The online version of EDN magazine published an article today (12/18/08) titled Life after layoffs: How to move forward after a job loss, which includes comments from an interview I had last month with Suzanne Deffree - Managing Editor for EDN/Electronic News.
My past experiences with being interviewed for trade magazines have been mixed; sometimes being misquoted so badly that the exact opposite of what I expressed was written and attributed to me. That is one of the primary reasons that I find blogs to be so useful - I get to publish exactly what I want to say here. I am very happy to say that there are no misquotes in Suzanne's article, and I found it to be especially informative for the advice from the career strategy professionals that were also interviewed. Even if you are not currently conducting a search for new career opportunities, I recommend that you check out their pointers for how to develop your own career.
One of the experts, Deb Dib of Executive Power Brand, addressed the issue of age bias in hiring and retention (or "ageism"); recommending that we (experienced veterans) must be able to show that we are current on the latest technologies. In the EDN article, she suggests that one way to do that is to be able to discuss what blogs you are following. Now that is a strategy that I wholeheartedly endorse!
Another interesting idea is the concept of "personal branding". In developing my own career, I have also believed that it was critical to become a recognized expert in at least one area. Obviously, you want to choose something that is in demand and constantly update as technology and the market changes. Pursue leadership in that niche relentlessly; through publications, speaking opportunities, participating in IEEE activities, blogging, patents, etc. Then you will have something tangible on which to base your "value proposition" to prospective employers.
Way back when I was an engineering undergrad, I recall that our curriculum required "depth and breadth", and that is also important to keep in mind. The career counselors point out that engineers must also have a business perspective, as well as a technical one. I agree that is especially important for several reasons. First, a business orientation is a survival skill that will help you to recognize trends and opportunities in your industry. Second, it is the only way to advance your career into management. If that is not your interest, you still must be able to communicate well with management. It will help you to achieve your own objectives, when you can show that you understand the context of your own work and how it fits with the goals and objectives for your business.