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Archive for August, 2008

Doubting yourself and your work

August 29th, 2008 2 comments

Career Opportunities podcast logoDoubting yourself and your work
By Douglas E. Welch

Listen: Doubting yourself and your work

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Doubting yourself and your work
August 29, 2008

Everyone, no matter their work, has to face their own doubts throughout their career. We may be working well, but then an unknown or difficult problem or situation can come about that makes us wonder if we are as good at our work as we once thought. In most cases, we are up to the task, but this period of doubt can cause us to struggle. If you let the doubt overwhelm you, it can harm your work and damage your career.

I can tell you from personal experience that times when you suffer under self-doubt are the hardest periods of any career. Not only do you start to doubt your work, but you begin questioning everything else about your life, from the place that you live to the company you keep. Multiple setbacks, laid on top of one another can send me into a deep funk that sometimes seems endless. Despite that, I always know, in the back of my mind that these problems will end and this doubt will pass. You need to keep those same thoughts in your mind whenever you are going through a difficult period. It might be the only thing that keeps you going some days.

So, why do you experience such deepness of doubt? Mainly it comes from lack of knowledge or lack of understanding about a particular aspect of our work. I know from personal experience that suffering through problems with no known solution or those caused by software or hardware bugs are the most troubling. Since you are blazing new trials, or looking for workarounds for known errors, it can feel quite lonely. You might search the internet again and again or discuss the problem with your colleagues endlessly, but it is up to you to solve the problem on your own. While it can be rewarding to be seen as the problem solver of last resort, it can also be stressful and trying. I have been there many times; sometimes it is energizing and at others it is depressing.

Combating self-doubt is not a matter of arrogance or bravado, as some might have you believe, but rather reaching a deep understanding of yourself. I know I frustrate my wife when I fall into self-doubt over a project. She tries to talk me out of it, but the only one who can break through is me at my own pace. It is natural to feel doubt when you are at the beginning of a project with no clear solution. “Am I up to this? Is there a solution at all? What will happen if I can’t solve it?” I would be more afraid if I didn’t doubt myself in these situations, because then I would be lying to myself in a number of ways. Feeling challenged can be a good thing, but ignoring that feeling could mean that you aren’t taking the project seriously.

Sometimes, though, your doubt can cloud your thinking and actually prevent you from finding a solution. If doubt gives way to depression or anger, it is time to take a break. In fact, you will find that stepping away from any problem is often the best way to address it. Our brains are fickle things and sometimes need a break from working on an issue in order to consolidate all the information we have gathered, Then, often at the oddest times, it will present a course of action, if not the actual solution itself. I don’t truly fall into the depths of self-doubt until I have run out of options to try. This is when I know that I have hit bottom. Stepping away from the problem nearly always provides a new plan of attack, another option and the route back up.

Don’t let self-doubt cloud your thinking and your work. Always work under the impression that there is a solution out there and you are capable of finding it. Make good use of the resources around you including the Internet, your co-workers and friends. It is very likely that merely in talking over a problem with them, you will discover new options to try and solutions to pursue. Self-doubt is natural, but don’t let it damage your ability to think and work. It isn’t the end of the world, but if you start thinking it is, you are in danger of damaging your career.


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Archive: 5 Small Risks to Take Today

August 27th, 2008 Comments off

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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Career growth comes from challenging your own limits – stretching yourself and reaching for new knowledge and new capabilities. Despite all the benefits, though, many of us avoid challenges or situations that make us unsure of our own abilities. Instead of letting fear slow down or stop the growth of your career, you need to take a few small risks each and every day.

There are an infinite variety of ways to take small risks, but here are 5 methods I have used over the years. Whenever I feel that my career is slowing down, I turn to these methods, and others, to get things moving again. Of course, the most interesting aspect of taking a risk is that it doesn’t have to be work-related at all. Every risk we take helps us take the next one. All of the methods listed below have one thing in common, they are extremely easy to do. Risk taking begins with small steps. This makes it all the easier to get started


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Join the Career Tips Conversation!

