For employees this is an era of cautious optimism — with neither tantalizing opportunities to create a feverish gold-rush mentality like during the tech boom of the late 90s nor the jittery post-bubble mentality of the past few years.
Employers are keen to evaluate their work force against opportunities they foresee developing down the road. That means weeding out stick-in-the-muds while hiring and promoting those with the forward-looking skills and mindset that will be solid assets in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
So while there won’t be much downsizing, and even healthy hiring, employers will be grading each employee with an eye toward strengthening their organizations. In general that means more of what has been happening during the past decade — more overseas outsourcing of production and even some customer-service functions, more aggressive automation of administrative support functions to enhance productivity and responsiveness to the market, and tweaking the brand name and positioning through investment in the marketing side of the business.
This is the time to focus on positioning yourself as someone who belongs on the forward-looking, efficiency-oriented side of your organization by following these guidelines.
1. Stay in touch with your employer’s long-term strategy.
That will clue you in as to which areas of the company are likely to shrink (i.e. areas with little or no prospects for advancement) and which will grow (i.e. areas that promise more opportunities). It may be helpful to know that, as a whole, the U.S. will continue to send production jobs offshore well into the next decade, resulting in a 3-6% reduction over the next 5 years in jobs related to producing goods and even services that involve no face-to-face contact.
Another shrinking area is administrative support. As more organizations learn to automate routine office functions, they are shedding office workers whose primary function is routine recordkeeping tasks. The number of jobs in this area is projected to continue sliding while, on average, the total number of jobs are expected to grow. By contrast, areas involving the application of math and computer skills are expected to continue robust growth. These areas include the computer programmers, software engineers, systems analysts and computer support specialists essential to the constant push toward automation and efficiency.
Business and financial operations, which includes jobs needed for successful outsourcing, like buyers, budget analysts, credit analysts, and training and development specialists will be growing, as will the areas of design, media, marketing and entertainment as American companies increasingly become marketing hubs for products produced overseas. Social sciences fields like human resources, training, mental health and career counseling will also see robust growth over the next decade or more as more emphasis is placed on retaining and training an increasingly diverse workforce for international operations.
2. Be open to new positions in new departments.
Often new departments are created as part of a larger corporate restructuring to respond to changing business conditions. Those new departments can become the foundation for whole new areas or divisions that grow faster than the rest of the company. Your willingness to adapt to change help you to be seen as an asset to a dynamic, forward-looking company.
3. Keep an eye out for opportunities in emerging revenue centers.
If you find yourself in a department that has been stagnant or shrinking, chances are it is seen as a cost-center. If aren’t part of its core, look into transferring to a department that is seen as a revenue center. In this rapidly evolving business climate cost centers are unlikely to offer many opportunities for advancement. On the other hand, sales, financial analysis, computer programming and support and marketing and business development functions are generally shielded from cuts. They are also the areas that will offer the most opportunities when businesses start roaring ahead in good times.
4. Take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills.
Whether offered in-house or in the form of subsidies for classes and seminars at outside educational institutions, companies would rather upgrade existing employees than hire new ones. With change comes either danger or opportunity. The best way to stay clear of the dangers of change is to keep seeking out opportunities to embrace it!