Professions of a Silicon Valley Double-E
Sunday, September 24, 2006
  That’s OK, the Corporate Raider took my backpack. [on keeping your parachute ready]
What if YOU discovered you had to “bail-out” of your job tomorrow? Is Your Parachute packed? [in case you don't "get" the title - read this]

With the rate of change in today's society, even those working their dream jobs right now need to keep an eye on their career.
Without a clear view of your dream job, you may miss the little signs that you are drifting away from your best career path. You might also miss the little opportunities that would make the job you have now more ideal, or the big ones.
You are probably making decisions about your career every day, even if you are not looking for new employment.
The same skills you need to use during a job hunt can be used help make you more valuable wherever your next job is, even if it’s the same place your current one is. Whether it’s writing a resume, or a weekly status report, you are communicating your present and future value. Whether interviewing or reviewing your performance with your manager, you are uncovering your customer's needs and values, and matching them to your capabilities. It can’t hurt to master the skills needed in the job-hunt, even if we never happen to change companies, however unlikely that is.

If you have read my comments on the IEEE Employment and Career Strategies Community site , you may already know that I am a fan of Dick Bolles’ Book – “What Color is Your Parachute?” AKA "the job hunters bible"

I first read the book when I was in high school. My Dad had gotten a copy during the Post-Apollo Lockheed layoffs. I have always liked the opening chapter that described the typical (pre-internet) job hunt, and its fairly predictable result because it opened the possibility of something different, and I also liked the unique layout, and the ink drawings. At that time the book opened my eyes to the connection between the Value one brings to the employer, and what one can be paid.

Several years ago when I first used the “Parachute” methods to better understand myself, my skills, and discover the characteristics that I look for in my jobs, that opening chapter reminded me of what I was trying to accomplish. I managed to complete the first draft of the map of my ideal job, and then find a great gig at Cadence Design systems that lasted nearly ten years. It also helped me to realize when it was time to jump, and parachute on to my current adventure at Scintera Networks.

When our new Evergreen Branch Library opened up last weekend, I happened to find a copy of the 2006 edition of this book, and figured it was time to do a little review. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised to find the first chapter completely rewritten, not only to include the experiences of job hunting on the internet, but to encourage us to "master the job-hunt".

The rewrite (at least with respect to the last copy I can recall) is quite substantial. In chapter two he points out that mastering the job hunt isn’t about finding one way that works this time, but about finding alternatives, so that if the one thing that worked last time doesn’t work this time, you have other things to try.

The new and re-written material is fresh, and still easy to read, and the Homework is easy to do. Homework? You bet. You know the rule about packing for an extended trip? (Gather all the clothes and money you plan to take. Pack half the clothes and twice the money.) There is a similar one for the job hunt, relating to the information you’ll need; half the information about the Job Market, and twice the information about the Job Seeker (that’s you). In chapter 10, Dick reveals that this is the secret to finding your dream job, and then he helps you get down to work, getting the requisite information about you, the job seeker. Once you have clarified that vision, chapters 11, 12 and 13 cover finding the person with the power to hire you, interviewing techniques, and salary negotiation.

While there are almost (maybe more than?) 40 technical societies in the IEEE, career development and planning is a non-technical element applicable to all members – so it is one of the elements covered by PACE programs, the Professional Activities Committee for Engineers. So whether you

spend a little time this month and keep that “map of your ideal job” up to date.

If you don’t have it packed already, its time to pack your parachute.

IEEE-SCV-PACE will continue to have activities focused on career development so that you can pack, repack, repair or just inspect your parachute

I totally agree, not surprisingly I am the IEEE-NY-PACE Chairman...I know for students the best thing is to take the basic Career Planning 101 classes offered by most colleges.

I think I am lucky having survived 2 layoffs within 8 months of graduation. So now, 3-1/2 years after graduation, with company #4, Im still asking myself; 'where is my dream job?' It was kind of funny how I knew I wanted to leave but delayed it because I was not used to having the choice! The best advice I can offer job-seekers is to stay marketable, and get connected as much as possible with your profession and colleagues.

You may also want to check out another book by a local professional - an expert on soft skills. "Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School: Skills for Success in the Real World" by Carl Selinger
ISBN: 0-471-65576-7

Regards, MBN
Regarding the IEEE career planning book -- Am I being too critical, or is it pathetic for the IEEE to charge a member whose job is precarious or gone, $4.95, on-top of dues? Does the IEEE need the $4.95 that badly?
I have actually been planning to bring Carl out to our next M-PAC..
As to the price, of the IEEE book.. I don't know why they charge for it.
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Ruminations about the Electrical Engineering profession as practiced in Silicon Valley by an IEEE Senior Member. Disclaimer: All Posts here are official IEEE business in that they are messages about IEEE activities from an IEEE volunteer. These messages do not constitute official records of R6-PACE activities, nor official IEEE or IEEE-USA policy statements. Website:

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Location: San Jose, California, United States

When he is not working on IEEE stuff, Jonathan does Mixed Signal Design Verification at Qualcomm. Senior Member IEEE. Founder IEEE-SCV-SSC (the first Solid State Circuits chapter). Past Section Chair, Santa Clara Valley Section - the Largest Section. Co-founder IEEE-SCV-CAS. IEEE-SSCS Membership chair 2001-2003. IEEE SSCS chapters Committee member. IEEE-SCV-PACE committee member 2001- IEEE-SCV-PACE Chair 2006-2007. IEEE R6 PACE coordinator.


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