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Out-of-Work Techies Turn to Places Where Profits Aren't the Point

What may really bother some techies is that many associations are only beginning to harness the power of the Internet.

"Associations are just starting to realize the Internet is a marketing tool," Doyle says. "We've used it conservatively, as associations tend to do."

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They're even further behind when it comes to e-commerce and business-to-business technologies, according to a May study by the ASAE. Yet 86 percent of the 790 associations responding to the survey said they would invest more heavily in technology in the next several years.

Techies also should be prepared for some culture shock. Association work is not necessarily as freewheeling as life in a dot-com. The best-suited tend to be Web designers and other arts-oriented workers who lost jobs when consulting firms and dot-coms cut back their marketing efforts. But wardrobe and etiquette at an association usually are far more buttoned down than at the places the designers came from.

One creative director who earned more than $100,000 a year before his tech company cratered last month says the notion of designing for an association remains "unsexy" for him.

"It's just doing your thing and bringing in your bag lunch," says the director, who has been out of work for three weeks and who spoke on the condition of anonymity lest he ultimately be tempted to apply for an association job.

Alison Farmer, who manages the D.C. offices of Randstad Creative Talent, a temporary and permanent job-placement company, says there are ways to bridge the culture gap.

"There's also such a diversity among associations that if people are smart and target their interests, there should be enough in common where your value system will be inherently reflected in the mission of the organization," says Farmer, citing the World Wildlife Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Farmer suggests that people on the hunt for work drop off their résumés and cover letters at an association's headquarters to make a good first impression and to scout the culture and environment of the office. She says that people concerned about their frequent job-hopping should forget about listing every position they've held in the past few years and instead set up their résumés based on the skills they've learned.

At the height of the tech boom, many candidates received job offers during or immediately after a first interview. That scenario isn't likely at most associations. Trowbridge says he met with at least four people before he was offered the Nature Conservancy job -- and the group checked all of his references.

To some, especially those who have been through haphazard layoffs in the private sector, that level of detail is refreshing.

"This is a very hard economic time," says Julie Perlmutter, who hosts networking parties for print and Web designers through her Creative Network. "Take what you can get if you need the money."

For more information on association and nonprofit jobs, visit www.asaenet.org/careers.

Pink Slip Planet?

Itching to send your recently canned friend a sympathy card?

If so, Planet Pink Slip may be for you. The Web site, at www.planetpinkslip.com, offers free electronic greeting cards, examples of what the creators of the Austin-based site call "unemployment humor," and T-shirts with sassy messages about the working world.

Send tips, gripes and your impressions on punching the virtual time clock to Carrie Johnson at johnsonca@washpost.com.

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