Comparing the Bubble Burst of 2000 to Today’s Job Search/Economy

A few days ago I wrote Time Magazine on Labor Day, Unemployment and Stress and Teena Rose asked a really interesting question in the comments:

I have a question for you Jason … and if anyone can answer, you can, seeing as how you have an IT background. Do you know how long it took for the IT industry to realign when that bubble burst? I’m sure there wasn’t 15 million IT professionals (was there?) unemployed back then, but …

Very interesting!  I remember the time well but I was in a secluded little town with a nice stable job… I could essentially watch from the sidelines and be glad I didn’t pursue my original dream of heading straight to Austin, Texas to work at Dell or something like that (I heard there were a ton of unemployed IT people in Austin during that time).

I asked my friend Heather Gardner, who is a recruiting professional in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area – she gets a terrific perspective of what’s going on in the job search world from that perspective.  Here’s what she had to say:

heather gardnerI’m not sure what the “right” answer is to Teena’s question, but here’s what I would say if we were having a chat. First, there has never been such economic downsizing since I became a recruiter…. Even the bust does not compare with what we are currently experiencing.

Unemployment is high, job losses are growing with more to come and what’s not being reported but has an effect on the economy is the companies cutting back on people’s hours (furloughs) not only in State & local government but the private sector.  This drastically affects a household on the financial edge to begin with….. regardless of what happened with the bust, this is much different.

Okay, now for the good news.  Just because it’s bad out there doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find a job. There ARE people getting jobs, finding multiple opportunities for employment and entrepreneurs who are thriving in this market, yep, thriving.

What I see working for job hunters who are successful is that they think outside of the box, understand that they are in a sales role now and they don’t give up.  If something’s not working they make changing, they qualify openings to make sure they can position themselves as the “right” candidate and they are stealth networkers.  The IT Manager who just got laid off, he/she needs to have several versions of his/her resume:

  1. A resume to position himself/herself as the perfect candidate for another IT Manager position
  2. Another resume to position himself as a software developer – something he/she has experience in and can do again.  This resume now downplays the management background so that he/she can easily be considered for another completely different role.
  3. A resume that might be geared towards IT project management.  He/She many have done it in their IT Manager role, but not necessarily had the title.

Now this IT Manager can open up doors for a variety of different career roles.  The good news now is that this IT Manager that just got laid off has increased his/her chances of landing a role that they are perfectly qualified to do.

I think the best approach to this job market is NOT to compare to anything we’ve experienced before, but rather think outside the box. The more resourceful you are the better your odds are of landing that perfect role, even in this down economy.

I know people getting jobs right now…. I know companies that are hiring…. It’s possible!

Isn’t Heather Gardner a breath of fresh air?  You can follow her blog here or follow her on Twitter here.

4 thoughts on “Comparing the Bubble Burst of 2000 to Today’s Job Search/Economy”

  1. Such a timely post and she’s absolutely right. Be resourceful and don’t assume that your resume’ is a “one size fits all.” You must customize your resume’ to highlight how you are the best fit for a position. Customizing isn’t re-writing the entire resume’. Sometimes, I’ve made changes in my profile, job descriptions, and core competency section to highlight some of the skills that I have that support the job posting. Look for the noun and noun phrases in the job posting. Those are usually the words that are set up in search parameters on resume’ scanning systems. IF you have those skills and abilities listed, make sure that they are on your resume’. Don’t assume that an employer is going to “read between the lines” to see if you are the best fit. In today’s economy, it’s up to you to make sure you demonstrate to the employer how you are the best fit.

  2. Interesting point about having different versions of your resume. I had to do exactly that when I was laid off in the Spring of ’08 (before the current mess.) I definitely got discriminated against for being overqualified thus tailoring your resume to the position was the only way to get a callback.

  3. Absolutely on the spot. In addition, what I tell my friends/network who are looking is to look at new/adjacent industries. For example, there is tremendous growth in the alternative energy industry now. How can you apply your skills to needs in that industry? As Heather says, you are in sales now, sell yourself.

  4. I facilitate a job transition group in Eden Prairie, MN and have since 2001. The economic downturn which began in 2000 was the result of several factors. One was the easy access to venture capital, another the Telecom Deregulation Act of 1994 and the over building it encouraged, yet another the impact of billions of dollars in IT spending being sucked out of the marketplace by non-productive Y2K remediation. All of this was intensified when 9/11 came along. We started our group shortly thereafter and began seeing an influx of IT (infrastructure and COBOL programmers), transportation (airlines) and hospitality (hotel, travel) professionals. One of the biggest moderating factors was the housing market. New home construction was decent and low interest rates drove a record number of refinances. I know many IT professionals who abandoned IT and became loan officers or realtors. By late 2003/early 2004 the impact of 9/11 had subsided and IT leaders realized they were falling behind their global competitors in IT spending/investment. That’s when I saw the market for IT come back. However, the resurgence what is application development rather than infrastructure. The forklift upgrade to IP networks in the 90’s was over. New network capacity was being driven only by organic growth of traffic. I find it highly unlikely that we will ever see the money spent in the 90’s on network infrastructure again in our lifetime, barring the development of a totally new network transport technology.

    At that time we were averaging 30 – 40 jobseekers every Monday morning. Today, we are seeing 150+ jobseekers every Monday morning including a steady stream of 40 – 50 new people every week. The one industry that had been somewhat immune was healthcare, but with the increases in the number of uninsured and the $$$ they cost the system, even nurses are getting laid off.

    In addition, corporate America continues to restructure, flattening org charts, eliminating entire levels of middle management. Face reality, those positions will NEVER return. If you are an out of work IT manager or director you better reposition yourself as an individual contributor right now. If you are early in your career, never remove yourself very far from a hands on role. Managers today have a target on their backs. The older they get, the more senior ($) they get, the larger the target becomes. Entrepreneurship is at an unprecedented level and I believe it will continue to be the best alternative for those capable of adapting to the new economy.

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