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
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
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
Will your skills be worth more or less to your current employer in 5 years?
Have you had opportunities to learn and grow?
Are your co-workers committed to doing quality work?
Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
Does the mission of your company make you feel like your work is important?
People who change jobs do so because they perceive that they gain greater
autonomy, authority, challenge, and income.
Stay with a company where you feel you can make a difference; otherwise
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
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:
Myth: Older workers have more absenteeism than younger ones. In
fact, time lost for all reasons decreases with age. The highest absenteeism
rate is for the under 35 group. If you’re looking and you’re older, stress
the strengths of experience in terms of judgment, accomplishments, and
maturity; above all have a passion for the opportunity.
Myth: Performance and productivity decrease with age. Studies have
time and again proven this untrue. In fact, having older people on staff
often increases the productivity of younger workers, and there is no difference
in time needed to learn new computer skills, assuming a similar experience
Myth: Younger workers lack motivation. Most younger workers are
motivated by a fast pace and a true sense that they are contributing in
a very meaningful way. They will stick with jobs they love and quickly
leave those they don’t.
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
“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:
Traditional pension plans in many cases have been replaced by more portable
401k plans, thereby reducing some of the financial risk of change.
Owing to today’s strong economy, people feel they can go ahead and make
a change, and that if it proves to be a mistake, another job can be found
The Internet, with its promise of thousands of jobs just a few keystrokes
away, plays its part.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.