As a reluctantly labeled generation Xer I don’t snowboard or slack at a coffeehouse, but I do play slave to the Internet. I have come of age in the information era. I use e-mail to keep in touch with fellow infobyte parasites. We were among the first batch of students at my alma mater to receive school-sponsored e-mail accounts. “What is this?” I asked myself. “Why do I need it?” By the end of my senior year, I was an e-mail junkie writing similarly stricken junkies across the miles. It was a natural progression from a TV-splashed childhood. Now at the office I rely heavily on the Internet as a research and communication tool. And at home the “you’ve got mail” greeting is a guaranteed smile.

The estimated number of Web users as of May 1998 was 57,037,000 according to the Internet Index by Win Treese. So if you’re not already networked to coworkers via Internet-based PDM software, e-mail, and shared solid models, chances are you will be, Xer or not. It will not only be the way you work, but the way you live — the way you get things done. Shorter design cycles are forthcoming for everything from a crankshaft to a career decision, and the Internet will play a key role in this transition. Even with the creative keyword entries and layers of links involved, I believe the Internet is a more efficient route for employers and job candidates to find each other than traditional methods such as mailings, newspaper ads, phone calls, and job fairs.

On a whim, an Xer friend of mine posted his resume on several job boards, and received a phone call from an interested software company the next day. This led to more phone calls and an interview several months later. In the end, he landed a job with the employer. This will become the norm, I predict — not just for software company employees, but for everyone from mechanics to magicians. It’s not a quick fix, but rather a quick way to find out what’s out there.

With that said, the Internet can be convoluted and confusing. My colleague Amy Higgins once described it as “a giant card catalog which no one has alphabetized yet.” As frustrating as that may be, it’s important for engineers to get in synch with the Internet’s career resources now, before they become imperative to a productive job search.

Surfing for a job takes persistence. As Sally Richards, president of Richards Marketing says, “Technology is your friend. Use it correctly, and you’ll be ahead of the crowd. Use it haphazardly, and it will turn around and bite you in the butt.” Take the information you acquire on-line with a grain of salt. Find who the great wizard behind the curtain is, especially if you’re forking over dough to an on-line job-placement service.

I don’t think we will ever move to regularly hiring folks via Internet communications alone. The electronic handshake is too strong an oxymoron for that. Also, it’s difficult to get a feel for important factors such as company culture from an Internet job description. But it’s a good place to cast your line without putting forth a great deal of effort.

Job boards offer a very casual approach to career moves, as the search commitment level is flexible. I suggest taking advantage of it, whether you’re in the job market or just curious as to what’s out there. As with any method, luck plays a part. Being at the right site at the right time is key, and a bit of serendipity will inevitably unveil itself as you traipse through the Web.

The career sites I’ve discovered are well organized and straightforward. I was impressed by the number of engineer-specific Web sites out there. I suppose it serves the sponsoring professional organizations’ enrollment numbers well to keep you in a job. I hope the addresses Machine Design has provided are helpful, and I bid you happy hunting.

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.