Were interactive workers “overpaid?” I don’t think so. Prices for employees vary inasmuch as market forces put pressure on employers to have employees with various skills because of factors which contribute to the need for those skillsets. During the net’s boom years, demand for web work was high, and salaries were high. Interactive work are those skills roughly comprising the things which go to creating web site, pages, presentations and applications. During the boom, potential workers leveraged this demand to get the most that they could. Cash flow was increased during the boom times, and many people profited from this gravy train.
As things are in decline, I find that chances for instant employment in web work are less. I cite as evidence communications with people here in San Diego, and colleagues around the country. Gone are the days when one could interview on a Thursday, and be working the following Monday. It was that fast for me when I was hired at Edupoint in October, 1999. I could not so cavalierly make that kind of quick change today.
As a counterexample I offer another person – via WebSanDiego.org. This is a web developer with skills in HTML and scripting, medium skill level with backened ASP and PHP programming, and light database skills. She visited San Diego in January 2001 with an eye on working here. She took some meetings and interviews, and in the space of a few weeks had three job offers. This person eventually moved out in in the Summer of 2001 and found that the three offers had evaporated. This is “The Way It Is Baby.” The challenge is to find ways to provide value to customers while providing what is needed to grow a business. Business in turn must provide compensation for employees that is suitable.
Personally, I’ve always been more interested in fun work, because I do this out of love for the web. The recent news on inhalational anthrax has awakened my desire to know what’s happening in Respiratory Care, my previous field. Additionally, I’m exploring ways to be active in that community. But all things being equal, for similar compensation, I’d pick web development over RT because it’s enjoyable and stimulates my brain in ways that please me more than that of being an RT (though I had a great deal of fun doing that job as well). Luckily, for the moment, web development is slightly more lucrative than RT.
I’ve joked on Web405 and in other venues that I have Respiratory Therapy as a fallback for when “the internet blows up.” Things may not have blown up, but they have changed, and drastically. I’m still around, ranting and rambling and creating for the web as I have been since 1996. I think of lyrics from the song “Found a Job” by Talking Heads: “If your work isn’t what you love / Then something isn’t right.”
To those struggling to find web work I say: get educated! There was a note on rini.org some weeks back about branching out and learning new skills to make yourself more valuable. That is excellent advice. What other profession exists where you can essentially have access to everything you need to make a job for yourself for the cost of a PC, some software, and an ISP account? There are tutorials on the web for almost anything you you would want to do on the web. What it takes is energy and gumption. With that, you can learn what you need to to do this work. In addition to the tutorials, and articles out there, there are communities such as evolt.org, webdesign-L, web405. These groups can help point job-seekers and students in the right direction.