Monday, May 23, 2011

Starting Over...

I recently had the pleasure of spending two hours with a bright group of six 40 to 60 year old unemployed New Yorkers trying to do “networking”. You know the crowd: college educated, went to work for the F500 right out of school, spent years in various jobs, worked hard, were promoted a few times, managed groups of people in various functions, honed their management skills and lost their knowledge worker skills.

Then the layoffs, the outsourcing and the cutbacks started, then the buyouts, and then they found themselves out of work with a “package” that turned out to be far less than what they needed. Today they collect unemployment insurance, apply for a job or two a week, sometimes feel they’ll never get back, explore and discard new opportunities regularly, and generally find themselves devalued and depressed. A number admit to crying when they ponder their situations. The tough love answer is: start over….

Your browser may not support display of this image. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics ( ) illustrates the issue beautifully: to get a good job today, you need to get a current education targeted to the fields where the 3+ million new high-paying job openings are.

For those of us in software, there are 175,000 jobs being created domestically for applications software engineers – mostly for web services development. (These jobs are beyond the 1.3 million US IT tech jobs still to be outsourced to developing countries by 2014, according to ).

Today, this means there are jobs for those getting familiar with the web services revolution: HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, Drupal, and Apache – mixed together with the special sauce of User Experience design. If you really want to, you can read books and sign up for classes. Invest 4 hours a day - like you used to do when you were in college - and it should take you 6 months to become a competent apprentice with these technologies.

Then put yourself out there as a very low-level knowledge worker making $15 - 20 per hour, not great but much better than the $10 per hour you currently “earn” for unemployment and still less than the $22 per hour charged by outsourcing companies for non-college educated workers in China and India. It takes work, it takes patience, it ain’t easy, it means taking a hit to your ego, and you will have to re-discover that feeling you had when you started out – not sure whether you can really do it… but you will.

There are no easy answers for the unemployed, yet this we know: mobility, the web and cloud computing are going to fuel high tech job growth, just like an aging population will generate jobs for nurses and doctors. One in ten IT jobs created in the next 5 years will stay in the US. Kids graduating from college today with knowledge of web services development are getting $50k – 110k as starting salaries. Starting over is tough, but, if you try, you will rediscover the youth and energy you still have.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. I would add that these new technologies and standards level the playing field, meaning everyone who wants to be in this space will be either learning, relearning, or unlearning.