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Career Make-Over

Dot-Com Weary? Tips for the Transition Back Into a Bricks-and-Mortar Firm


As the number of dot-com casualties mounts, many "e-refugees" are deciding this time around that they'll seek jobs with established bricks-and-mortar firms. Some are even returning to their former employers. Their realization: Dot-coms' unpredictable stock options, prestigious job titles and chaotic excitement didn't bring them the happiness or career success they believed possible.

"We've been inundated with [inquiries from] e-commerce people looking to come back into a more traditional bricks-and-mortar organization," said Scott Shane, Los Angeles-based recruiting director for Arthur Andersen's southwest region. He said the firm has been rehiring Andersen alumni who left to go to dot-coms and then opted to return.

Brian Rathgeber, a Mission Viejo programmer and analyst laid off from in January, was hired in less than a week by building-materials firm James Hardie. Though Hardie's work environment is markedly different from's, Rathgeber said he's content with his new job.

"It was definitely more exciting at the dot-com, making Web sites for other dot-coms," Rathgeber said. "But I feel a lot more comfortable now. This company's not going to go out of business next week."

If you're a laid-off dot-comer hoping to transition back into the bricks-and-mortar world, here are some tips from career experts to help you in your quest.

Plan Your Road Ahead

A first important step is to assess your career goals, said Bob Senatore, executive vice president of Comforce in Redmond, Wash. Instead of haphazardly applying for positions and sending out resumes, think about what you'd like to achieve over the next five years.

After you've roughly outlined a career path, determine what jobs you can apply for today that will place you on this trajectory. If you lack skills for your long-term career, take classes while you're job hunting. Be sure your technical skills remain up to date, Senatore said.

Honestly Assess All Venues

Is a traditional company's environment really for you? Before you send out resumes, make sure you're heading down the right path. Don't rebound from a bad dot-com experience by fleeing to a bricks-and-mortar firm just for a paycheck.

If you're averse to a dress code, proscribed job responsibilities, standardized hours and bureaucracy and thrive in an chaotic, unstructured environment, you're better off holding out for another dot-com job or starting up a company of your own, if you have entrepreneurial know-how.

Craig Payea, a Sunnyvale, Calif., marketing manager who was laid off from Simplexus in January, is enjoying his role as a stay-at-home dad for his 16-month-old son Zachary while he waits for another dot-com opportunity to come his way.

"The euphoria was amazing," Payea said of his early days at Simplexus. "I love chaos. I love that environment. That's the kind of situation where I thrive, so that's where my initial search will be. There are still jobs out there, but not nearly as many."

Jean Golden, a Minneapolis communications consultant who was laid off from an online education company two months ago, said her dot-com layoff experience was bad enough to convince her to run her own business. When the dot-com failed, Golden said she was told she wouldn't be paid for a month's work or be reimbursed for her work-related expenses.

"After this experience, it has become incredibly important to me to be in charge of my own destiny," Golden said.

Because she had previous consulting experience, Golden opted to go solo. She launched her own Web site,, which will list resources for out-of-work Internet employees.

Market Yourself

If, after careful analysis, you decide that the bricks-and-mortar world would best meet your employment needs, scrutinize your resume. It should highlight your skills, achievements and training and not create the impression that you're a "dot-com-only" worker, said Stephen Bochner, global practice leader at TMP Worldwide in Los Angeles.

You can present yourself as a competent, talented worker even if your company went belly up, said Paul Syiek, founder and president of Think Resources in Atlanta.

"Although a company may have failed, there are lots of individual successes and results within it," Syiek said. "They should show that they weren't the failure."

Beth Gilfeather, senior vice president of operations at TechiGold in Boston, agreed: "Being laid off doesn't carry the same stigma that it used to."

If you used state-of-the-art software and hardware at your dot-com job and were able to quickly master new technology, show this on your resume, Syiek said.

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