CXO

Dot-com shakeout spells opportunity

Many dot-com staffers have found themselves without a job as more and more companies fold. But despite the prevailing gloom, Bob Weinstein says you can find opportunities if you have the right skills.


If by some misfortune you’ve joined the ranks of former dot-com staffers who are jobless because their company either went belly-up or consolidated, you aren’t alone. More fresh holes are being dug in the graveyard of deceased dot coms every month.

All indicators point to more of the same well into the first quarter of the new year—and possibly longer. It’s no secret that tech stocks have plummeted, with some doom-and-gloomers insisting that the market still hasn’t bottomed out yet. Since September 1999, the boom has turned into the harshest bear market for technology stocks in a generation.

According to the Predictions 2001 report from International Data Corp., a Framingham, MA-based technology research firm, Internet stocks won’t come back for a couple of years. IDC contends that “The stock run-up in 1998 and 1999 was based on an IPO feeding frenzy, and valuations were based on deal scarcity rather then the potential to create realizable gains. The Internet crash of 2000 has sobered up a new generation of investors and stock market analysts.”

Which, of course, has led to more dot-com workers pounding the pavement in the first quarter of 2001. That’s the bad news.

The good news? In the midst of this adversity, opportunities can still be found if you happen to have technical and/or sales skills, both of which are in high demand.

Who is in demand…
Many dot coms may be hurting, but the survivors are desperate for hardcore geeks and salespeople, according to Stacie Blair, president of The Pacific Firm, a Berkeley, CA, search firm specializing in technology.

“Practically all dot coms are looking for database, software, and systems architects and product-development people,” she said.

On the business-to-business (B2B) side, Blair says there is a need for software engineers and techies with supply-chain management experience and that the demand for salespeople is equally strong. Once the product or service is developed, it must be sold, making techies and salespeople equal partners in the selling equation.

…and who is not
The demand for marketing people, writers, and designers has plummeted dramatically—and so have their salaries. Many of the laid-off concept folks with the big ideas and strategic visions that were going to take dot coms to profitability are having a rough time matching the salaries they took for granted. Only the experienced ones are landing jobs—but at drastically reduced salaries.

Blair advises that marketing and business-development types avoid going the headhunter route in search of a job. Chances are you’ll be ignored because the real money is in placing techies and salespeople. “You stand a better chance by approaching companies directly,” she said.

Even if you have high-demand skills, don’t make the mistake of pursuing only dot-com companies. Many are teetering on the brink of disaster. However, you shouldn’t close the door on Internet companies entirely.

“Plenty of [Internet companies] are strong and have a bright future,” said Jackie Riley, an executive recruiter with Lynne Palmer, Inc., an executive search firm specializing in publishing in New York City. “Some well-funded start-ups also have an excellent chance of making it. The dot-com shakeout is just an expected cleansing of a still-emerging industry. It’s only a matter of time before it redefines itself with players stronger and more resilient than their predecessors.”

Go where you’re wanted
Riley suggests that former dot-com employees should pursue all companies that will appreciate their talents: “They bring enthusiasm and marketing skills, and they’re used to long hours.”

Dot-com workers should also check out niche job sites. “Many companies seeking specialized professionals find the talent pool on giant job boards is too small,” said Ted Elliott, president and CEO of Jobscience.com, a health-care career Web site in Oakland, CA. He claims that traffic to his site is up 25 percent since dot-com companies began laying off workers.
If you’ve recently lost your job or have been laid off due to the dot-com shakeout, tell us about it. Have you found a new job? How did you find your new job: friends, job boards, blind luck? Start a discussion or send us an e-mail.

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