August 25th, 2008 Comments off

One of the great benefits of doing my daily career tips on Seesmic is that you can join in the conversation with your own videos. Ask additional follow-up questions, chime in with your comments or just point and laugh. (SMILE)

Even if you view the tip hours after I post it, you can see the entire conversation thread and still add your own. I will see and reply to everything.

As an example, here is the Career Tip for Today, August 25, 2008.


Career Tip for August 25, 2008Build the Career You Deserve with Career Opportuntiies at http://welchwrite.com/career/

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What to do when you don’t like what you do anymore

August 22nd, 2008 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoWhat to do when you don’t like what you do anymore
By Douglas E. Welch

Listen: What to do when you don’t like what you do anymore

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It happens to all of us at one time or another. After years of working in the same area, the same job, the same company, we start to wonder if that’s all there is? Familiarity breeds contempt, the old saying goes and that is certainly true in work. Too much of the same, year after year, can leave you feeling less than fulfilled. Of course, the big question becomes…now what?

Like most topics I write about here, this one hits close to home. I have had to face this issue on many occasions over the years. It seems a necessary part of any career. If we don’t re-evaluate what we want out of a career on a regular basis, our life has a way of making us face the issue. It matters little if I am working in a corporate job or for myself, a bad day or week can quickly make you question your work and career choices. Just the other day I was wondering how many more times I can show Word users how to create a table, email users how to use BCC or remind people that they really need to backup their files. These are obviously necessary and billable tasks, but sometimes getting paid to do your work simply isn’t enough. You need to reach out for something new and, more importantly, more fulfilling.

It is this concept of fulfillment that really brings this issue into focus. Sometimes doing the most mundane things can feel very fulfilling. You have a sense of making the world a better place to live, one small step at a time. Then there are the days when everything you do seems worthless. No one cares and no one notices and you even start to doubt your own ability to effect the world around you. It’s Ok. It’s natural, but it never feels good. Typically this issue arises because other worries are getting in the way of your fulfillment. If you are having trouble making your mortgage payment, grading papers can seem the most worthless thing in the world, even if they are what is bringing in the money at the moment. It is almost as if you are saying to yourself, “if life is going be so tough, at least work could be a little less boring, difficult, tedious.” The fact is, though, it is all inter-related. One downward turn and your whole life can start to tumble after it.

So how do you bring fulfillment back into your life? There are a number of ways. First, be on the lookout for any opportunity to unload the most tedious and disliked aspects of your work. There are some tasks that are better done by entry level people or outsourced entirely. You aren’t just trying to shuffle your work onto someone else, though. As you grow in experience, you should be working on more important task for your company. You should be gaining productivity and having a larger impact. If not, it could be that you are holding on to too many mundane tasks that should have been unloaded years ago. Still preparing the monthly report, even though it could easily be handled by a staffer? Get rid of it and focus on something more important.

It is up to you to look for ways to make your work more fulfilling. No one else is going to take responsibility for your happiness. Each person is too worried about their own life to focus on you. It can take some time to hone your job to its most fulfilling parts, but is required if you are going to have a long and successful career. Otherwise, you risk becoming the disgruntled worker we seem to find in almost every office.

Of course, what if you have come to the point in your job or your career when you are simply tired of it entirely? What do you do if you feel there is no way to find fulfillment in your line of work? Well, you have to find something else. While that is easy to say, it is very difficult to accomplish in practice. I know, because I have been trying to leave the world of computer support for years, without much success. That said, it doesn’t mean I have stopped trying.

One great result of looking for a new line of work can be that you find new enjoyment in what you are doing. When you start seeking out alternatives, it can often help you to see your current work in a better light. Sure, I might like to do more speaking and new media work, but as I pursue that work I can cope with my current job more easily. I know that I will have to change my work eventually. After all, you can only crawl under desks for so many years, but I know that that work is there and available for me as I make my transition. I have never had to go “cold turkey”. That carries both advantages and disadvantages, as you probably aren’t as “hungry” as you might be if you quit your job entirely, but stability has its rewards. Just don’t let it slow down or stop your transition entirely.

So what do you do when you no longer like what you do? Well, you either find new fulfillment in your existing work or new work entirely. Neither is an easy task, but the alternatives — being disgruntled, bitter and even angry about your job — are not worth considering.


