When speaking of the information superhighway, information is definitely the operative word. The Internet is full of facts that can help people in a variety of careers do their jobs better. Access to much of this useful information is free.
The World Wide Web is an incredible resource for anyone in a career involving market research and demographic information on customers or potential customers. The Census Bureau site, at http://www.census.gov, is almost overflowing with data about jobs, housing, crime, income, transportation, recreation and more. Most of the data can be viewed on a national, state or county basis.
The Census Bureau keeps track of economywide information on agriculture, manufacturing, construction and international trade. There are also tables about employment in the fastest growing and declining occupations, and a host of other topics.
For information about international trade, try MSU-CIBER International Business Resources (http://ciber.bus.msu.edu/busres.htm). This site has links to 46 periodicals from around the world, hundreds of sites specializing in regional and country-specific information, and a 10-step road map for companies trying to expand into foreign markets.
From MSU-CIBER, you can find International Marketing Insights reports, which are prepared by American embassies and consulates and discuss developments in foreign countries that affect U.S. traders and investors.
The Web is also useful for gathering competitive intelligence, which is required of people in many careers. A good place to learn about the finances and strategies of public companies is Edgar (the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system), at http://www.sec.gov/edgarhp.htm. This site contains documents that public companies have filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission since January 1994.
For example, a 10-K--which must be filed online--describes a company's performance during the fiscal year and includes all developments, good and bad, that shareholders have a right to know. Other documents, if available, have information about the compensation packages of top executives, stock trades made by corporate insiders, and merger and acquisition activity.
For anyone in a sales-related career who would like to become a government vendor, a useful Web site is the Federal Acquisition Jumpstation (http://procure.msfc.nasa.gov/fedproc/). This site has procurement information from 10 executive Departments like Commerce, Defense and Energy. There are also lists of contracting opportunities with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies. General information about how to go about bidding for a government contract is also available at this site.
These are just a few of the many Web sites that can be valuable career assets. The more time you spend surfing the Net, the more you are likely to find.
Karen Kaplan covers technology and careers for The Times. She can be reached via e-mail at Karen.Kaplan@latimes.com