Backtalk

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There's a very funny and riveting television ad that makes
me stop in my tracks nearly every time I see it. It's a rather eerie spot for monster.com -- an online job site, of all things.

The timing of the ad flight is perfect, running in the
early morning when people are getting ready for work.

It wryly features vignettes of very wooden-looking, nerdy
children contemplating the banalities that permeate all too many workplaces.

One after another, these frightening-looking children speak
in zombielike voices, saying, "I want to type the rest of my life," "I want
to be a yes man," "I want to be a brownnose" and "I want to work in a
dead-end career the rest of my life."

It's a very provocative commercial, especially for those
working in so many industries, like cable, that continue to go through massive
consolidation, leaving countless people pounding the pavement, or wanting to, because the
integration of the combined companies is often pretty painful business.

In fact, the monster.com ad inspired me to check in with
three executive-search firms that place people in the cable and telecommunications
industries and to take their pulse about the effects of MSO consolidation and the promises
of job creation vis-à-vis convergence.

It's sort of like asking if the glass is half-full or
half-empty, depending on whom you talk to. Ann Carlsen, founder of Carlsen Resources, a
company that has recruited executives for cable MSOs and systems, will tell you firsthand
that so far, the loss in cable jobs by far exceeds the creation of new jobs from
convergence.

Carlsen, who just celebrated her 10th
anniversary as a recruiter, paints an interesting tableau of cable being in an evolution
from an entrepreneurial to a mature business, which is complicated by the fact that those
who built the business are either gone or on their way to the bank.

In a sense, she says, "There's a complete and total
denial of reality," and most companies aren't really sure where they are right now
because they're in the throes of doing their strategic reviews.

Having said that, Carlsen added, new jobs are being created
as the convergence of the cable, computer and telephone industries takes hold. She says
many of the jobs are "hybrid," combining skills from new business development
and brand management, and they tend to be "process-driven"

Another positive trend that Carlsen notices is new and
positive: Jobs are following people. Companies, she says, are looking for people with
major skills who can adapt to new situations, who are quick studies and who can learn new
jobs that they have no experience in.

Of course, this means the Internet. After all, it has
really only been in existence for the past few years, so there isn't this gigantic talent
pool out there with candidates boasting 15 years of experience, let alone P&L
responsibility -- initials that are foreign to those who work in the ".com"
culture.

"Everybody wants Internet," says Korn Ferry's
Michele James, managing director, global entertainment, media and communications. She says
she's already seeing the upside of convergence, and she is now conducting several searches
for positions with titles such as director of digital content, director of broadband and
senior vice president, customer care.

Even more traditional jobs in cable are being upgraded,
notably human resources. "Some cable MSOs have treated HR more like ER,"
but that's changing, according to James.

James argues that even more jobs will be created because of
the higher levels of service that these converged companies will provide.

"If Marianne Paskowski gets a $400 monthly bill for
her cable TV, telephone service and high-speed access to the Internet, she's going to
require über marketing," asserts James. (She's darn right about that.)

And that need to leverage the brand -- especially new
brands, like cable modems -- is what's driving companies to executive-search firms.

Jim Citrin, managing director, communications and media
practice for executive-search consultants Spencer Stuart, says his clients are all looking
for people who can play a role in new products, especially if it has anything to do with
the Internet.

Citrin says most of his firm's searches are for cable and
broadcast networks that are all trying to find that perfect marriage between the TV and
the Internet. And this means more collaboration among different business divisions, he
advises.

Clearly, all work forces are reinventing themselves, and
some companies, James says, do it extremely well -- like Cox Communications, which created
Cox University to retrain its own employees to launch these new products and services.

This is a model that more folks should take a look at.

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