Archive: “Damaged” from the Career Opportunities Podcast
It is a sad fact that, especially in high-tech careers, some workers have been so damaged by their work experiences they have lost all hope of ever having a fulfilling career. They feel beaten down, used up and cast aside by their employers and sometimes by their co-workers. After nearly 10 years of writing this column, and 20-year career in high-tech companies, I have met or talked with many such people. The most damaged have resigned themselves to lives of “quiet desperation”, bemoaning the tedious or destructive elements of their work. They no longer try to change their career. They simply exist and remain day in and day out in a job they hate.
I feel deeply for these people. They are one of the main reasons that I started writing Career Opportunities. I believe that no one need be trapped in an unfulfilling career that leaves them feeling deadened and hopeless. Even after meeting so many damaged people, and suffering career problems myself, I still believe there is a better way. Everyone has the ability to rise above worthless, unfulfilling jobs and build a career that means something.
So where does the trouble begin. What are the factors that can lead you down a dead end road? Many damaged workers will tell you their horror stories of managers that lie, cheat or steal – co-workers that bully and control those around them – companies that exploit workers for their own end.
Yes, it is true that there are people in the world that will take advantage of you, if you let them. There are people to whom ethics are only a vague concept. The flaw arises, though, when we start to believe that everyone everywhere is the same. Once you start believing that everyone is out to damage you in some way, you are in danger of losing hope in humanity as a whole. You stop trying to change your own life, assuming that there is nothing you can do and no place you can go to find a better life. You become more and more disgruntled as time goes on and every day you only see your suspicions confirmed – there are no good people left in the work world. Talk about a hopeless position. Instead of focusing on the outside world, though, you need to focus on yourself and what problems you might be creating or carrying along with you.
If your career has been an endless succession of difficult or dead-end jobs, you need to turn away from the easy excuses of external factors and look deeply into your own thoughts and ideas about work and career.
The truth is you will never get along with all of your co-workers. We are all individuals and we do not always mesh well with those around us. That said, if you find yourself in heavy conflict with every co-worker you have ever had, perhaps you are carrying your troubles with you. You can see this concept in action with those people who constantly move from job to job, but find the same complaints, the same problems no matter where they go. Why does this occur? Perhaps they have chosen the wrong industry. Perhaps they don’t have the right temperament for customer service. Maybe they don’t like the prevalent attitudes in the city or state where they live. Until you investigate these issues, you may never discover where your problems lie. You will simply wallow in the mire of hopelessness, another damaged worker in the high tech world.
While there are some workers who are truly without hope – trapped in horrible jobs with no escape – I cannot imagine I would find them in the ranks of the, relatively, high-paid, decently well educated, high-tech workers. If you are feeling stuck, it is often because it is easier to give up – to stop trying – than continue the struggle to improve your career. You do have options, unlike some people in the world, and to not seek out those options is to squander the advantages that life has given you. In most cases, hopelessness is a choice we have made, not one forced upon us by any employer. Until you recognize this important fact, you may never improve your high-tech career.