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Technology Benchmark: Education Is the Key to Employment

October 5, 2009
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In my meetings with numerous surveyors lately, I have begun to notice what I believe are some trends in employment.

For example, it appears that surveyors have been laid off in larger percentages than other professionals over the past two years or so. Although a lot of these redeployments are across the board, I think a perception exists that some staff in surveying have been hit harder than others. In private-sector firms, surveyors in upper management have been more highly targeted for layoffs, perhaps due to departments and salaries that expanded rapidly during the recent boom times. It wasn’t uncommon to hear of management-level surveyors making salaries in the low six figures. However, when the boom busted, the need for many of these surveyors disappeared overnight.

I know of a number of highly experienced surveyors who have been unemployed for more than a year, and there doesn’t appear to be even a glimmer of hope for them. As these senior people moved into heavy project management, supervisory, client contact and marketing roles, they moved away from technology application. As a result, many of them don’t have production capabilities on the current tools being used.

At the same time, public agencies have had to lay people off based on seniority. As a result, a number of smart, skilled, technology-savvy young people are also looking for work-and they’re often willing to take it at a lower salary.

This situation is producing a double whammy of challenge for the heavily experienced unemployed surveyor. There aren’t that many jobs out there, and the ones that do exist demand current computational and computer skills, current field equipment skills, and the physical ability to handle both field and office work.

So what is the answer?

Education. Your skills must be finely tuned to today’s workforce needs. Production still rules the workforce, and the best way to re-enter it is to be on top of your game.

If you already know a particular software solution, then tout that but go learn another. Consider changing gears. If you were in land development and learned Carlson or Land Desktop, then go take a MicroStation or PowerCivil class so that you can solicit the infrastructure job market. That market is stronger than land development and has a good future. If you know CAD software pretty well, then take an ESRI GIS class. You may find that this new capability will allow you to solicit for positions in dual or multiple markets.

Investing in yourself through education increases your knowledge of current technologies and will allow you to hit the ground running in a new position. What’s more, it shows flexibility and an ability to take on new challenges. Add experience to that mix, and your resume will be difficult to beat.


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