Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Reaching for the stars

November 12, 2004

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As I write, Spaceship One has won the X Prize, traveling to non-orbital space twice within two weeks. As I watched the news coverage, my thoughts went beyond the immediate accomplishment and onto the lesson that we can all take away from this successful mission. A clearly defined goal could be the most important part of any high-tech career. Without it, we can become timid, only proceeding slowly and incrementally instead of striving to do our very best. If you don’t have some compelling goals in your life and your career, you should sit down, today, and do some concentrated thinking.

To each his or her own

Of course, all of us can’t go out and try to conquer space travel every day, but your own goals, within the realm of your work and life, are just as important. While “install 40 PCs in 3 different locations in 2 days” might not seem as dramatic as the X Prize, it is just as important to you and your company. Setting and accomplishing goals should occupy most of each business day. Without them, you often find yourself wandering from crisis to crisis wondering, “What’s it all about?” Don’t worry about “changing the world.” If you can change yourself, by accomplishing your goals, the world will be effected.

Goals come in all shapes and sizes and you should have a diverse collection. Some goals have an outlook of one day, while others will encompass projects that you may never see to completion. This mix prevents you from becoming bogged down in the minutiae of your daily work. Sometimes you have to raise your nose from the grindstone in order to move ahead. In many cases, the larger goals help to address problems at lower levels. Sometimes you can be fighting with problems at the desktop level that can be solved by a new system higher up. Don’t fall into the trap of “I’m too busy to worry about goals.” In fact, you are probably so busy because you failed to think about your goals in the first place.

Work and Home

While we most often associate goal-setting with our work and career, your own personal goals have a large effect on your work-related goals. It seems obvious that if your personal goal is to become a world-class marathon runner, your work-related goals will, and should, take second place. It doesn’t make sense to spend time working your way up the company ladder in one location, if your own personal goal has you moving to the woods and painting landscapes. Your goals, large and small, home and work, should have some sort of compatibility. Ignoring one for the other leads to major conflicts, confusion and reduced effectiveness. This doesn’t mean you ignore your work-related goals, only that you prioritize them properly. It can take some time , but organizing your goals according to your own personal priorities helps to reduce any conflict between them and can help to clarify the importance of the goals in your own mind.

Do it anyway

Sometimes we can shy away from goals that seem too large or too impossible to ever accomplish. Don’t let fears about the future reduce your sense of vision. We should all reach a little higher. The truth is, we are all capable of more than we might think. These lofty goals, along with the smaller goals along the way, help us find direction in our life and work. Goals shouldn’t be easy to accomplish. They should be seen as personal challenges to build a better life and career.

What big goals would you set yourself if you let your mind roam? Do you want to travel around the world? Design a new best-selling product? Be a rock star? What small step can you take down that path today? You might be surprised how much progress you can make on your goals, merely by writing them down and thinking about them on a daily basis. Life has a way of focusing our attention on the smallest, and often, least important parts. Raise your gaze up and start thinking about what you really want to accomplish in your life and your high-tech career.


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