What to do?
September 8, 2000
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Children are very advanced in their computer knowledge today. Through
their exposure to computers at home and at school they are much more advanced
than most of us were at the same age. That said, though, many children
seem to lack an understanding of the variety of high-tech jobs that await
them when they graduate from college. This makes it very difficult for
a student to focus their high-tech education. Careers today have expanded
beyond the fireman/policeman/nurse/secretary choices of the past. As high-tech
careerists we can help to clarify these choices for the next generation.
Butcher, baker, candlestick maker
While these 3 careers are not as prevalent as they once were in America
they are still more recognizable to children than most of the high-tech
jobs you hold. Recently, I was flipping through the cable channels and
came across a presentation that was given to state representatives in
Sacramento, California. The speaker stated that while children have fairly
clear idea of what a farmer does in their job, they have very little idea
what it means to be a network administrator, web site designer or programmer.
Even though these children use computers on a daily basis they have little
idea about how to expand this knowledge into a career.
You can’t really blame students for their lack of understanding
though. There are so many different titles for computer jobs and even
when people have the same title they often have quite different duties.
Computer careers are not necessarily a new thing, but they lack the definition
of other professions that have been around for many more years.
Of course, all of this confusion has lead, in part, to the supposed lack
of skilled high-tech workers that is bemoaned in so many publications.
How are you supposed to find the workers you need if they have no idea
that a job or career exists? In some ways we are responsible for the lack
of information about our own careers. Sometimes we spend so much time
doing our jobs that we don’t have time to show others, especially
students, the possibilities that exist in our careers.
In the past, many of you, like myself, developed your computer knowledge
on your own. There weren’t school programs to teach you how to manage
networks, troubleshoot PC’s or write high-end graphics programs.
As we discovered our high-tech interests we let them lead our career where
they would. Today, though, students have many more opportunities to learn
about computers and, therefore, need more guidance. This guidance is something
we can all offer.
There are many ways of helping students learn about computer careers.
You can volunteer to speak at your local school, church or library. You
can make yourself available via email to answer questions that students
might have. You can even offer yourself as a mentor to students who are
thinking of pursuing a computer career.
Everyone benefits from this interaction. Students get the information
they need and you can develop a better understanding of what you and your
peers are doing. When you have to explain your career choices to others
it often helps to clarify these choices in your own mind. Perhaps there
are careers available today that weren’t when you started working.
Helping others learn about these careers might lead you to change your
Reaching out to students is necessary in a world where high-tech careers
are becoming more and more important. Where will you find the high-tech
talent you will need to accomplish your future projects? Where will you
find the employees for your startup? It will pay back a hundred-fold for
you to develop today the talent that you will need tomorrow.
Take some time this week to reach out to the students you know. Answer
the questions that they might have and offer some direction for the future.
Let those around you know what your career means to you. Too often we
assume that everyone, especially tech-savvy students, know what the possibilities
are for a high-tech career. You might be surprised what you find out once
you start talking to them.