December 8, 2011

Start Your Engine With a Plan

There are certain indicators that I watch when I want to know which way the job market for engineers and computer scientists is going. I watch the reports from the US Department of Labor, car sales, technology hiring, state hiring, and Caterpillar sales. I think the job market is coming back faster than most people realize.

Last week the US DOL reported the jobless rate dropped to 8.6% (October 2011), down sharply from 9% in September reflecting 21 straight months of growth - more than can be accounted for by the “discouraged worker” syndrome. 140,000 jobs were created in October.

Today the US DOL reported more good news - with the number of first time claims for Unemployment Insurance at the lowest level in 9 months. The trend indicates job growth. UI claims for the week of December 3rd are down 23,000 from the previous week, bringing the total number of new claims down below 400,000 - the point at which economists indicate there is actual job growth. The growth is steady.

People are buying cars again. The six largest automakers beat Wall Street auto sales expectations. In 2011, thus far, 13.6 million cars have been sold. And the year is not over. In 2010 11.6 million cars were sold.

Technology firms are hiring again. The Silicon Valley reported a surge of 3.1% for the month of October with strong demand for technical talent at some of the most recognizable companies in the world - Apple, Linkedin, Facebook, Netflix, and Google.

Northern California companies are hiring – SynapSense, Siemens, Intel, HP, Micron, Altec, KlickNation, ASCO Power Technologies, Meridian Systems, VSP, CGI, Aerojet, NGC, POS Portal, Grid Sense, Schilling Robotics, and PMC Sierra.

Government is back in the game. The Corps of Engineers, the Department of Water Resources, Caltrans, the Air Resources Board, the CA Energy Commission, the Office of the Legislative Council, City of Roseville, and the City of Sacramento are all hiring. The government is always in the market for engineers and techies. No one has stopped paying taxes, flushing, or paying DMV license fees. Right?

Infrastructure spending is climbing again. I know because Caterpillar has had four straight quarters of outrageous sales. In January of 2011 Caterpillar reported Q4 2010 sales and revenues increased 62%, with the full year (2010) up 31%. Caterpillar profits quadrupled! Caterpillar CEO, Doug Oberhelman said, “As the global economy continued to improve, the demand for Caterpillar products increased substantially.”

Oberhelman is my favorite CEO because the good news for Caterpillar, for the past three quarters, just kept coming: Q1 2011 sales and revenues increased 57% - “We expect that the pace of world economic growth will support continued recovery in the key industries we serve. Caterpillar, along with our global dealer network, is uniquely positioned to serve our customers, who are building the infrastructure and delivering the commodities necessary for a growing world economy… we’re on a roll and in a hurry.”

Caterpillar reported 2Q 2011 sales and revenues up 37% - “Customer demand around the world continues to improve, and our sales and revenues reached an all time record in the second quarter,” said Oberhelman.

In the latest Caterpillar financial report - Q3 2011 - Oberhelman reported sales and revenues increased 41%!

What do you think the people are doing with all of those big Tonka Toys? They are building roads, bridges, buildings, dams, and rebuilding infrastructure damaged by the endless string of hurricanes and floods on the East Coast and in the Mid-Western US. They are also rebuilding Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.

Soooooooooooooo. There really are jobs and you need a plan to get yourself employed. Stop procrastinating! Get a plan together and start here with an understanding of exactly what is required.

Getting a job is a full time job that requires drive, discipline, and determination. This is true no matter what your life situation. So many people are unemployed- it is easy to believe that there are no jobs. Many people have just stopped looking, discouraged by the prospects, and discouraged by the process. The news is rife with stories of the long-term unemployed - people who have failed to ignite at graduation or whose job has flamed out with a layoff notice. It is easy to just chuck it all and give up looking, give up trying. Don’t!

Here is the risk- if you believe there are no jobs you will act accordingly. If you do not look, you will not find a job. Even in the tightest market people get jobs; you want to be one of them.

When things feel hopeless that is the time to buck up and have a plan- to create your own purpose and your own schedule. It should be an ambitious schedule with time spent on all aspects of self-improvement and self-determination. YOU DETERMINE WHAT YOUR PURPOSE IS. At any given time you can make the decision to find your purpose in life. It may not be the one you planned for a few years ago or even a few months ago; but it will be a good one if you commit yourself.

Get out of bed early. Sounds simple. But even simple things are difficult when you find yourself without purpose and depressed by the prospects. Depression is a very common affliction of job seekers. One of the best cures is to get moving early. Tumble out of bed at 6:00 am with a plan and a whole world of possibilities will occur to you. You will be taking control of your life once again.

Start your day with exercise- running, walking, biking, tennis - all things you can do on the cheap to improve your outlook and your outward appearance. Do it first thing in the morning to get the endorphin kick and clear your head. Put exercise on the schedule just like you would any other appointment. Set the alert on your phone to remind and reinforce your plan. Exercising will open your mind to the possibilities and reduce the stress and anxiety you feel about not having a job. You will start to think about what you should be doing to move on with your life.

Exercise with a partner and you have your morning office meeting right there on the trail - and you will have the support you need for your new beginning. The support and encouragement will help tremendously. Bounce your ideas as you bounce your body!

Carve out a space where you can work each day. It is amazing how just having a place to go will make you more productive. A corner of a room or Starbucks works – as long as it is a place you feel comfortable and motivated to produce.

Set your goals. Start this process by listing your long-term and your short-term goals. What do you want to accomplish over the next 3 to 6 months? What do you want to accomplish over the next 3 to 5 years? Write a "to do" list each day with your goals in mind.

Get organized! Put together a job search binder and a calendar to organize your search. Your job search is an adventure... an opportunity to explore your field, meet new people, and find openings. Be positive – people will respond accordingly.

Get help! Doing it alone is arduous at best – find a career counselor, or a career planning class or read a career-planning book – The Serious Job Seeker (free online). You need to establish a solid strategy for getting a job and this is where to start. A professional can help move the process along with better results. (You would not try to set your own broken leg would you?)

Be well informed. Read the news for the geographical area you are searching for a job in and search professional journals for exciting breakthroughs, professional activities, ideas, and leads. Develop a list of possible companies to apply with and hit their web sites. Research a minimum of ten companies on your target list each day. You will be amazed how many companies are actually hiring. You only need to find one job – right?

Network! Use your contacts to connect with people inside of the organizations that interest you. Linkedin or friends and faculty can provide you with names of persons you might connect with for more information or a company visit. Send email expressing interest in the organization and describing your qualifications. Follow up with telephone calls and schedule appointments.

Follow-up with thank you email to anyone and everyone who gives you ideas, contacts, or leads. And get used to some rejection... don’t let it stop you! Just get more creative the next time.

People are getting hired now – Do not give up!