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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2003

When hunting for tech work, think like an investor

By Andrea Kay
Gannett News Service

If there is one group of workers I hear from the most about how lousy the job market is, it's technology folks. Which is understandable because the tech industry has been one of the hardest hit in terms of downsizing. But the industry is far from jobless.

Innovation is the name of the game in this industry when it comes to its survival and growth. And the same goes with your job search.

Here are several strategies to help you be more innovative:

First, start thinking like a smart investor. A smart investor looks for smart companies. These are companies that, according to David Kirkpatrick's article in Fortune, have managed to turn up fertile soil by "taking tech's inescapable ... margin-mangling trends — falling prices, standardization and corporate frugality — and turning them into engines of growth."

This is a company like Salesforce.com, which sells sales-force automation software, and whose CEO says it will grow to $100 million in revenues this year.

It rents its software over the Internet for $70 a month and has 6,500 customers. Their main competitor "sells a similar product that costs thousands of dollars per person up front" and is expected to drop 19 percent in sales, according to the article.

In other words, look for companies that are creating growth by benefiting customers more than investors.

These are companies who think beyond their products and "get in their customers' doors to help remake their work, their way of doing business and their industries," says the article. Look for the growing companies — the ones "that have learned to make the downturn work for customers."

Smart investors are no longer looking at just the best tech companies. They now look at the best companies using technology — the ones putting in systems that help come up with new business models. As a job hunter in the tech industry, you can be hunting around for that, too.

Another thing: Keep your eye on where the need for technology exists.

Many of my clients have found jobs in the financial services and healthcare industries, which are working hard to automate business processes. They need people like you.

Look at areas of the economy that are growing, such as information security, disaster-recovery planning, wireless broadcast technology, Web services, voice-over Internet protocol and information management.

And don't forget about e-commerce companies. "The ones that understand what consumers want and can deliver it are still growing at a rate that few other consumer businesses their size have ever attained," says the article.

Signs of recovery seem to be there. Many experts see a stabilization in job cutting, with the weakest telecommunications companies out of business or a part of larger ones.

Realistically, some jobs in the industry may never come back as companies send them abroad, where labor is cheaper.

All the more reason you need to think ahead of the curve, track companies and segments of the economy that are thriving, and think, "Where would a smart investor put his or her money?" Then go knock on their door yourself.

Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of "Greener Pastures: How To Find a Job in Another Place" and other books on job-hunting.