Riding the Wave

The job market is good and your prospects are high. Here's how you can bulletproof your career.

come as no surprise considering that over 346,000 IT jobs are currently vacant in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Technology Policy reports there will be a demand for more than 1.3 million new systems analysts, computer scientists, engineers and programmers by the year 2006.

Job creation will also be heavy in all areas of sales and marketing, and weakest in the corporate communications, public relations and purchasing departments. Like a familiar song, middle managers and supervisors will still be the main victims of the predicted cuts. Nearly half of the jobs eliminated at AMA-surveyed companies were held by this group.

Geographically, the survey showed that the West’s desert and mountain states registered the highest workforce growth rate, followed by the Midwestern region, the South and New England. For African Americans, jobs will continue to circle around the major urban pockets of the nation at large, but particularly at small companies.

“States in the South such as Georgia and North Carolina will continue to attract a large number of educated African Americans to their consumer products, health and research companies,” says Michael Reid, founder and managing director of Michael James Reid & Co., a San Francisco-based executive search firm. “New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will offer opportunities in finance, media, advertising and apparel industries. Illinois has a core of pharmaceutical, durable goods and consumer product companies, and California will be the bastion of entertainment, high-tech and utility industries.”

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Alas, as the average American tries to keep up with the latest PC technology, the high-tech arena is reinventing itself for the next frontier. “Silicon Valley is still strong and going biotech,” says Reid. “The venture capitalists of the Valley are looking at research areas such as Triangle Park, North Carolina, in order to team together science and technology. This is a booming area for African Americans, and it’s important for those with science and tech backgrounds to be in front of this wave and ride it.”

Another area of job creation is what Reid terms the “adversity opportunity.” This trend is evident in what has occurred in the past five years with companies such as Denny’s and Texaco. “Those that get their hand slapped the hardest will open the greatest number of opportunities for mid-level and senior jobs and board appointments,” says Reid. “Companies that have been accused of unfair employment practices will be scrutinized for the next five to 10 years. In an effort to rid themselves of the stigma they have made huge employment turnarounds. While other companies won’t follow their practices wholly, they are definitely aware and will also create opportunities.”

In addition to IT, sales, marketing, healthcare and engineering, other industries will experience dramatic growth. “The big comeback story this year could very well be the area of finance and accounting,” says Ken Abosch, compensation business leader at Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire, Illinois. “Like many corporate functions, these areas have reduced staffing levels and now there appears to be a shortage of these

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