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Archive: New Avenues – July 22, 2005

August 20th, 2008 Comments off

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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As an independent, high-tech consultant, I have the usual avenues for making money. One day I might be cleaning up spyware or viruses, on another I might be training a client on managing their email. Yet other days might bring a small network installation or the rebuilding of a crashed machine. These are some of the traditional roles for a high-tech worker, but if you want to continue to build your career, you should always be looking for new technologies and new avenues for expanding your work and your earnings.


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Get something done — Seth Godin: Like your hair is on fire

August 17th, 2008 Comments off

What a great idea! If you have to be at work anyway during these often slow and unproductive times, why not get something done. When I was in the corporate world, I used this trick on more than one occasion.

Like your hair is on fire

In the US, the next two weeks are traditionally the slowest of the year. Plenty of vacations, half-day Fridays, casual Mondays, martini Tuesdays… you get the idea.

What if you and your team went against type? What if you spend the two weeks while your competition (and the forces for the status quo) are snoozing–and turn it into a completed project?

Read the entire article

(Via Seth’s Blog.)

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It’s not obvious to them

August 16th, 2008 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoIt’s not obvious to them
By Douglas E. Welch

Listen: It’s not obvious to them

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While we all might like to be the smartest person in the room (and in some cases, we are) our knowledge can sometimes get in the way of our career. I know it can sound counter-intuitive, but there are times when our knowledge causes us to dismiss our own talent and skills as obvious and unimportant. We see our skills as inconsequential when we assume what we know is so obvious, everyone else knows it, too.

I see this in operation in my own life in a number of ways. I am often surprised when clients ask me to explain or demonstrate something that I thought everyone had learned. I can offer up a very basic tip, just to remind the client that it exists and then spend 30 minutes explaining it. Even worse, I don’t teach some concepts and resist making training products because I think the concepts are simply too basic to be worth anything to anyone. I deny the usefulness of my own knowledge and end up limiting both myself and my clients. What an odd situation, but also a very common one.

It is time for all of us to recognize the importance of even our most basic knowledge. For me, the best definition of an expert is someone who has one more piece of information or one more experience than someone else. This means that someone out there wants and, more importantly, needs that information. If this is true then you are an expert a thousand times over. You possess knowledge large and small that others need, even if they don’t yet know it themselves. It is your job to reach out to people and show them what they need.

So, how do you find out what knowledge you take for granted? Simple, turn to your friends or family and take note of the questions they are constantly asking you at gatherings. Sometimes answering repetitive questions can dull our sense of what is important. Like staring at the same color for a long time, we can get fatigued and stop noticing that nearly everyone around us has a similar question. Think about it. How many times have you answered questions about their television hookup, their email issues, their Internet connection? This will provide you some immediate examples where your knowledge is useful to others, even if you have come to ignore it. In my own world, I am constantly showing people how to manage their TV, cable box, VCR and DVD player and yet, I have never created a blog post or video about it. (Of course, in the writing of this column, I can guarantee you have I made notes to do just that and much more.)

Let’s extrapolate a little. If this knowledge is important to your immediate circle, this means it is important to the general public, too. Thinking about knowledge in this way can help to change the way you view your expertise and how you apply it. Like a “kick in the seat of the pants,” it can jumpstart your work and your career.

As an example, after nearly 5 years of podcasting, I am finding that people, both technology-savvy and not, really want information on new media and how it can help them in their work or business. They may have heard of YouTube or Facebook, but they have no idea what to with such services. Under the auspices of my new group, New Media Interchange, I am trying to “open the door” and bring them into the new media world. In order to do that, I have to remember what it was like when I was new to the podcasting world. What basic information is required to get started? What did I have to learn and how did I learn it? What was it like not to know something? If you can remember that time in your own life, you will be a great resource to your clients, coworkers and friends.

What specialized knowledge, no matter how basic, can you share? Everyone from a knife sharpener to a solar power expert has something to share that, in itself, might seem obvious, but isn’t to the world at large. Share this information with those around you. Start a group. Start a blog. Do whatever is necessary to take your message to the world.

(Need help starting a blog? Email me at career@welchwrite.com and I’ll share my knowledge with you.)

