As an IT professional looking to enter a new industry, there is much to think about. Which industries are growing? Which ones are facing headwinds? Which provide the best long-term prospects? Which industry is the best for your skill set?
All these questions can seem daunting. But, in this chapter, we'll take a look at some approaches to help make the process smoother and much more effective. The first section will talk about how to define an industry, which might sound simple, but in fact can be very tricky. We'll look at how using an industry code (a number that describes a particular industry) can be a helpful way to make your research much easier.
After this, we'll take a look at some of the innovative online and mobile tools that can help you with your efforts (for an IT professional, this should be familiar ground). These will help you to keep track of your links and provide a great way to organize your research, for example, by taking notes or putting together lists of bookmarks.
Before doing any research, you need to have a good sense of your target market. This may sound elementary, but it can be tough to do. It is actually quite common for people to focus on the wrong industry segment, which could certainly stunt your career path.
If you look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you'll see that the definition of "industry" is a bit fuzzy:
A group of productive organizations that produce or supply goods, services, or sources of income.
Not very helpful, huh?
So, to help things along, the U.S. Government has done a lot of work to create a standard classification of industries called the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS, pronounced "nakes"), which is used at the core of Federal statistics. This was created to create uniformity in the measurement of economic statistics, making it easier to calculate things such as the growth rates of certain industries. In the messiness of macroeconomics, NAICS make it a little easier to see exactly what is going on.
NAICS is the result of extensive study and analysis by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC), Statistics Canada, and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia. Its origins go back to 1997, but NAICS actually replaced an older system called Standard Industrial Classification (SIC).
A NAICS code may sound intimidating, but it is actually a really efficient way to define an industry. It will also be extremely helpful when conducting your research because many databases use NAICS codes.
Keep in mind that all of these codes have six digits, which go from general to specific (you can find a comprehensive list of every NAICS code online at http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/). The first two digits are the broadest industry sectors, which include:
Make a note
11: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting
21: Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction
42: Wholesale Trade
44-45: Retail Trade
48-49: Transportation and Warehousing
52: Finance and Insurance
53: Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
54: Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
55: Management of Companies and Enterprises
56: Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services
61: Educational Services
62: Health Care and Social Assistance
71: Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
72: Accommodation and Food Services
81: Other Services (except Public Administration)
92: Public Administration
To give a sense of some of the NAICS codes, here are examples from some well-known companies:
Make a note
316211, Rubber and Plastics Footwear Manufacturing
448190, Other Clothing Stores
312111, Soft Drink Manufacturing
To look up the NAICS codes (of which there are 1,065, by the way), you will need to use a private data provider. One good resource is Manta.com. Think of this site as a search engine for information on companies. In fact, the database has over 87 profiles. While some of the information requires a subscription, the free portion still has a large amount of helpful information. Some of the items include: employee count, years in business, list of products and services, similar businesses, and revenues.
However, some companies engage in different types of businesses. So, to deal with this, the NAICS code is based on the primary business activity of a company.
In other words, if you plan to work for a company that has many types of business, you should not look at its designated NAICS code. Instead, you should find the NAICS code for the industry of the division you plan to work for.
To do this, you can go to http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/ and then input several phrases that describe the industry. You'll get a list of suggested NAICS and you can then select the most relevant one.
Once you have the right industry target, you will then need to find efficient ways to track your research. The good news is that there are many free services to help you out. Of course, Google offers an extensive set of online features that allow the easy creation of documents. With these, you can copy and paste web links and articles.
If you use Word, then you can set up a service such as Dropbox. With this, you can sync all your files in the cloud. This means that any changes you make to a document will be instantly updated across your systems, be that a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is especially useful if you are likely to be doing research on a number of different devices.
A more developed research tool is Evernote. It essentially makes it easy to save just about anything, including blog posts and even audio recordings. So, what if you like to use old-fashioned pen and paper to write your notes? Well, you can do this with Evernote as well, that is, by using a smart pen, like you can buy from Livescribe.com. Your notes will be wirelessly transferred to your Evernote account. This type of device can cost anywhere from 150 to 300 dollars.
Then there is OneNote, owned by Microsoft. With it, all of your content is connected to the Office apps. For example, if you insert an Excel spreadsheet in your notes, you will see preview charts and diagrams at the side of the page.
OneNote is also optimized for mobile devices. That is, you can easily draw, erase, and edit information by swiping your finger across the screen.
Keep in mind that there are hundreds of note-taking apps on the market, so it is impossible to review all of them in this eBook. The good news is that top companies such as Microsoft and Google have top-notch offerings that integrate with their other apps. But it is also worth taking a look at apps from smaller companies such as Dropbox or Evernote. In other words, before deciding on a note-taking app, it's a good idea to try a variety of them out.
In this chapter, we covered the essential starting points for your research. We learned that all industries have standard codes that can be extremely useful for searching databases. I'm sure you'll agree it is critical that you are researching the right industry!
We have also had a look at the rich online and mobile tools available, many of which are free. They will be very useful as you plow through lots of information.
You are now ready for the next step, that is, to get a sense of the topics you need to focus on. That's what we'll do in the next chapter.