Tough Times Ahead; hold on to your Job, if you can…

I was recently published in a few different industry publications, and some of the information was omitted, which happens... thought I would make the information available to people by teeing it up in this blog. Hope it helps

I have always advocated remaining open to opportunities, and still feel that everyone’s right to evaluate opportunities while working with an organization is a given. For over 25 years, I have consulted with senior executives recruiting and placing them in the cable, competitive telephony, wireless and now the digital media industries. During this time I have experienced numerous growth spurts and then consolidations with Cable TV Operators, Programming Services, Competitive Telephone ventures, Wireless Operators and related technology and software ventures. The technology ventures serving each of these sectors tend to be impacted like the tail of the beast, but are also excellent indicators for future potential.


As we stop and look around, the state of the economy is not exactly healthy. Our leading companies are closing shop, going into bankruptcy, cutting back, closing down divisions and in some cases thousands of people are being tossed out on the streets. Unemployment levels are at their highest point ever, in some states they can’t afford to cover costs for benefits. Some people are completely caught off-guard, and others may have seen it coming for weeks, months, or even longer in the case of an acquisition. The streets are crowded, and opportunities are not as prevalent as they have been in the past.


Our leading industry players on the Fortune 100 list include AT&T, Cisco, Comcast, Disney, Microsoft, Motorola, News Corp, Sprint-Nextel, Time Warner and Verizon all highly integrated organizations with tens of thousands of employees. The pyramid factor has narrowed the growth opportunities for many great folks who established and built these companies. Through organizational shifts, executives have been forced to either reinvent themselves or to accept more narrowly focused positions in order to survive. The General Managers of old, who were responsible for all operational aspects of a service provider, are now department heads, or have segued out of the industry. Yes, they are typically now in larger operations that have been rolled-up or merged following the acquisition. Of course, some if these former GM’s are now the Division leaders or serve in corporate staff roles.


Content ventures, technology developers and software-solution providers serving these industries have created opportunities and supported the development and enhancement of these service providers. Their status tends to be a good indicator to predict the future of the industries they serve. Competition is high domestically, and they are certainly also victims of global competition, ultimately driving margins down to almost unrealistic levels. We all have watched these ventures and relied on them to fuel growth by enabling new services and products to carriers and consumers. Over the years there has been also extensive consolidation eliminating competition in the market and acquisitions in this sector allowing companies to expand and broaden their product portfolios. These include companies like Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco (Scientific Atlanta and the trail of companies acquired by them), Disney, Ericsson, Intel, Nortel, Motorola-GI and numerous others they bought, Qualcomm and many more.


I remain concerned that business realignment with these manufacturers and technology ventures are indicators that we are in for some rocky roads ahead. Just look at the announcements by some of these leading companies regarding bankruptcy protection (Nortel) and major cutbacks, hiring freezes and layoffs announced over the past few months by numerous others (Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Siemens). In addition to these, there have been a variety of failed startups (Amp'd Mobile, Helio, NextWave, etc.), and a number of others have been displacing people at alarming numbers.


Even Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have not been spared as they cut back and eliminate groups after acquiring and merging ventures into the fold. Content ventures servicing the cable, satellite, broadband and mobile sectors also have been rolled-up and consolidated over the years. Beyond this, the mobile and broadband content and application rollout has been slower than anyone expected. Business models are still being tested, and monetizing content across all mediums has thrown the traditional guidelines in the programming world on its ear. New applications are being developed but killer apps are still few and far between. But they are coming… Content and applications appear to have good potential and opportunity for growth in the future… m-commerce, information services, digital media marketing and advertising companies, production and programming ventures, as well as software development firms have been created as the barrier of entry decreases and technology enables this sector’s growth.


While this is happening, Social Media ventures are redefining the way we network and communicate allowing us to leverage the power of Web 2.0. Generation X,Y and beyond (igeneration, Millennial’s, Net Gen’s,) are gradually coming into the financial power base, and lead the way to mass market adoption of new ways to access information, to be entertained and to connect with each other. It’s a wild and undefined frontier ahead, and like the pioneers of the past - we go into the future, and face battles resulting in death, destruction or slings and arrows from the established power base. Technology innovation is also dropping the barrier of entry for production, programming and application development. Early stage ventures will be created by those who are not digital immigrants, or naysayers, or executives positioned in larger, established, political, slow moving organizations. More will come.


As part of the business realignment talent acquisition processes have also changed for employers hiring, training and retaining their current workforce. The hundreds of companies that established these industries are now a few large organizations, with huge internal recruitment, staffing and support groups. They directly post positions on their websites, network internally and reach out to some of the employment websites (Monster, Career Builder, HotJobs by Yahoo!-see links below), and other narrowly focused industry support vehicles such as associations, and publications. Many of these publications have broadened their traditional classified sections into interactive links so people can apply to postings. In some cases, they also use external resources such as search firms. Often times, to replace someone terminated, or who leaves abruptly. Last year, for example, CFO’s with public company experience were in hot demand. Interim employment and consulting assignments were also available.


It is my personal opinion that Executive search firms will not go away, not only because internal talent acquisition groups and hiring officials still get bogged down with the selection of applicants who inundate them. Their time is spent screening or blocking, looking for faults and issues and to fend off the hoards of non-qualified applicants. Many times they lack the time and capacity to assess the true fit between an individual and the organization. That’s where external search consultants add value. Acting as talent agents on behalf of the organization. Search Firms provide the expertise to source and recruit the candidates with the right leadership capacity to increase organizational effectiveness. However, during these times of surplus people in a low demand environment search firms will be impacted. No doubt, board level, C-level and other senior executives will continue to be needed, and many of these hires will be facilitated through headhunters.


