Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

Take advantage of the holidays

November 17, 2000

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As you probably know, most companies tend to slow down around the holiday season, unless, of course, they are in a business directly related to holiday retail or events. We look forward to this slower pace as we wind down to the end of the year, but you might want to take a different approach this time. While the holidays may not be the best time to look for a new job (See Holiday Recharge, December 1998,, you can turn these slow times to your advantage.

Tis the season to get busy

It may be hard to think about doing more work when everyone else is slowing down, but you can gain quite a bit of ground in your job and your career by using this time to its best advantage. Too often tech workers struggle under a heavy burden of customer demands, vendor issues and projects that have gone awry. All these issues tend to ease during the holidays. People are asking fewer questions, vendors are not releasing new versions of their products and projects usually don't have major deadlines scheduled.

Now is the time to hit some of your pet projects hard. Perhaps you have been meaning to do a major upgrade to a system. Better to do it now than when people aren’t in a crunch time. This allows you to do the upgrade at a more leisurely pace where you can actually think about each step instead of rushing through it. So many times you create your own problems by attempting to get a project completed in too little time.
Do you need to evaluate a new piece of software for the company? This is the time to do it. With fewer support calls clamoring for your time you might actually be able to get 10-15 minutes of continuous concentration.

This is also the perfect time to schedule computer upgrades, installs and moves of computer systems. If people are taking vacation days during the holidays you can arrange to replace their machine while they are gone. In this way you have the time to carefully do the upgrade without the pressure and the user has a new computer or new software when they return. Even if people are not taking time off, the slower pace of work will help to reduce the pressure as well.

Finally, depending on whether your company operates on a fiscal year or a calendar year, you may actually have a new budget for the coming year already. At one large corporation where I worked the fiscal year started in October. This meant that we could start purchasing new equipment and software so that by the time the holidays were over most of the equipment was in place and operating.

But I just want some eggnog

I know that working harder during the holidays might seem a large burden when everyone else is winding down, but the truth is you will reap the benefits of this extra work throughout the year to come. The work you do during this relatively quiet period means that there will be less work to do during the rest of the year. Instead of trying to balance maintenance and installation work you will be able to focus entirely on the most critical problems that occur. If you get enough of these projects done you might even find that you have time to work on your pet projects during the rest of the year when you are usually buried in crisis after crisis.

Take the time now, when work is relatively slower, to attack those projects that require your best concentration and thinking. Enjoy the luxury of being able to think about one issue without being constantly interrupted by phone calls, voice mails and email. This is your time to re-energize and re-focus on the most pressing issues for you and your company. I can almost guarantee that you will do a better job and produce better results. Better results mean better performance reviews, better raises and a better career. Besides, even the most mundane work seems less so when you have some chocolate or holiday cookies to munch while you work.

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