August 25, 2000
Troubleshooting your career
© 2000, Douglas E. Welch
This week it is a good chance to take a little time away from your usual troubleshooting of PC's, LANs and web sites. Despite the clamor to fix this and that, you need to spend a few moments to do a bit of career troubleshooting. While careers will often take care of themselves if you ignore them, the end result may be totally opposite of what you were trying to achieve. Through a regular reevaluation of your career you will allow for those "mid-course corrections" that help to keep you on track.
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Dissatisfaction is not necessarily a bad thing
Too often high-tech workers see their dissatisfaction with a job as an indication that something is wrong with them, their job or both. In truth, dissatisfaction, like pain, is an amazingly powerful early warning system. Dissatisfaction means that you want and need more from your career than you are currently receiving. This doesn't mean that you need to pack your bags and venture off to find a better company, or completely different career, only that you need to re-evaluate what you are doing and see if there is a way to make it better for you.
In reality, you should never be too satisfied with your career or your life. It is a rare person who achieves total fulfillment in their lives. In fact, I have found that those who claim they have are often fooling themselves. Dissatisfaction keeps us striving towards a better life and I consider it an important part of living. Conversely, though, you don't have to be unhappy with everything in your life to succeed. You need to enjoy those parts of your life that satisfy you. You only need to be aware of those areas in your career and your life that could stand a little polishing.
Once you have recognized a few areas of dissatisfaction in your career you can have a little fun. Find a nice quiet place and spend a few minutes dreaming about how you would make your career better. These dreams need not have any limits. They can range from finding a new boss to developing an entirely new career outside of your current job. All you need to concern yourself with is how would you make your job and life better. Give yourself the freedom to dream wild and special dreams. You will develop ways to implement these ideas later.
Afterwards, perhaps another day or even a week later, take a look at your dreams and see if there are a few ways to implement them, even in the smallest way. Taking this short break between dreaming and evaluating can prevent you from dismissing the dreams out of hand. These are two distinct processes. Develop as many dreams as you can and only evaluate those ideas after you have had a period of time to mull them over in your mind.
Can you swap a task with someone so that both of you can concentrate on those things that interest you most? Can you make a lateral move into another department in your company? Do you need to make a wholesale move into an entirely different career? Sometimes that may be desired, if not required. Don't ignore your dreams as these often point the way to what you truly want to do with your life.
Finally, you might want to find a trusted friend and/or advisor with whom you can share your dreams. While it shouldn't be required, we all often need a bit of outside validation to allow us to feel comfortable with our dreams. We feel the need for someone else to confirm neither we, nor our dreams, are crazy. I can tell you myself that your dreams are not crazy. Just like dissatisfaction, they are an indication of what you truly want out of your life. You will rarely achieve your dreams exactly as you imagined them, but often you find something even better than you dreamed. (See Career Compass, Career Opportunities, January 1999)
Just as computer troubleshooting requires constant attention, so does your career. Too often you can forget yourself in the daily pressures of your job. Then, one day, you wake up to find yourself miles away from where you wanted to be when you started your career journey. Take a few minutes to think about those career issues and dreams that have been trying to get your attention. They are trying to tell you something important.
about this column.
Previous Career-Op Columns
August 27, 1999 Open systems mean open careers
August 1998 Skills You Need (Parts 1-4)
August 1997 What does it take?: Part 1
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at email@example.com