Here Today, “Dot-Gone” Tomorrow!

The concept of a “chorus” comes to us from the ancient Greeks and their plays. The Chorus ringed the back of the stage and they would discuss, in unison and harmony, the actions on the stage. They set the tone. If the scene was happy, the chorus spoke of happy things. If it was sad, they changed their mood. It helped the audience, pre-microphone and sound systems, to follow the play better. Today you can still find the “Chorus” at work in the modern world. Only now we call them “Industry Experts” – and they certainly have “changed their tune” about dot-coms. Investors, employees, recruiters, and candidates seem to be listening to the chorus and ignoring the play. They are all running away from the “Darling of the Decade” (the dot-com) as fast as they can. (Somebody get me a stop watch, I think world records are being broken here!) Well, where I come from we do not bury people until we are reasonability certain they are no longer alive. Even then, we insist on a funeral and every good funeral has a eulogy. Even a premature funeral should have a eulogy. In light of the industry fear, shock and horror, and endless articles “ad nauseam” about the apparent demise on our old friend, Dot Com, maybe we need a good old eulogy here today! (Cue the organ music) “Friends, we gather together today to give our final blessing to that which brought us so many requisitions, billable hours, executive searches, and 25%-30% fees. Cut down in life at such a promising age, offering careers, futures, and more stock than any sane person would have ever believed possible. More generous than careful, more motivated than organized, more enthused than experienced, more willing than able, Dot Com gave all of us a shot in the arm. Dot gave us an opportunity to truly get excited about work once more in our careers. After decades of 3-6% annual growth and salary increases based on the ability of tar to flow uphill in December, the Dot Com gave all of us a “jolt,” and many of us riches, if not millions, then certainly more than our original compensation plans forecasted and predicted. We seemed to break free of the rituals and traditions that bond our fathers and their fathers. We learned to forsake the “Gold Watch” in pursuit of a career that offered change, diversity, challenge, and risk. Ah risk, nectar of the Gods. We now measure challenge based on our own criteria, not the “ticket punching” criteria of career paths of the endless “gray suits” that proceeded us. “Look into the parking lot friends – and you are my friends – I wonder how many of you would be driving the car you drive today with our friend, Dot Com. Maybe one or two steps down in car model and make. Possibly keeping your car two or three years longer than you do now, if not for our old compatriot, Dot Com. How many of you would still be going to work in a coat and tie, pleated skirts, wing tip shoes, and modified heels if not for the unprecedented impact the impetuous and disrespectful Dot Com had on the business atmosphere. That summer home you bought at age 32, when your father and mother had to wait to retire. The student loan payments you were able to make without the same pain as your older sibling who entered the workforce in the mid 80s. The informal “leave your job title on your business card” atmosphere of the office, “Bagel Mondays”, “Beer Bust Fridays”, “Open-door CEOs”, “Midnight pizza till the release is done,” and an atmosphere where company and agency recruiters saw your being young and eager were “good things.” Can such feelings disappear overnight? “Now, now, I know that those of you who missed the “gravy train” feel that your life was not enhanced by Dot Com, because you never left the larger and more established employers. But, can you really say our dearly departed did not come into your life and make it better? Is your company more open and more liberal in its policies and practices? Isn’t the compensation policy less restricted by seniority and more driven by your personal impact and ability to contribute? How many counter offers “to stay where you’re loved” did you receive between 1994 and 2001? How many companies that never offered stock options to rank and file personnel suddenly launched generous programs. Benefits that have been eroding for years saw a turn around over the last decade. Not because large established companies wanted to share more of the wealth with their workers! (Listen, if you think that is why companies give benefits, I want to talk to you about buying a bridge I happen to have for sale in Brooklyn.) But to try and slow down the evacuation of young and seasoned intellectual contributors from abandoning their cubicles on the 15th floor for an open loft in an old mill building, offering little but promise. However, a promise based on your talent and your success. Not based on how much the “wing tips” up in the in the boardroom felt like slicing out of their own dividend checks. “The creation of the new industry has created new jobs in companies that are not even considered traditional Dot Coms. General Electric has Web Content Editors and Web Vice Presidents. The Armed Forces have websites and Web masters. (“When I say Java, I want you to jump soldier!”). I am certain that there must be a “vatican.com” out there.(I wonder who the ISP is?). “Listen to me brothers and sisters, our dear departed and beloved Dot Com touched all of us in ways that many of us cannot even imagine. Say Amen! “But do not be fooled dear friends. For Dot Com has not departed us. Over 10,000 Dot Coms remain, employing hundreds of thousands of employees and representing billions in revenue and investments. A door has been opened and no momentary slowdown, no unexpected soft landing will deny Dot Com the future. Do not forsake our friend Dot Com, for it has a long memory. There are always those who jump on the bandwagon to late, and those who jump off too soon. Take counsel from the wise, not the panicked. The dream that all who “knew” Dot Com would grow rich was a false dream. Do not blame Dot Com for failing to fulfill the unrealistic dreams of tens of thousands. Rather, pity those who failed to keep the dream and ran from Dot Com when the first problems arose.” “Dot Com is business, it is not a mythical tale, a magical power, or a fast track to unearned riches. It is business. When we expect more of it than that, we are destined to be disappointed. It has not passed, it has merely outgrown unrealistic dreams and is beginning to establish itself as what it always has been, business.” “And so my friends, weep not for the passing of the Dot Com, but look forward to the arrival of the reborn Dot Com and come to it, for it is good.” Hey, all kidding aside, business never goes away; it changes, but it never goes away. During times of incredible opportunity, everybody makes money. During times of challenge, those who did not build strong business relations and solid business contacts seek someone to blame for their sudden “downturn.” Bad business opportunities are always the easiest to sell to, and the first to disappear. Today’s villain appears to be our old friend Dot Com. Which I find amazing, as I am still working “beaucoup billables” and numerous assignments for a very real and profitable Dot Com community. Maybe it is another Dot Com, a distant cousin, I have been reading so much about. Have a great day recruiting! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

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