SXSW Interactive Festival

Intellectual Property, Résumé Building, Wearable Computers, and Other Tales From the …

Career Track: Have Your Résumé Ready

It wasn't all doom and gloom at SXSW Interactive, but anyone who doubts that the New Economy euphoria has been replaced with a post-dot-com hangover need only check out the list of career-track panels offered this year: "How to Survive Takeovers, Acquisitions, Layoffs, Mismanagements, and Other Supposed Career Setbacks," for instance, or "Free Agent Nation: Bridge Over Troubled Waters?"

The man who gave Tuesday's "Free Agent" panel its name, Daniel Pink, is a former Al Gore speechwriter and the author of the forthcoming Free Agent Nation. He wrote a 1997 article for Fast Company that defined this growing subsection of American workers who have made the leap from employees to consultants. Pink told the panel crowd he'd spoken with hundreds of free agents to learn about why they're working solo, what kinds of values they're bringing to their freelance work, and how the trend is fundamentally changing the way work is done. According to Pink, those who choose to diversify -- to have, say, five clients instead of one boss -- are potentially safer in a downturn.

Former writer and producer Jeannine Parker (The J. Parker Company) of Los Angeles has spent the past seven years self-employed. She advised those considering chucking corporate jobs to make a concerted effort to get out and meet new people. According to Parker, to make it on your own, assume an extended-family approach to your work. "Make sure your friends know what you do. Know that you need to be networking about 60% of the time and working the other 40%."

Moderator Richard Martin of Seattle Weekly asked panelists for additional tactics for free agents. Among their recommendations: Make your weekends sacred and try to avoid late-night calls, constant e-mail, or other potential burnout-inducers that at-home workers face.

Sunday's "Surviving Layoffs" discussion centered on corporate culture and the ability to anticipate change. The group's mantra: Have your résumé ready. Know your worth in the marketplace before disaster strikes.

One of the liveliest SXSW career-track panels this year focused on a completely different topic. Countless freelancers are already familiar with the Web as a way of publishing independently. But how to turn that into editorial opportunities in print? In Monday's "Pulp Fiction: Getting Published," a group of authors and editors from the high tech Web publisher New Riders (www.newriders.com) joined moderator Pableaux Johnson (www.bayoudog.com) in an animated discussion about process-related differences of writing online vs. writing books. Michael Nolan, a consultant who works with New Riders on Web strategy and design, outlined the publishing structure and described the editorial process. Author of The Art and Science of Web Design, consultant Jeffrey Veen (www.veen.com) expanded on proposal writing and urged the audience to focus on tone and description. The only speaker who secured his book via a traditional literary agent, Veen believes that agents aren't as necessary today, since the Internet is becoming the agent.

"This is a good panel! I'm learning stuff," said designer Jeffrey Zeldman (www.zeldman.com), a principal in the Web Standards Project and author of the forthcoming Taking Your Talent to the Web. Zeldman cautioned hopefuls to heed the advice of developmental editors.

Joining Zeldman in preaching that writing books is less about money than it is a labor of love was Fray (www.fray.com) and Kvetch (www.kvetch.com) creator Derek Powazek.

"What has always fascinated me about the Web is it allows users of the medium to talk with other users in a public way, which no other medium does," said first-time author Powazek, whose book on online community is due this summer.

Creator of the weblog "A Jaundiced Eye," Steve Champeon ("Building Dynamic HMTL GUIs") began in the business as a technical editor before becoming a developmental editor. His advice to anyone interested in getting started? Consider offering your services as a technical editor first.

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