Career Opportunities

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Starting a high-tech career: Part 4

© Douglas E. Welch 1997

Getting your first job is only one step on the path to a computer career. Just because you have a job doesn't mean you stop learning. In fact, it usually means that you are learning even more about computers and learning it even more quickly.

Continuing Education

When you have a job it becomes easier to learn about computers since you are exposed to them everyday. Part of any computer job is learning about the quirks and traps of the systems around you. Unfortunately, this can lead to tunnel vision about not only your own company, but also about the computer industry as a whole.

Many companies use one computer platform exclusively and this can cause your skills on other platforms to atrophy. While it isn't directly related to company business, it is in your best interest to keep abreast of development and changes in other computer platforms. You can never tell when you might need a new solution that only a different platform can provide.

Never turn down the opportunity for training. Even the worst training class can produce nuggets of information, new techniques, new commands or new processes that can be extremely useful. You will have even more access to cheap or free vendors seminars and training than you had before. A good manager will see the need for time-off to attend these classes and hopefully, help build your skills even more.

Hobbyist no more?

Just because you work with computers doesn't mean that they will stop being a hobby for you. My work has always benefited from my continuing computer hobby. Your hobby will probably have a different focus from your day-to-day work and this helps it to remain a hobby. Of course, the best feature of a hobby is that it will often yield serendipitous results by providing answers to problems you might be having on your job.

Sometimes working with computers can be a "job" in the worst sense when you are facing the same tasks and problems day after day at the office. A hobby can help to insure that you still have fun with your computer and avoid the burnout possible with any job.

The Need for Speed

The biggest problem we all face is the extreme speed of obsolescence in the computer industry. Knowledge that is critical today can be worthless tomorrow. It is important to understand this fact and learn to live with it. You must read your trade magazines, browse the Internet and talk with your peers so that you can continue to be an asset to both yourself and your company. Don't become trapped in the myth of "that is the way we have always done it." It is rare that the solution that worked last week will work perfectly today. Your high tech career is one of extreme change and extreme volatility. Embrace this as an opportunity to learn more, not an insurmountable challenge.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. While he cannot answer every letter directly, he welcomes questions and suggestions. Douglas can reached via email at or

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