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What the Internet Means to Anyone Who Wants to Stay Employed

By Jeff Westover (

Sir Winston Churchill once described Russia as ``a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."  Of course, he said that in the context of a war. But if he were
alive today, he might say the same thing about the Internet. The online world is at war, and jobseekers are facing the same uncertainties.

 The Troops Build Up

The online population of the Internet has more than doubled in just the last year, according to Cyberatlas. From 81 million in 1998 to nearly 200 million at the turn of the millennium, it is safe to say that there are a lot of people new to the dynamic, interactive environment of the Internet. Companies and individuals are in a race to figure out the online world–and to be in the position to profit from it. In these early days of the battle, there have been many victories. But where there are winners there are also losers. The press is finally starting to keep score on both sides–and to raise the rallying cry to those who are falling behind or who are asleep at the mouse.

 PC Computing magazine has declared the death knell of a variety of industries. In an article in the February issue, the Internet is blamed for ``crushing whole industries." The magazine predicts that the coming carnage will be all encompassing; say goodbye to retail stores, newspapers and banks. No profession will be left untouched, if you believe PC Computing. Tom Peters, called the ``guru of gurus" by Fortune magazine, predicts that 90
percent of all white-collar jobs will ``disappear or be reconfigured beyond recognition" within 10 years. Even traditional professions, such as attorneys and accountants, are projected to have their professional worlds rocked. Rigor mortis is already setting in for travel agents, stockbrokers and insurance reps. ``These people are toast" is the dire warning. Perhaps PC Computing is still smarting from the fizzle of Y2K. Or perhaps it can see something that the millions who are new to the Internet cannot yet acknowledge: that the great battles of businesses large and small will take place online.

 The magazine's less-than-cheery prognostication is bound to depress even the most outrageous optimist. Here's a choice quote: ``Is the situation as bad as it seems? For many industries, it's worse. Just beyond today's plush profits lies an ambush. Numerous big corporations will succumb. Many more will be swallowed or transformed. Jobs will be lost, careers eviscerated. Fortunes will vanish. Oh woe, oh woe." (Gulp.) Stop the Web; I want to get off.

It certainly sounds like war. If any of us are going to survive, we are going to have to solve the ``riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

The Internet in the Workplace

           Competitive forces at work outside the walls of the workplace are debated daily in the headlines. But within the walls of the workplace the revolution is no less intense. How you do your job, where you do your job and even the results of what you do are in many cases measured in the online environment. And, of course, ``who" does your job hangs in the balance as technology is used by businesses to lower costs and improve earnings.

According to eMarketer, business users accounted for 54 percent of all Internet use during 1999. Their report defines business users as those who devote more than half their time on the Web to work-related activity. Employers have many reasons to take advantage of the Internet. It provides unbroken connectivity with employees and allows business to be conducted around the clock. Employers know that even if an employee is at home, productivity will improve. Telecommuting workers number nearly 20 million and roughly 20 percent of the entire workforce does some sort of work from home, according to the Department of Labor. This bodes well for companies connected to the Internet. Telecommuters are estimated to be 30 percent more productive. Employees with Internet access at home agree that they are doing more, too.
A January 2000 study by, an e-commerce research company, says that
26 percent of Internet users spend more time working at home because of the

 Free PCs, Free Access–A Brilliant Strategy

          In February 2000, two major companies, Ford Motors and Delta Airlines, announced new programs where employees would receive free computers and cheap Internet access. The companies were quick to pat themselves on the back for their generosity, and they were generally heralded in the press for their seeming goodwill. But what looks like another perk to make workers happy in a tight labor market to some is merely savvy positioning and a cunning strategy to others. Ford's $300 million investment was viewed by some as a move to bring the Internet to a blue-collar workforce. But Ford's average worker makes nearly $45,000 per year–about the norm for most Internet users. Ford's plan will obviously build computer and Internet skills in their workforce. In a tight labor market where these skills are increasingly in demand, it is simply cheaper to grow the talent than to go out and hire it.

 Internet Realities: A Future

          As we turned the corner on a new millennium, we were bombarded with ``best of" lists and predictions for what lies ahead. Predictions are usually more informative in retrospect. Take Mega-Trends 2000, for example. The book never once mentions the Internet. But the future of work and employment lies not on what the Internet will become. The future of work is based upon what the Internet is now. Here is how the Internet of today will impact employment in the (very near) future:

A True Global Economy

          Enter in a browser and it looks the same all over the world. A fan of cheese in cheese-less areas of India can log on and not only find everything in the world there is to know about cheese but countless places that will sell and ship it to anywhere in the world. But business online is not reserved solely for shoppers. The newest buzzword is ``B2B," or business-to-business commerce. International Data Corporation says that 77 percent of worldwide commerce is transacted between businesses. The online portion of those transactions will jump from $145 billion in 1999 to $953 billion in 2001, according to the Gartner Group. For employees everywhere, this is significant. Imagine the job you do now and project it to include every corner of the world. Does it change anything?

          Don't feel alone. Somewhere in Europe, a worker is staring at his or her computer contemplating the same things. In fact, a great many people outside the United States are doing it. European growth in Internet access and e-commerce will out perform the continuing boom in the United States all the way through 2003, according to Forrester Research. Even China is awakening its sleeping Internet giant. Users in China jumped from 1.7 million in 1998 to nearly 9 million in just the last year. What this means for workers worldwide is a need to be trained in
multi-cultural business. The delicate exchange of communication between differing cultures is challenging enough. Doing it online is going to require a global learning process that is bound to see a few bumps.

