When I first arrived in Pittsburgh from Portland, Oregon in 1980, the region’s economy was dominated by the closing of it’s steel mills. It was the end of an era. The steel industry, which helped define Pittsburgh for decades, was losing the battle to foreign competition. Management’s failure to invest in infrastructure coupled with the high cost of labor doomed the ability of the industry to withstand competition within an increasingly global marketplace.
When I arrived, Pittsburgh ranked third in the nation in terms of the number of companies headquartered here. Today we are not listed among the top twenty cities.
Over the past three decades, the city of Pittsburgh has steadily lost population as its reliance on heavy industry was replaced by a service economy. The region’s economy is now dominated by its educational and medical institutions.
All these changes have radically altered the local job marketplace. The region has lost jobs and younger workers have relocated their families to other more “job-friendly” regions of the country. In recent years, a coalition of political, government, business and philanthropic decision-makers have come together to develop plans to grow the regional economy. It is too soon to judge whether these efforts will bear fruit or die on the vine.
What does this mean for the individual job seeker who loves the cultural, sports and ethnic amenities of the city and its suburbs and who refuses to leave for greener pastures? It means that job seeker must be prepared to ride the waves of change, create strategies for penetrating the hidden job market, and build strong networks to create openings that will insure career success.