How do I find a good job in this economy?

I have been getting many questions about jobs and careers from Laser Focus World readers.

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I have been getting many questions about jobs and careers from Laser Focus World readers. As a venture capitalist, I am also getting a surprising number of business plans from people who worked for failed startups. So, I will summarize the questions and brainstorm what might be the question of the day, which is how to land a good job. Along the way, I will also discuss how to prepare for entrepreneurship.

Q:How do I find a job?

A:Broaden the search is the short answer because that gives you more choices. Broadening begins with how you look at your skills and what you are willing to do. Technically, optics/photonics are broadly enabling technologies; that means there are jobs out there for us in just about any industry. Going outside the photonics industry will likely make you more valuable when you reenter the photonics job market after the industry recovers (and recover it will). Just imagine how much more valuable you would have been if, in addition to photonics, you knew something about heat transfer, mechanical implementation, and process development. Only recently we had to hire people out of the semiconductor and disc-drive industries to do photonics manufacturing. The core of your competencies is quite broadly applicable. For example, you can define yourself narrowly as an expert in fiberoptics, or broadly as an expert in sensors technology. That means you can find a fit in aerospace/defense industry, biomedical field, and in companies and government agencies involved in homeland security. Given that technology can offer competitive advantages even in consumer and service industries, your technical background and problem-solving skills offer you unlimited options.

The pay scale in some of these fields may well be lower than what you are accustomed to, but you must realize the high-flying compensation packages and promises of get-rich-quick stock options are things of the past, for now. You can also broaden the search geographically to reach more companies. Certain areas of the country/world are less hard hit, especially in areas that had less excess during the bubble. To search broadly, you can surf the web. The i-LEOS portal, for example, will link you to a wide range of job sites (see www.i-leos.org).

Q:What do I look for in a job?

A:Doing what you have passion for is good advice, but you may want to add "within reason" just to be practical. Ideally, you want to have a strategic plan to get to a clearly defined long-term goal. Unfortunately it is really hard to conceptualize how far one can go and what is possible in the distant future.

So look for jobs that offer learning opportunities to prepare you to do more and to expose you to more career options.

In addition to learning new technologies, you want a job that allows you to take on projects that expose you to managerial and business career opportunities. Project managerial skills are useful no matter what you do, even in a purely technical career, because it is getting a job done by pulling together human, technical, and financial resources. These are the same skills you need to run a business, and it also puts you in a better position to understand the real world and to build a network of contacts for resources in reserve.

Q:How do I increase the chance of getting hired?

A:It is always useful to skim a few books to brush up on a subject and also be really well prepared. Do some research on the company and actively listen during the interview to see how you fit into their needs. For yourself, you are looking for the fit so you can succeed on the job, and also to leave a good impression.

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MILTON CHANG is managing director of Incubic, a fund dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build great companies. He is also chairman of Arcturus Engineering and of OEpic. He is a founder and retired chairman of New Focus and currently also sits on the boards of Lightwave Electronics, OpVista, Rockwell Scientific, and YesVideo. Send your questions on personal career matters, starting and running your own high-tech business, or manufacturing and operations to miltonchang@incubic.com. Visit www.incubic.com or www.newfocus.com for other articles he has written.

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