Brushing Up in a Down Economy (Editor's Window)

31 Oct, 2008 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Jobless? Or just feeling uncertain? Take advantage of tools and training that can give you an edge.

The U.S. economy is on a wild rollercoaster ride, mostly downhill, and by the time this issue of Cadalyst comes off the press, the country will have a newly elected president — and will be facing the additional, uncertain economic implications that change might bring.

The effects have trickled into the CAD world. Here at Cadalyst, for example, two contributors recently lost their CAD jobs in the architectural and civil sectors — one for the second time this year — when departments were downsized or eliminated. If you find yourself unemployed, what should you do?

First, no matter what your age or how many years you have left until retirement, take advantage of today's online resources in your job hunt. Cadalyst offers an excellent job search engine at, fed from the service Indeed. Once you're on the site, sign up for RSS feeds of new job listings or the Indeed e-mail alerts, which Cadalyst contributing editor Melanie Perry calls "some of the best." Don't overlook Craigslist, the online classifieds available for most major cities, at Respected employers in every market are taking advantage of this free service. (The unscrupulous ones are there, too, so examine each listing with a critical eye.)

Set up personal pages on a social networking site such as Facebook ( and on the LinkedIn professional networking site ( You'll benefit from the exposure, and you might even impress a potential employer. Remember, these are public spaces, so don't post anything that your next boss (or the rest of the world) shouldn't see!

Consider a period of unemployment as an opportunity to improve your skills, particularly in 3D CAD, if needed. Some AutoCAD users hesitate to make the 3D leap, feeling this somehow devalues their years — sometimes decades — of AutoCAD experience. In reality, you'll need both 2D and 3D skills to be at your best in today's market. Look at this as building on your existing skills, rather than abandoning them. Not only will new CAD training make you more likely to find a job, it will also improve your chances of keeping that job, should the market remain unstable.

Strapped for cash or uncertain about which software to study? Cadalyst's CAD management expert, Robert Green, has some great suggestions that cost little or nothing. Visit a software developer's web site for the free 30-day trial version of your 3D software of choice, he says. "Download Revit and immerse yourself — design a house in it!" Experiment with different products. Also check out the software downloads and course materials available from Autodesk User Group International,, free to visitors who register.

Contact software resellers to ask about user groups in your area or training opportunities. If courses are expensive, explain your situation and ask the training providers if they'll offer a discount. Finally, check into state- or federally funded opportunities for vocational training.

Last but not least, consider jobs outside the traditional realm of the CAD operator or CAD manager. In a job market–related thread I started on Cadalyst's CAD Manager Discussion Forum (, Cadmoogle describes how he has moved from CAD into a geographic information systems (GIS) position to expand his portfolio and learn new things. "I still use CAD on a daily basis," he explains. "I just took this time to learn new things."

Unemployed or not, you should always maintain your training and professional networking efforts. If you happen to be pursuing either or both at Autodesk University 2008 (Las Vegas, December 2–5), I hope you'll stop by the Cadalyst booth to say hello.

In closing, I'd like to congratulate Cadalyst contributing editor Bill Fane, who just published the 200th installment of his "Learning Curve" AutoCAD tutorial ( There's a guy who knows his CAD!

Nancy Spurling Johnson
Editor-In-Chief, Cadalyst

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson