As more and more technology folks end up in the unemployment pool, the U.S. job market is entering a new phase which is related to this particular group. The same way that technology companies are making me-too tablets, smartphones, TVs and laptops, technology employers are running into candidates with overlapping skill sets. A slew of me-too workers are lingering in the potential hire pool, leaving companies wondering what to do with them.
Not too long ago, a technology company would have to spend money and effort to find someone with a specific technology-related background. In the '80's, it was the candidate who didn't have direct experience mainly because there were so many new technologies. In the '90s, it was the candidate who had close-enough experience which allowed the employer to hire him and train him into the new or Gen II technology. In the early 2000s, it became apparent that most of the technology talent pool was filled with experienced workers with varying backgrounds -- a Swiss Army knife kind of worker who had the background to adapt to varying concepts and designs.
But when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008, initiated by the bank defaults from bad loans, the technology talent pool fell on its collective ass. For people who were used to having multiple job offers and a choice of where they wanted to work, they were finding themselves on the end of a really short stick. Their companies were either losing sales or losing funding for new projects. Once the torrent of investment and sales monies dried up, tech folks were left looking for work. The jobs and technologies in the early 2000s that led to the Swiss Army knife worker had in fact created overlaps between now-unemployed workers.
What we see today in the high tech job world are a lot of highly skilled workers who happen to offer overlapping skillsets. For an ASICS design engineer, you will easily run into 10 resumes with the same background. For a mechanical design medical device engineer, you'll easily get 10-20 resumes with similar or overlapping experience. So for a hiring manager, how are they supposed to decide who to hire?
In many cases, it comes down to your personnel skills -- skills beyond your technical abilities that allow you to adapt to differing and varying personalities in the company. Because there are so many people with the same experience as yours, you will have to show that you are more than a technology machine. You have to demonstrate that you are in fact a human being, with skills in cooperation, negotiation, joke telling, problem solving, and conversation. If we think about the typical nerd, we imagine him as being unable to interact with other humans, but great at theoretical physics. Hint --don't be that guy.
Companies want technology workers who are also human beings. This is the new differentiator.
So look at your resume or CV, and get beyond all of your technology skills to see where you are in terms of your people skills. This can and does make or break your career going forward, and it also separates you from the me-toos.