JED - August 2012 - (Page 36)

EW Careers: By Elaine Richardson The New Job Market I   36 The Journal of Electronic Defense | August 2012 n the year since JED last took a look at career prospects for electronic warfare (EW) professionals, the market has undergone a drastic change. In the August 2011 issue, when Senior Editor John Haystead wrote about defining an EW career path, the overriding sense was one of optimism. EW finally had achieved high-level visibility and was in line for resources that would keep the industry vibrant following the end of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – avoiding the historically down times for the industry following conflicts. But then came sequestration and the threat of across-the-board cuts. Today, the EW job market reflects the hesitation plaguing the larger defense industry. With uncertainty about exactly what programs will actually receive funding that once seemed more secure, the level of the anxiety felt by companies has become measurable in a number of ways, not the least of which is fewer available jobs. Robert Katelhut, director of the executive recruiting firm, Warfare Solutions, LLC, in Portland, OR, says that at this point last year he had eight jobs he was recruiting for in EW, including positions at the director level, in business development and at the vice president level. “This year, I’m closing five jobs in advanced materials and one job in EW,” Katelhut says. “Companies are focusing on an overall aspect of taking a deep breath.” In the US, this wait-and-see mode is likely to last until after the November election, and perhaps even longer, until the political situation evens out enough to allow Congress to actually deal with the realities of sequestration. In Europe, continuing economic woes and government austerity are forcing companies to pull back sharply in anticipation of a multi-year contraction of once-stable domestic business. For those companies that are hiring, that process is now taking much, much longer. On the good news side, companies unable to find the specific talent they want for certain positions are increasing compensation and other factors to lure those candidates. On the flip side, Katelhut notes that a position that might have been hired in six months last year can now take 10 months or more, as companies have to hurry up and then wait for approvals or run into delays in moving forward. This also means there’s much less mobility for current EW professionals shopping around for new positions, and that those who are should be careful about the moves they make in this environment. “If you have a good job, you’re going to want to stay in that job unless you have a guaranteed seamless move to another position,” Katelhut says. The take care message is also true for his corporate clients as they vet possible candidates. “The last thing I want to do is move someone from a company they’ve been at 10 years to another company that lays them off within two.” Amidst the uncertainty is some positive news. Katelhut says he is seeing requests for hires in specific areas, such as long-range electronic attack (EA), border security, shoreline surveillance and international business development. “Companies are starting to look at leveraging technology for other areas. What do we have that we can use for commercial applications – advanced materials, aerostructures. Those are coming back with a vengeance.” Though there are other growth areas, in terms of the markets Katelhut represents, the trend he sees is when a market like EW goes down, there’s growth in other areas – his current fast-riser for hiring being advanced materials. Of course, for those currently working in EW or even in defense, taking a short sojourn in a more profitable area can offer a way to ride out the current environment with the knowl- edge that things in EW will eventually pick up, enabling a shift back to their core strength. But for those just leaving the military looking for a position, the changes of the last year create a much more challenging market. A CHALLENGE FOR FRESH-OUTS As a former Marine, Katelhut knows first-hand that leaving the military is a stressful process. “It’s scary, it really is, when you’re six months to a year before you get out and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do,” Katelhut says. Those just transitioning from the military and looking for positions in industry, the “fresh-outs,” are expected to find their own positions. The clients who engage recruiters like Katelhut are usually seeking candidates who have already proven they can make the transition and have some industry experience. Getting that first job is key and Katelhut offers some tips to fresh-outs who are considering how to go about finding a position. “First is to pick an area where they want to live,” he says. “A lot of guys forget to do that because they’ve never had a choice. But balance of life is very important. A lot of people say ‘I’ll work anywhere.’ No, you don’t want to do that. Pick somewhere where your family is going to be happy.” Make a list of say your top three areas and then research them, Katelhut recommends. Get a feel for the market

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - August 2012

The View From Here
Conferences Calendar
Courses Calendar
From the President
The Monitor
Washington Report
World Report
EW and SIGINT Payloads for UAVs
EW Careers: The Changing Market
Technology Survey: FPGA Boards
EW 101
AOC News
Index of Advertisers

JED - August 2012