Embracing the future seems to be the only hope; we must all embrace, enable and support the development of the restructuring of the industry. The slow down in the industry is just that. It will come around. Over the past 25 years, I have personally witnessed the ebb and flow of success and downturns in these industries. Theses successes have been enabled by innovative thinkers and it is still feasible to capture funds for development, internally and externally. Downturns are inevitable. We will all need to consider reinventing ourselves, and be willing to jump into the fire head first by taking risks, learning new ways of doing things to take advantage of the technological tsunami in the social media world. Career opportunities with large established ventures will always exist, but in a consolidating or contracting industry, leaders will need to evaluate starting up companies, pursuing new ventures with high risk, in order to capture the next wave of growth ahead for new applications, products, services, technologies and entertainment.


So now what? I offer some advice, and some information, but for each group it is a bit different…


For Employees who seek positions in established companies;


1. Be focused and target your applications. Embrace the fact that your audience in these companies will screen and block, so be smart and apply for those positions where your competency is a match. You will save yourself from frustrations by reaching beyond your capabilities and experience, and don’t expect these organizations to take the leap of faith to hire you into a position you are not qualified to perform. In fact, as the competition exists, you should consider evaluating positions you are overqualified for… especially if there is growth potential, or other justification.


2. Be willing to consider less compensation, and narrower responsibility, and be open to consider relocation, with no boundaries. Reach as high as you can, but be willing to be flexible especially if you refrain from relocating, and narrow your options for personal reasons. Think long term, and evaluate decisions with the future in mind.


3. Stay up on current resources, build your network, and participate in industry forums or association activities. Become aware of the new techniques used to find talent. Use the many tools and resources that are now available to pursue these opportunities such as; job boards, company websites, search firm websites, industry association and publication links. Be informed, stay up on what is out there and depending on your interest, reach out and apply. Here are some of the many resources available to you.


a. Generalist/Broad multi-industry sites where you can find postings and apply include: Career BuilderDiceHotJobsMonsterThe LaddersNetShare and job crawlers to scan across multiple job sites such as IndeedJobsterOodle, and Simply Hired, or general search engines such as Google, are all viable resources to identify jobs, and there are more popping up every day.


b. Specific industry associations and publications that are positioned in your industry are also valuable to find postings and in many cases apply–


1. For the Wireless industry some of these links and job sites would include Cellular NewsCTIAFierce WirelessRCR WirelessUnstrungWireless Week and WIIE.


2. In the Cable Industry these Association links and job sites would include CTAMNCTANAMICSCTE Custom JobConnect™ and WICT as well as publications job boards include Broadcasting & CableCable 360 Net, CEDMultichannel News, and SmartBrief.


3. In the Digital Media space there are a number of publication sites including: ClickZMashableMocoNewsPaidContent.orgSmartBrief on Social Media, and Social Media Today. Digital Media/Web and related Job Sites include: ClickZ JobsDigital Media JobsMashable Jobs and Jobs.


c. It is also smart to apply and submit your resume on Search Firm websites so your information is available to the leading search firms; DHR InternationalHeidrick & Struggles, Korn FerryRussell ReynoldsSpencer Stuart, and Warren & Morris In some cases positions will be listed, in others you will go into the database which will be accessed when a search firm is engaged on a search. Http:// is a good resource listing other search firms; you can define specialization or geographic preferences to identify a firm for your specific needs.


4. It will also be important and valuable for everyone to use social networks and applications to stay in touch. You should recognize that your personal contacts and relationships over the years will offer you the chance to become aware of opportunities, leads and just to keep those relations strong. In fact, roughly 80% of all career moves are initiated with or supported by personal contacts. There are a variety of these social networks including; Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Renren, Weibo, Qzone, Orkut, Friendster, Google+, LinkedIn, MyLife (formerly, Myspace, Netlog, Ning.

And there are plenty more are coming…. Be selective if you have a limited amount of time, and use those sites oriented to business relationships if you have to narrow this list down. On the other hand many of our friends were developed through business relationships.


For Entrepreneurs creating new ventures;

This type of effort involves putting together business plans, pursuing funding, and/or starting up companies. One path is to jump in with personal resources “in your garage” to prove the model, positioning yourself be the first mover and pursuing organic growth. Or, of course one could pursue outside funding, working with external funding such as Angel Investors, and allowing investors to participate in the leadership. The potential to be successful and potentially be acquired in the future could pay off either way. The latter can be more complex, especially if you have never started up a venture, but there are a wide variety of investment brokers, consulting firms and advisors out there who can help navigate these uncharted waters.


Deal makers exist in each industry; look to the board level executives, and other leading executives to build or reestablish relationships to network into this level. Over the years, we have helped introduce entrepreneurs to funding sources as a service to our venture contacts, and more than several times this has led to future search work. Other sources to network with should include companies and associations who facilitate introductions to funding sources in local communities, regional and industry forums. These contacts will be identified in a future article, yet the social networking resources can also help link you to the right contacts.


Hopefully these links and resources provided will begin to help provide a framework of information for people to begin to embrace the technology and step into the future. I wish I could do more to help people in this state of the industry. Hopefully providing tools and information may help some. You can become informed about leads, opportunities and contacts to make your way through the rough waters ahead. There is hope and a future that will eventually become clearer. The fog will settle and great opportunities are ahead for all. Brace yourselves and be patient. Hold on to that job if you have one, yet always be open to the next opportunity, and if you are on the streets, best success finding that next opportunity. Be aggressive and targeted with your efforts, and understand that the resilient will survive and succeed despite the environment and obstacles ahead.