Career Opportunities

Helping to build the career you deserve!

A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

Push and Pull

October 10, 2003

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I wrote a few weeks ago about taking the initiative and not waiting for other people to assist you with your career. This week I will expand on that a little farther. There are times when pushing for promotions, new clients or big projects might not be the best action to take. Sometimes you need to pull opportunities and clients towards you. In fact, this is often the way to find your best career opportunities.

Push, push, push

Conventional business wisdom indicates that you need to be constantly digging for new work, new clients and new sources of income. It would have us believe that advertising, networking, cold calls, etc. are the way to insure business success. While I cannot dispute that all these concepts have a place in business, when you focus entirely on these aspects you might find yourself disappointed.

These “push” mechanisms can help to build your career somewhat, but you might find that they can also have destructive effects. Sometimes when you push too hard you end up attracting the wrong sort of client or the wrong sort of projects. While others might claim that there is no such thing — money is money, after all — I would have to take issue with that. There are indeed clients and projects that can be detrimental to your career goals and using “push” methods is often how you find yourself in this position.

Good client/bad client

Advertising is an interesting beast. You want to attract new clients, but how do you know that these clients will be the ones you want. When people respond to a general advertisement in the paper or magazine, they know nothing about you, your work or your philosophy towards your work. You might find that you are in agreement on certain issues, but you are just as likely to find that you disagree. You can find yourself in a situation where a difficult client begins taking up an inordinate amount of your time, while paying the same fee as a good client. In fact, your other clients can start to suffer because of your relationship with another client. Over time you find yourself doing more and more work that you enjoy less and less. This is my definition of a bad client.

If you do decide to advertise, you need to start slowly, gaining an understanding of the client and they of you. Secondly, you need to be able to walk away or “fire” any client that starts to go bad. Remember, you are not losing a client so much as protecting your base of other clients. Only work with clients for whom you like to work and everyone will be happier.


Just as in life, the opposite of “push” is “pull.” One of the best ways to garner new clients and develop the high-tech career you want is to pull these clients from your relationships with other good clients.

My consulting career lives and dies on referrals from my existing clients. Over the years, we have found that we understand one another and can work closely together to accomplish a common goal. Because of this, they instinctively know if one of their friends or business partners can work with me. I can be reasonably sure that when I receive a referral from these clients, that I will be able to work with this new person. This is the level beyond cold calls and general advertising. My existing clients are pre-qualifying my new clients.

You may not believe that your career can actually work this way, but I assure it can. Your job is to find these good clients out of the giant “haystack” of possible clients and cultivate them to the best of your ability. When I work with a client for the first time, it is often to do some small, mundane task. This allows me to prove to them that I can do the work, but it also allows us to get to know one another before diving into a deep relationship that we might regret later. After a few of these calls, I usually know on which side of the good/bad scale the client falls.

You can find good clients via “push” methods, but I think it is much more important to be aware of how you can “pull” clients towards you. Cultivate your good clients and be open to the opportunities they can present to you. I think you will find that the quality of these referrals will far outweigh the random grab bag of clients that “push” can bring. Finding and working for good clients, and those they refer, is one sure way to better your high-tech career.
Book of the Week: The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg


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