation of investors and stock market analysts.”

What’s the Good News?
Dot-coms may be hurting, but the survivors are desperate for hardcore geeks and salespeople, according to Stacie Blair, president of The Pacific Firm, a California search firm specializing in technology. “Practically all dot-coms are looking for database, software, and systems architects,” Blair says, “as well as product development people.”

On the B2B (business-to-business) side, Blair sees a need for software engineers and techies with supply-chain management experience. The demand for salespeople is equally strong. Once a product or service is developed, it must be sold–making techies and salespeople equal partners in the selling equation.

The demand for marketing staff, writers, and designers has plummeted dramatically–and so has available compensation. Many laid-off workers with big ideas and strategic visions are having a rough time matching the salaries they once took for granted. They now commit to jobs at drastically reduced salaries. Blair tells marketing and business development personnel to avoid going the headhunter route in search of a job. You may be ignored because the real money is in placing techies and salespeople. “You stand a better chance by approaching companies directly,” she advises. But be careful! Even if you have high-demand skills, steer clear of dot-coms that promise the world but can’t really deliver.

On the other hand, says Jackie Riley, “Don’t close the door entirely on Internet start-ups.” Riley is an executive recruiter with Lynne Palmer Inc., a New York publishing search firm. “Many well-funded start-ups stand an excellent chance of making it. The dot-com shakeout is just an expected cleansing of a still-emerging industry. It’s only a matter of time before it redefines itself with stronger and more resilient players than their predecessors.”

Success Strategies
Former dot-com employees ought to pursue companies with a strong Internet or e-market presence, but not avoid “old-economy” businesses. “Dot-commers are valuable because they bring an incredible work ethic after months of working inhuman hours,” says Baldwin. They’re also resilient because most of them worked under inept managers who changed their minds hourly. And they bring advanced Internet technology skills.”

Former dot-com staffers also understand what it takes to get a business off the ground. Many learned the hard way. Failure can be a powerful lesson, says Susan Woodward, former chief economist for Offroad Capital, an online venture capital firm in San Francisco. Dot-commers “have what it takes to launch a business of their own,” she says.

Finally, another potential job source may be CRM (Customer Relationship Management) companies. They’re constantly looking for entry-level and experienced candidates with advanced technical skills to work the help desk as customer service representatives (CSRs). Salaries will be a lot lower than they were paid at dot-coms, but they improve quickly as you move up the company ladder. If nothing else, it’s an excellent interim job until you find something else. You can enjoy the kind of security that was scarce in the dot-com sector.

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