The New Economy Beckons: What Are You Worth?

NEW YORK (03/21/2000) - "What's your job worth?" The topic of the latest meeting of the New York-based Silicon Alley Breakfast Club gets to the heart of what is obsessing many workers involved in the Internet-driven "new economy."

With all the talk about how hard it is to find talent to meet the needs of rapidly growing companies, it's hard for the average worker not to think about what he or she is missing by not looking around for another job.

"There's a lot of pent-up emotion out there," said Alan Brody, founder of the Breakfast Club, as he greeted attendees at a meeting last week in Manhattan's financial district. Brody is also executive program director of Techmarketing Inc., the event's producer, based in Scarsdale, New York.

The Breakfast Club was a precursor to many of the IT-related networking events that have popped up in the world's capitals. Over bagels and coffee, attendees exchange business cards while waiting for presentations to begin.

"I'm interested in the presentations, but I'm really here to meet people," said Scott McSorley, principal of McSorley Associates of Morristown, New Jersey, and a media technologies consultant. McSorley's livelihood depends on networking - matching up large corporate clients and his associated consultants.

This Breakfast Club meeting had a twist. Rather than staging a get-together between venture capitalists and startups, which many Breakfast Club meetings do, this time a panel of recruiters and managers talked about what they look for in job candidates.

Stephanie King, director of operations at health-care site (of VitaminShoppe Industries Inc.), talked about what a successful New Economy business expects from its workers. "You have to be competent, confident and capable," said King. But it's not enough to be "brilliant;" you need to "learn to be a good communicator."

When it was audience-participation time, however, only one person said he was looking for a new career. But there were several attendees who were glad to comment on the new economic order.

"I've never written a resume in my life … I'm a serial entrepreneur," quipped John Allen Mollenhauer, president of IQO Ventures, of Maplewood, New Jersey, and a founding investor and strategic consultant to e-commerce education site Mollenhauer said he would hesitate about working full time for someone else out of fear that he'd get bored by being pigeonholed.

So will the New Economy be peopled by super workers? People touting brilliant business plans; people with the supreme self-confidence to shun long-term employment; people quick-witted and flexible enough to get hired for one thing, but ready at a moment's notice to take on any other job that's more exciting?

Not quite.

Apparently, the Net boom creates some insecurity. The topic that seemed to resonate at the meeting was what attendee David Lenchus, who works for New York and Dublin-based Irish Internet "incubator" Gorann LLC, called the "Hamlet Syndrome." With so many options, it's easy to get caught up in "paralysis by analysis," worried about moving into a job that's not as exciting as other opportunities, acknowledged Lenchus.

Paradoxically, in this era of great opportunity, many workers still feel trapped - even if it's a trap of their own making.

If you end up getting bored by a job you plunge into, ask your employer to give you another project to work on, Lenchus counseled. If that doesn't work, ask him to give you a reference for another job - and in return, you can tell him you'll refer good people back to him. In the networked economy, social networking is crucial.

"A profile of a new type of worker is emerging," summed up the Breakfast Club's Brody. A worker less concerned about getting a job for life, more interested in project-oriented work. A worker less dependent on a single employer, but more dependent on a wide network of associates and peers.

But the syndrome related to the centuries-old figure of Hamlet? That may never go away.

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