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Book: Professional Life in the US, and Information on Life in America



Section 9 Indians in the US: Preparing for the next wave.

It is a fact that the economic cycle is going to swing the other way. For individual professionals, this is the best time to ponder over the fundamentals of change management and get prepared for the changes in the horizon 

Downturn in the US economy is rearing its ugly head in a number of visible ways one of the first cost-cutting measures to be adopted in times of a downturn is layoff. However, every cloud has a silver lining, for professionals, this may be the best time to take stock and re-visit one’s professional and personal goals and ponder over the fundamentals of change management prepare for the changes in the horizon. 

Change, they say, is the only constant and as Indian professionals become more global, changes outside their area of specialisation, organisation, and society are likely to have a greater impact on the personal and professional lives. When Indian professionals pack their bags and fly down to the US, we are taking a big leap of faith. We are participating in an extensive change management process, whether we realise it or not. Change of place, work, culture and society, have a profound impact on the way we view the world. Travel broadens one’s horizons, more so if one travels to distant lands to live and work there. 

By moving to a different country, we are willing to accept the way business is done there; even if this includes embracing the uncertainty that comes with it. Even in the West, where hiring and firing is the norm, people are not really prepared for changes that layoffs cause in their lives. The thought of losing one’s co-workers, steady pay cheques and other benefits overnight, is enough to put the fear of god in anyone’s mind.

Layoffs although not the norm are increasingly becoming common, even in India. However, I feel that for professional, with the right kind of experience and technical skills, a layoff is not the worst that can happen. Of course, when it does happen, it can be hard on Indians working abroad. 

This is exacerbated by the fact that there is an amount of investment that Indians abroad have to make - to buy furniture, car, and the other miscellaneous paraphernalia, and one cannot walk away from this investment overnight. Circumstances such as being laid off when one is abroad put the mind into sharp focus. It can broaden one’s horizons and help in redefining goals and motivated one to look for greener pastures. As a professional, living and working abroad, it is your responsibility to be your own career coach and mentor and device your own strategy for career management. Some of the points I have borrowed from a number of sources include: 

Ø      Ask yourself, if you were to lose your job today, will you be able to get a job immediately? Scan job sites and advertisements and keep an eye on the kind of jobs being advertised the most.

Ø      Experts recommend taking stock of your skill-set every six months or after every project. Do you have skills that are currently marketable?

Ø      Are you being technically and professionally challenged in your current job; if not, what is keeping you there?

Ø      Ask yourself if you are happy doing what you do. If not, look out for something that will make you happy.

Ø      Learn to see the forest from the trees. Look at the big picture and see if your career moves are taking you there. If you have not done so already, chalk out a five or ten year roadmap of where you want to be.

Ø      Are you constantly looking out for new jobs? If you are, you probably hadn’t planned your earlier moves to coincide with your big goals. Revisit your goals and look for something that is going to be rewarding.

Ø      Financial planning: Most experts suggest that one should have about three to six months salary nested away for a rainy day.

Ø      Expect the unexpected and be prepared. It is becoming increasingly clear that in the new economy, people are becoming more dispensable than ever. If you think you are invincible in your job, think again and be prepared. 

Large corporations in the US have corporate teams, consultants and executives working full time, analyzing and scanning for changes happening in the business environment around them. They are constantly peering at their radar screens and looking for “strategic inflection points” (as Andy Grove, Chairman of Intel would like to call it). As an individual, you probably do not have the luxury of a team of advisors, but what you do have is the skills and knowledge built over a period of time. You may also have your peers and a network of associates who will be more than glad to gaze at the radar screen with you. Learn to be on a constant look out for changes happening in the world around you, especially for the changes that may affect you. As the popular adage goes, Change - embrace it or get run over by it.

Preparing for the next wave

The US economy is slowing down and hardly anyone is immune to the effects of recession. I am no economist and will not pretend to be one. However, the facts are out there for all to see, courtesy the Web. The official White House homepage on the web ( lists some of the key economic indicators including Housing, Unemployment rate, productivity, consumer confidence etc.  The government and Federal Reserve Bank are (as expected) taking a cautious approach studying every minute fact and figure, lowering interest in a gradual manner. However, one thing is certain, the economy and job-market is not as strong as it was even a few months ago. 

US based IT companies, which were clamoring for foreign workers (H1 holders) even a year ago have realized the effects of the slowdown. It is ironic that the same technology giants Cisco, Intel, Nortel, Motorola, Compaq who were market leaders until a year ago are also leading the pack, this time in the excruciating task of laying off their employees. Each of them has recently announced a cut of over 6,000 personnel. 

Sitting in Colorado, I tend to receive emails from friends and associates from all over the world. Nothing new there except that during the past year, most of the mails I received have a common thread - the state of the US economy. Some of the most common questions include “What do you think of the economy?” or “Should Indians be thinking of moving out of US?” or “Should I decline the offer to move to the US?” 

It is hard to give a definitive answer to any of these questions, especially if one is sitting right in the eye of the storm. Corporate America can be really brutal and during times of slowdown, “Here today, gone tomorrow”, as many of us are learning, literally means what the expression implies. However, there are two sides to the coin. A slowdown in the US can translate to opportunity for Indians: 

Ø      Indian IT and the global opportunities afforded by large IT houses are here to stay.

Ø      If anything, prudent IT houses are using this opportunity to recruit good talent and are working on their game-plan to stay ahead of the curve.

Ø      Countries and companies are still vying for talented professionals and the trend, as far as one can see, is only going to continue. 

America’s economic strength is based on the globalization of its businesses and commercial enterprises, and it is hard to envisage the nation isolating itself from the global marketplace. Even though Americans are still reeling under the aftermath of the attack, and the economy in recession, people, government and the corporate world is  rallying around to help rebuild the nation. America is a melting pot of ethnicities and this incident, although it has shaken us all, will go down as a small blimp that tested the resilience and tolerance of its people. What makes America great is the tremendous amount of economic and business activity taking place here. In order to man and manage and operate the affairs of business, including technologies that keep businesses humming, America is going to need talented people, even if it means getting talented foreigners. 

Any economist will tell you that an “economic cycle” is basically a predictable long-term pattern of alternating periods of economic growth (recovery) and decline (recession). An economic cycle is a fact of life in the corporate world and this is probably a lesson for many an Indian professional who only saw the growth side of the curve. If anything, it is a lesson in the basics of business that every professional need to be aware of. No one is immune to the swings in the economy. Just as a “growing economy” can propel one by providing opportunities, a “slowing economy” can provide one with an opportunity to look at the big picture and plan for the long haul and prepare oneself for the next wave.

The bottom line is that companies in the US are still buoyant about the future. The question they are asking is “when” the economy will turn towards the growth side of the cycle and not “if”. When the economy turns around soon, we Indian professionals are going to be there. Until then, sit-back, relax and enjoy the ride.


©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2002

All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. Any mentions of commercial products, company names, or universities are solely for information purposes and do not imply any endorsement by the Author or any other entity. The Author provides this article "as is." The Author disclaims any express or implied warranties including, but not limited to, any implied warranties of commercial value, accuracy, or fitness for any particular purpose. If you use the information in this document in any way, you do so entirely at your own risk.

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About the Author and Book

  • Intro
  • Section 1: Visas and Immigration
  • Section 2 Finances
  • Section 3 Law and legal system
  • Section 4 Consumerism
  • Section 5 Life and weekends in the US
  • Section 6 Health and lifestyle
  • Section 7 Demographics
  • Section 8 Indians in America: Looking to the future after Sep 11th
  • Section 9 Preparing for the next wave
  • Appendix

  • For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section
  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has also authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here


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