Optical/IP Networks

Jobless Get Less Picky

Layoff totals continue to mount as the broadband market continues to slump. And some interesting trends are emerging as the ranks of jobless attempt to re-enter the fray.

According to Light Reading's latest tally, the number of pink slips delivered in the optical networking space has reached 140,583 for public companies alone (see Grim Reaping: A Downturn Tally, updated just in time for Labor Day).

The numbers have grown as the result of workforce reductions by Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW), Fujitsu Network Communications Inc., and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) -- see Corning to Layoff 1000 More, Corning Catches Cold, Tellabs Cuts 1000, and Optical Scythe Swings On.

In addition, scores of other workers are being jettisoned from private companies and startups (see Onix Follows in OMM's Footsteps, Network Photonics Scales Back, Disaster for Entrada? , Zenastra Zaps Employees, and Coree Cuts Back).

As the unemployed seek other positions, recruiters say they're seeing some interesting trends -- ones that suggest that jobless are getting a little desperate. Among these:

  • Jobseekers are sticking close to home. For better or worse, headhunters say, many folk who are laid off just won't look for jobs that require them to move. For example, according to people familiar with the recent shakeup at Coree Networks Inc., dismissed engineers are heading for interviews at companies like Kodeos Communications Inc., Innovance Networks, and Xebeo Communications Inc., all of which have offices nearby in New Jersey.

    "People on the East Coast don't want to move, as a rule. It's a priority not to relocate," said one recruiter, who asked not to be named. "It's more important to stay home." Even if home is New Jersey.

  • Jobseekers are going to startups. Perhaps because they don't want to move, many candidates are seeking their fortunes with startups, many of which have deliberately located themselves so as to tap the talent being drained from large companies such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), or Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

    Bell Labs, for instance, has been an ongoing source of talent for the N.J. startups listed above. And in Ottawa, new companies routinely cite the exodus from Nortel and other local firms as a rich vein of new blood.

  • Candidates aren't worried about the startups they're joining. "People aren't being discriminating about where they go. They figure if one company fails, they can move to another," says one industry source. Apparently, in the current atmosphere, many qualified people are taking the attitude that one company's chances are as good as another's.

Sadly, candidates following the lemming-lead of these trends can be setting themselves up for yet more disappointment down the road. Recruiters caution candidates not to let a world-weary attitude keep them from exploring the details of the companies they're approaching for employment. Funding, management team, and company direction are still important details to consider.

For example, experts say companies that focus on what they believe to be future technology requirements may be more risky than those geared to present-day needs. Conversely, companies targeting present requirements need to be on track with future trends.

Digging the details won't ensure that a company won't derail later on. But it just might help some jobseekers stay on the tracks a while longer.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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