At last week's Embedded Systems Conference in Boston I hosted a “Shop Talk” about how the economic meltdown was effecting engineers' careers. Despite the session's dreadful 7:00 AM start time, about 80 folks showed up.
I was surprised that all but a few were employed, and most had no indication that their companies would be shedding engineering jobs in the near future. “So why are you here?” I asked. The answer: fear. Fear that the economy would shudder more, or fear their outfits would trim jobs. And why would more layoffs come? Perhaps the CEOs' fears for more unsettled times. FDR was perceptive in describing what we should be afraid of.
There was a general consensus that more now than ever it's critical to keep your resume up to date. If employed, go over it quarterly, at least. Daily when looking for work. Smart people keep two kinds of files: one, a traditional resume. The second is a list of great things you've done, awards received, attaboys, and the like. Those do go stale over time, but since resumes should be limited to two pages, it's wise to mine the second for accolades specifically tuned to a particular employment opportunity.
The group acknowledged that networking remains the best way to find work. The professional on-line groups like LinkedIn are popular, but face-to-face communication is hugely important. I found that the local Chamber of Commerce was really a networking group that churned out good deeds while the members were trading a blizzard of business cards. The Chamber doesn't scale well for engineering jobs (though maybe that's different in technology Meccas like Silicon Valley). But some IEEE local chapters are a great way to meet folks, as are SPINs (Software Process Improvement Networks).
Several of the ESC group had paid their own way to attend the classes. That's a not-insignificant sum, and I sure hope they stress this on their resumes. That willingness to invest in their career is a plus in my book.
My friend Steve Leibson writes well about the subject, and several recent blog entries are must-reads for those searching for work. He posts pretty regularly, so you may have to scroll down to find the numerous entries on job-seeking. Also download my resume guide.
Then there's the fun interview tips from the hyperactive David.
Engineers hate sales and salespeople, but most of life is about selling, whether to your boss, spouse, kids or others. Recessions teach us the importance of selling yourself to prospective employers.
(Editor's Note: Jack's Embedded Poll Question for you this week is “What's your resume status?” To vote, go to the Embedded.com Home Page. )
Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is .