24-Hour Commerce

Trading online securities was called the big Internet addiction of 1999. Online trading more than doubled from 1997 to 1998, and currently more than six million people trade online, according to NFO Worldwide. Like most ``addictions" associated with the Internet, what made the appeal so great was accessibility 24 hours a day. As the Internet shrinks the world and business expands, look at conventional hours to be a thing of the past among many doing business online. Much of this will be fueled by the powerful prospects of increased business coming from new markets. While the North American markets will still see the largest growth, there are substantial gains being made in Europe, the Pacific Rim, all of Asia and Latin America. Employers are going to have to staff around the clock and prepare workers for multi-lingual communication if they are going to win a piece of that business. All of these dynamics, and more, will combine to make work as we know it completely different. It will require nimble adaptability, constant learning of new skills and ever-improving methods of communicating and connecting with each other online.

Internet Myths: What It Doesn't Change

          As the computer gained in popularity, typewriters began to gather dust. Some people called it the end of typing and paperwork. The reality of the last 20 years has not only proven this to be entirely false but that, if anything, more people type and more paperwork is generated than ever before. Likewise, assumptions are being made about the Internet and how we all work. But the following things will not change and may, in fact, be more important than ever:

The Need for Speed

The instant gratification of the interactive environment of the Internet fuels the need for speed in conducting business online. Competitive realities require it, too. Companies have to act fast to beat others to market and to continually streamline operations to maintain profitability. This singular element is the cause for dire predictions of massive corporate failures within the next few years. Companies that cannot effectively react will simply go away.

 Performance Management
Results, results, results. Companies and the employees, or contractors that work for them, will increasingly be held to delivery promises for the same reasons as listed above. With some predicting as much as 50 percent of employees being contract-based workers, the fiercest competition may be between individuals struggling to satisfy customers/employers.

Learning, Training and Education
Never was there a time where learning is so much at the forefront. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations requiring an associate degree or more education will account for 40 percent of total job growth from 1998 to 2008. Employers will seek workers who demonstrate the vital skill of learning. Technologies will continue to develop that change operations and the ways that business is done. Workers will be required to constantly train in these changing technologies and adapt ``on the fly." Harry Truman once said, ``…it is what you learn after you know it all that counts." Never was that more true than when considering future life, work and employment on the Internet.

What the Internet Really Means to Jobseekers

           It has been said: ``The Internet is like a jellyfish. You can't step on it. You can't go around it. You just have to get through it." But it cannot be figured out in a day, and latecomers will suffer if they do not move expeditiously. Here are some things that jobseekers can anticipate and what they must do to stay out in front:

 It's All About Sales

A magic word in the world of Internet start-ups is ``branding," or the art of establishing an identity in the online space. Companies have spent the better part of five years building their brands online., AOL, Yahoo…these are all brands that were nothing just a few short years ago. The next 10 years will see the push for personal branding and the efforts that are necessary to establish an individual online. The worker of 2005 will be an entrepreneur who manages the career just like a business. There will be constant emphasis on things like marketing, profit margins, customer base and, of course, earnings. Will we see a private individual eventually going public with this strategy? Ever hear of

The Personal Dot Com
The rush has already begun on personal Web pages. According to NPD Online Research, only a quarter of all Internet users had Web pages in 1999. But they project that a full 50 percent of all users will have a personal page by spring 2000. Why? NPD says it is because Internet users want to learn. The study finds that while these personal sites do not yet have a professional focus, the ultimate goal of over 60 percent of users with personal Web pages is to be able to connect with others online. Whether you call it a homepage, a personal storefront, a websume, or even a virtual foxhole, jobseekers are digging in for the long haul on the Internet. Those who do not establish an online presence with links to the outside work world will find themselves mighty lonely, and looking for work will be more difficult for them as a result.

 More Competition for Jobs, a popular Internet job board, proudly boasts nearly 1.5 million resumes online. The resumes posted there outnumber the jobs by 5 to 1. Sure, the Internet gives the jobseeker broader markets in which to sell their skills. And yes, telecommuting and the blossoming trend of e-lancing have improved opportunities. But, clearly, jobseekers have flocked online much faster than jobs. Those who understand how to find jobs online, through connecting with people and referrals, will get the jobs. The masses of jobseekers who respond to postings on Internet job boards and blindly post resumes hither-and-yon will languish.

Even Dead Men Have Web Pages

          Will Rogers once said, ``Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." The online urgency is very real. Having an email address is not enough, and knowing how to Yahoo will not go far. Jobseekers must take action online and do it quickly if they hope to survive. Like Churchill, who was quoted to open this article, Will Rogers was not talking about the Internet when he said that. In fact, nearly every quote used here came from men who have long since died–never knowing or even imagining anything like the Internet. But Churchill, Truman and Rogers hold something in common with us all in this age of information:
They all have Web sites.


Jeff Westover is an Internet Content Developer based in Salt Lake City. He has 15 years of executive level experience in personnel and project management. Jeff writes for, publishers of the largest independent directory of online career resources. Copyright © inc. All rights reserved. Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this file as long as this notice is included in all copies.




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