Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

In the mood

September 29, 2000

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There comes a time in every high-tech career when important decisions need to be made. Unfortunately, you are often forced to make these decisions at exactly the wrong time. When you are looking for work, unexpectedly downsized or just unhappy with your current job you aren’t in the right place to make decisions that might effect the rest of your career, if not the rest of your life.

Preparation is your friend

Much like preparing a will and buying life insurance when you are healthy, the best way to make decisions about your career is before you actually need to act on them. Planning for career crisis’s when you are happy and clearheaded is much better than trying to sort through the issues when you are burdened with the shock and pain of being laid off or fired. While it may seem odd to begin thinking about your next job as soon as you get the current one, that is precisely what you should do.

How many times have you made decisions out of sadness or anger? Did you ever wish you could take back those decisions? I believe that all of us have made bad decisions in the heat of anger or fear. It is simply a part of human nature to do something to alleviate the stress of whatever we are experiencing. You have to fight your desire to lash out or hide and preparation is one of the best weapons for the fight.

Take a few minutes, right now, and think about the first steps you would take should you lose your job. Who would you call? Where would you look for your next job? Would you take the opportunity to change careers? Would you move to a new city? More importantly, think about what you would love to do if you cold leave your job today on your own terms. This is the time to dream. Jot down your ideas and put them in a file where you will be able to find them again. Stash this column along with your notes. The next section will explain why.

Now that you have prepared...

Now, jump ahead 3, 6 or 9 months into the future. The Internet startup you work at hasn’t worked out. You get exactly one hour notice that the company is closing and, by the way, you aren’t going to get your final paycheck. Instead of shouting, kicking something or drinking yourself into a stupor remember where you put your notes and dig them out.

Review what you told yourself in the calm, clear days when all was right with the world, or, at least, your career. Who were you going to call? Call them. Where were you going to look for a new job? Start looking. Are you ready to pursue a new career? Get started today. For me, taking action makes any situation easier. It allows me to feel that I am in control of some small part of my career and my life even when both are in turmoil.

Once you have achieved a small peace of mind from your preparations and your subsequent actions, it is time to think about what you need to do to leave your current job behind. Now it is OK to spend a bit of time mourning over lost time and lost opportunities. I think you will find that your reactions to losing your job will be more moderated than had you reacted immediately. In some cases, you might even begin to see the loss of your job as more of an opportunity than a loss. Sometimes we need a little extra push to move us out of the comfort of having a job, even if it is a lousy one. Tie up the loose ends. Get your paycheck and severance pay, if you can. Settle any expense accounts. Get everyone’s address and email; add them to your contingency pile, then move on. You already have a game plan.


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