Don’t fall victim to the trap of thinking that everyone knows what you know or you’ll risk becoming a victim of your own knowledge. Trust me, there are plenty of people out there who want and need, your expertise. To paraphrase the movie Field of Dreams, If you share it, they will come.


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Archive: Guilt by Association – July 15, 2005

August 15th, 2008 Comments off

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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Over the years of my high-tech career, a disturbing trend has appeared. More and more potential clients have started to treat me as an adversary with which to negotiate rather than a partner in their success. They question my motives; my estimates and my hourly rate from the first meeting and continue to treat me with skepticism in the early stages of our relationship until such a time as we all get to truly know each other. Despite my efforts to deal fairly and honestly with clients up front, I find that I often have to spend days and weeks breaking through this wall and convincing new clients that I am not trying to “take them for a ride.” I am sure you have experienced the same. Even worse, though, I know exactly who to blame for this increasingly common problem…the incompetent, unscrupulous and unworthy high-tech workers of the world.


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My first post from an iPhone

August 9th, 2008 Comments off

I am playing around with my sister’s iPhone in preparation to picking up my own tomorrow. This post was written using the WordPress app.

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Change before you are forced to change

August 8th, 2008 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoChange before you are forced to change
By Douglas E. Welch

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Listen: Change before you are forced to change

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It seems a fundamental aspect of human nature that no one likes change. No matter how much we might talk about craving fun and excitement, for most of us, a stable and comfortable life is what we truly seek. This can cause great problems, though, when change is forced upon us or when change becomes key to our career growth. Too often we wait until change is forced upon us instead of seeking out small amounts of change every day.

I am confident in saying that most of us, if allowed, would stay in our current job and company forever unless acted upon by some external force. Fear of change is a form of inertia. It can hold you in place, forever. I talk to people nearly every day who feel trapped in bad jobs, but remain there because changing their job is more frightening to them. People will tolerate a host of problems, as long as they are not required to change. It is almost like we will suffer anything, just to avoid the overriding fear of losing our stability.

As you might imagine, though, sacrificing everything for a bad job or situation can leave you feeling trapped and hopeless. You don’t like where you are, but you can’t imagine going somewhere else. You don’t like your work, but you can’t imagine doing something else. You don’t like those you work with, yet you can’t imagine working with anyone else. It is this sense of entrapment, of hopelessness, that leads so many to see work as a burden to be carried, rather than something that can improve your life. Worse still, when change is forced upon you, it can be terrifying and gut-wrenching, Especially since you have resisted it for so long.

If you want to truly build the career you deserve, you can’t wait for others to force change upon you. You have to reach out and change your career for yourself. Too many workers allow their careers to happen to them. They take the first job offered and move between jobs without any thought as to where they are leading. All they know is they have a job and that is all that matters. Unfortunately, these people often wake up, years down the road, and wonder, “How did I get here?” So, driving change in your career requires that you look at each job offer, each opportunity for change and see where it might lead you. Do you have a goal for your career? Does this job match up with the goal or lead you in the opposite direction?

Next, take small steps every day. Learn a new skill. Talk to someone new. Investigate a job in a different department. Interview for jobs, even when you don’t need a new one. By investigating opportunities for change, you make yourself more comfortable with change. If you engage in change on your own terms, you will find that it isn’t as frightening as you might have thought. When you are in control, change offers a sense of freedom and power that you might not get otherwise. Driving change in your life puts you in charge of your future and will always lead to better opportunities.

Finally, learn to watch for changes that might effect you in the future. Too many of us ignore on-coming changes until they are forced upon us. Notice whether your company is doing well or poorly. In many cases, layoffs are clearly telegraphed by actions weeks or months before they occur. When you sense a change is coming, do everything you can to prepare for it. You might not need to engage all your plans, but being prepared, in itself, gives you a peace of mind that those around you might lack. When and if layoffs occur, you want to have plans ready for action. With your plans in place, you won’t feel like a victim of change. You will already be rowing your lifeboat away from the sinking ship, while others are still wondering what to do.

Look for change. Plan for change. Seek out change. Don’t let others force change upon you when you are unable or unwilling to face it. Change is inevitable and it is only by engaging in it that you can build the career you deserve.


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