Information Today
Volume 17, Number 2 • February 2000
• Hiring Line •
Changing Jobs? It’s a Changing Market
Our industry is rife with movement; here are some tips for job seekers 
by Richard Ream


[Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first of four planned “Hiring Line” columns, written this month by Richard Ream. Hiring Line is intended to offer practical advice and useful resources for those in the information industry contemplating a job change, as well as coverage of employment trends for both job seekers and employers in this changing industry. Ream is a principal in RMC Associates, a recruitment firm that focuses on the information industry, as well as knowledge management and employee training. His background includes 8 years as vice president of worldwide sales and services with Dialog/Knight Ridder International.]  

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
—Lewis Carroll,
Through the Looking Glass

 Often entrenched in our thinking is the belief that career planning is logical, linear, and indeed planned. People who are reluctant to answer questions like “What do you want to do?” (“… when you grow up” is, of course, implied) are often described as undecided or indecisive. True, there was always good old George who knew from the start that being a radiologist was his true calling. But for most of us, answering requires us to wrestle with the complex question about our role in an increasingly complicated workplace. So in this world of downsizing, rightsizing, and capsizing, there are things you should think about and take action on—assuming you’re in a situation somewhat more stable than Alice’s in Through the Looking Glass and somewhat less stable than good old George’s. Here are some questions and points to ponder as you consider your own employment situation: Adults tend to reevaluate their career/life goals every 6 to 8 years. Most who go on to make a change typically feel they have gained a great deal, along the lines of the sixth point above. Change can also be driven by a desire for quality-of-life issues and a sense of greater control over one’s destiny.

So are you ready to consider (or do circumstances require you to consider) getting a new job? Read on.
 

Addressing Age Bias
Since we have put the word “adult” out there, let’s take a quick look at the bone-deep fear many of us have regarding age bias. Does age bias exist in the workplace? You bet! You’ll most likely encounter it if you’re younger than 29 or older than 50, but it can also be unique to a given environment of a specific company. The good news is that most perceptions behind the effects of age on employment are not true. Here is a short list of myth busters:
 

Regardless of age, show a prospective employer how you can be a loyal employee. If you are young, stress your special skills, ambition, energy, and motivation. Older job seekers should trade more on accomplishments by citing specific examples and experience that relate to the opportunity at hand. In the end your attitude will influence the hirer as much as your skills and accomplishments.
 
Career-Building Resources for the Curious, Optimistic, and Flexible Information Professional

Bolles, Richard. What Color Is Your Parachute, 2000. Ten Speed Press, 1999.

“Think Tank,” a column in CIO Magazine written by Thomas Davenport, professor of management information systems at Boston University and director of the Andersen Consulting Institute for Strategic Change. To sample Davenport’s columns, go to http://www.cio.com/archive/indexfront.html and enter “Think Tank” in the search box.

Kanchier, Carole. Dare to Change Your Job—and Your Life. Jist Works, Inc., 1995.

“Career Search” articles by Dave Murphy in the San Francisco Examiner. To sample Murphy’s articles, go to http://www.sfgate.com/search and enter “Dave Murphy Examiner Career Search Editor” (“find all the words”) in the search box.

Nemko, Marty, Paul Edwards, and Sarah Edwards. Cool Careers for Dummies. IDG Books Worldwide, 1998.

Jacobs, Eleanor. 10 Pearls of Wisdom: Achieving Your Goals & Capturing Your Dreams. Kodansha International, 1998.

Mort, Mary-Ellen. “An Information Industry Survival Guide,” a special information industry jobs feature in the November 1998 issue of Information Today. The article and resource are archived at http://www.infotoday.com/it/nov98/jobs.htm and are still definitely worth a look. So, of course, is Mort’s Web site, JobStar: California Job Search Guide (http://jobstar.org). (Note: The site’s former name was JobSmart.)

The “Careerbuilder” Web site (http://www.careerbuilder.com). This is one of the premier job-site destinations, with excellent references and articles. Look under the tab “Working Life” and check out the “Web Guide” for articles expanding on the themes of this month’s Hiring Line.

Opportunity Is Knocking
Careers are linear in foresight but circuitous in hindsight, and chance favors the prepared mind. What you need as you plan yours is to sustain curiosity, optimism, flexibility, and open-mindedness. The trends in employment are very favorable. People who try new opportunities aren’t necessarily seen as job hoppers anymore, but rather as risk takers. Typical employees in Silicon Valley will have worked in 10 different jobs by the time they are 45. Granted, the rest of the world may look substantially different than Silicon Valley, but not for long.

Many career experts would say that today’s trend of short job tenure is a reflection of the downsizing of the late 1980s and early ’90s—a phenomenon that shattered people’s perception that hard work would be repaid with the potential for lifetime employment. But there are other factors contributing to the short-job-tenure trend as well, including the following:

The prospects for information professionals are outstanding. In the U.S., the expected increase in information-science-related jobs is 118 percent between now and 2006, while the number of graduates planning to go into information science is expected to increase by only 4 percent. While graduate schools of business crank out young M.B.A.s rapidly, many of those new grads lack an understanding of what constitutes valuable content. There is a tremendous opportunity now to position information professionals as in-house consultants who have the critical mission of educating new business professionals on how to evaluate content. And this is only one example of how or why your job may change. Technology is driving much of the opportunity in the field of information management and knowledge systems. In today’s environment, an understanding of library science, database and record management, and system design and implementation is essential. The challenge is to stay current.

So whether you are attracted to a career that involves interaction and mentoring of fellow employees, or you’re more inclined to a systems design and management role, open-mindedness and curiosity are key to securing opportunity in uncertain times. Change brings both opportunity and uncertainty.

Curiosity, optimism, and flexibility may land you on a career path not actively contemplated. Don’t let barriers to change such as fear of failure (or success) or fear of the uncertain stand in the way of evaluating opportunity. By taking action consistently on your natural curiosity, you may well place yourself in situations that will transform unexpected events into career opportunities. In the end, the road that takes you there is often one that is not easily recognized at the beginning of the journey.
 
 

Richard Ream, formerly with KRI Dialog, is a principal in RMC Associates. His e-mail address is rich.ream@rmcassoc.com.


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