Unusual Data and Other Information

About changing jobs, using the Internet and starting your own company

by Greg Hutchins

Instead of writing about any specific topic this month, here are some random, sometimes unusual, thoughts on work, jobs and careers.

The bottom line is that the rules have changed. Don't follow the feel-good paths for employment. Think out of the box, and explore some out-of-the-way paths to your new job.

If you're thinking of changing jobs, do it now. The New York Times says the jobless rate in the United States has hit a 29-year low. What's happening? Hiring is stronger in the vast service economy, while manufacturers are tightening their belts by laying off workers. Employers are settling for less than they want because of the strong economy. Job opportunities vary widely from industry to industry, but everyone feels pretty good.

One telling fact is that the number of people who voluntarily quit their jobs has jumped to 13.5%, the highest level in a year and a half. This is the best time in almost two generations to jump ship. The sidebar is a snapshot of what's happening in today's job market. For once, many of us have the upper hand.

The next question you may have is: Go where? Explore the Internet for tips. Web sites for job hunting include www.career.com; www.careermag.com; www.monster.comwww.careermosaic.com; www.careerpath.com; www.asq.org  (ASQ's members-only site).

Many stories tell of people hitting the jackpot when searching for contracts and jobs on the Net. One friend saw an ISO 9000 opportunity, responded and ended up with a lucrative multiplant contract. The job-mating ritual goes something like this: A company sees your resume and is interested. A representative calls, exchanges pleasantries and interviews you.

You may have to take a diagnostic test to check for knowledge, corporate fit and psychological alignment. If you make it to this stage, you may get an offer or--for higher level positions--there's the critical face-to-face interview.

If you've been with a company for more than five years, change your perceptions and expectations of this new job market. Job hunting rules have even changed, whether you're looking for a permanent position or consulting work. What to wear should not be an earth-shattering question, but it is.

I used to err on the side of caution and wear a dark suit, starched white shirt and tie. That's much too much in some companies, particularly in Silicon Valley where I, for one, go casual. No way you say. Well here's a little unusual data: Four out of 10 job candidates show up for interviews in casual attire.

So, you're really smart and gung-ho for business. You want to kick-start your career with a blue-chip MBA. Great idea. Competition to get in is real stiff. One in 10 applicants is accepted. But the rewards are great because the degree gets you on an organization's fast track and opens many doors. I know some brain-dead Ivy League MBA graduates who, 20 years later, are still making big bucks riding on their pedigrees.

The median starting income for the 867 1997 Harvard University MBA graduates (annual tuition about $25,000) was $115,000. For the 756 who got their MBAs from Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania (tuition about $23,200), the figure was $130,000. About 99% had jobs before they graduated.

So, you've been there and done that. You have a killer idea and think it might be worth a million or--let's think big--billion dollars. Go for it. Start your business. There are billions of dollars chasing great ideas. This is the right time. Look at the folks putting a "com" after the name of their companies and playing the game. Your idea is funded, germinates, gets IPOed (initial public offering of stock) and launches a billion-dollar company. And you don't even have to make a profit. Look at Amazon.com, E-bay, Priceline.com and so on. Great idea, right timing and lots of venture money; no profits necessary.

GREG HUTCHINS is principal of Quality Plus Engineering, a Portland, OR, process and project management company and the author of Working It: The Rules Have Changed, available through ASQ Quality Press (item P740). He is a Senior Member of ASQ. Members wishing to discuss quality profession and career challenges with Hutchins and other ASQ members should visit ASQ's members-only Web site at www.asq.org, then click on forums and follow the instructions to the career forum.

Today's Job Market

  • The unemployment rate at the time this was written as 4.3%.
  • About 63% of employers say the job candidate has the upper hand.
  • Only 13% of companies say they have the upper hand.
  • The average number of job offers for male college undergrads is 2.65, while the figure is 2.53 for females.
  • About 40% of workers say they would change jobs for slightly higher pay.
  • Nearly 90% of companies say there is a worker shortage.

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