Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Get out of town

March 25, 2005

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Usually when we have the thought, “I’ve got to get out of town”, we are thinking about recreation – getting away from it all. While there is always some benefit to leaving your day-to-day world behind, I think there is another side to “getting out of town.” Instead of running away from the stress of your life and your job, maybe you should think about running to something new, something interesting, something fresh.

New places, people and ideas

Recently I was invited to attend the Southern California Linux Expo here in Los Angeles. My work doesn’t usually carry me far into the Linux world, but lately I have been exploring it on my own. I re-built an old Windows 98 machine into a serviceable Linux Desktop and Samba server for use here in the home office. I wasn’t sure what I was going to see at the show, but I did know that I would see and hear about something new to me. All of us need some fresh input on a regular basis. Too many Windows installs, too much spyware and too many dead hard drives can leave you wondering if there isn’t some more interesting profession out there.

While opportunities like this can often fall into your lap, you might need to make an effort to expand your horizons. As I have said in the past, your new “adventures” need not be computer-related. In fact, I usually find I get most of them from totally unrelated events. Do you like art? How long has it been since you visited a gallery or museum? Music? Get thee to a concert. The outdoors? Find a nice trail and head out. (Wear good shoes and take plenty of water, of course)

It doesn’t have to be anything big, just different -- something outside your daily sphere. Heck, even taking a new route to work can help spur new ideas, especially if you take the time to stop at the little Italian market or funky coffee house you pass along the way. We can get too comfortable with our existence and, in our careers and comfort is not necessarily a good thing. You can find inspiration in the oddest places. Themes for this column have been found at the local playground with my son, hiding out in the stacks at the local library, floating on the waves at the beach and even riding a gondola car up the flanks of Mount Etna in Sicily.

Does this mean that every time you step out the door you have to be focused on new ideas, new thoughts, new ways of making your career better?. Yes, though it is more important that you simply be open to the ideas that can occur. That’s the great thing about new experiences. They trigger thoughts, ideas and even changes in your life -- as long as you take the time to notice them. Make a habit of keeping a notebook, journal or PDA with you, no matter where you are. We often think that we will simply remember a good idea and write it down later, but it simply isn’t true. The idea gets subsumed by all your other thoughts and is lost. Don’t make this mistake. You will be amazed at how many ideas you get on a daily basis, once you start writing them down.

Don’t worry about whether the idea is good or bad. Record everything. It is often the random idea that leads to the most fulfilling results. I am sure that some of you think that journals are only for creative types, but you can have a great insight about a new programming method or encryption scheme anywhere. Wouldn’t it be great to capture that idea instead of losing it to the past?

Looking back through my own journal I often wonder what exactly I was thinking when I wrote something down. That said, this can be useful in itself. Maybe the original idea doesn’t mean anything in its original context, but today it triggers new thoughts as you look through your journal today. Nothing is wasted.

We all feel like “getting out of town” at times. You can find ways to expand your thinking and get a little recreation even without shelling out thousands of dollars for a cruise or plane ticket to Hawaii. Changing your day-to-day routine and encountering new people, new places and new ideas is a sure way to improve your life and your high-tech career.


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