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When President Barack Obama, fresh from his inauguration just a few minutes before, told Americans that this was a "new era," he wasn't telling anybody anything they didn't already know.
You don't have to be a president - or a genius - to realize that a "new era" has begun.
And in 2009, it appears the shocks of this new era are hitting home, as businesses begin the business of laying off workers in earnest.
If you're a victim, I feel your pain; it's a hi-tech road I've been down before. And as many of us learned in the last downturn in 2002-3, things change after a major industry crackup; new companies demand skill sets you may not have. While retraining is always an option, you don't want to spend months learning some new skill only to find out that it has a limited shelf-life. While there might be many jobs requiring X skill right now, the question you have to ask is - what happens in five years, when you're of a "certain age" - the age where computer industry bosses think you're "over-qualified" (i.e., too old and too expensive) for their business?
Even if you do do have the option of remaining in the same industry, you'll still want to choose the right employer, one who will be around for the near and mid-term, at least; you may get a job now, but if you find yourself having to look again a year from now, you'll be a year older, and a year more "over-qualified." For many people right now, the immediate question is how to pay next month's mortgage, but you still need a long-term plan that takes into consideration the day after tomorrow.
Where do you see yourself - where would you like to be - in five years? Maybe a better question to ask is, will the industry you decide to get involved in still be there in five years?
There are no shortage of sites that claim to tell you what the "hot" areas of the economy are going to be - which is probably where you would want to be, if you can get there. I'm not talking about general predictions, like how people are going to be scared of real estate or stock market investments for a long time to come, but professionally researched predictions that claim to have a fix on the up and coming business and industry trends.
In the computer business, for example, the best-known "industry prophet" is the Gartner Group (http://www.gartner.com/), which watches trends in all areas of the computer industry. At http://xrl.us/beemod, for example, you can see Gartner's predictions for the Eight Mobile Technologies to Watch in 2009 and 2010, and at http://xrl.us/beemrv, you'll find Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009.
Besides Gartner's professional predictive systems, there are many sites that rely on "the wisdom of crowds" (www.randomhouse.com/features/wisdomofcrowds/) to give you a clue on what's in store, the theory being that the many are wiser than the few.
Ziitrend: (http://www.ziitrend.com/), for example, is a site where anyone can make a prediction on anything, with site users voting on the likelihood of the event happening.
For most of us, both of these approaches are a bit thin; they may be useful as water cooler talk, but we need something a bit more solid on which to build a future. If you're being pushed into a career shift, you want to make sure you pick the right career to shift to, after all.