by Douglas E. Welch
September 3, 1999
© 1999, Douglas E. Welch
Although Labor Day seems to be more about the unofficial end of summer,
it should also be a time for everyone to reflect on their careers and
see just where they are headed. You can think of it as the New Year's
Day of career planning. It is time to take stock, make some resolutions
and move forward in the knowledge that your career is under your control.
A Union of One
Labor Day, first celebrated in 1882, was conceived by early labor
unions as a day to celebrate the union worker. It was a day to demonstrate
the solidarity and the power of the unions to protect their members.
In today's high-tech world most computer workers don't have unions
but you need to think about your career as if you are a union of one.
You need to look out for your best interests and how they match the
best interests of your company. Labor Day provides us this time. Take
an hour and think about where you want to be when the next Labor Day
rolls around and then, on Tuesday, start to put your plans into action.
If you had a union who collectively bargained for you and your co-workers,
what would you want them to do for you and your peers? Thinking in
this way puts some distance between you and your job. A little dispassionate
space can sometimes help you discover what you really want out of your
career and not just what you are supposed to want. It also gives you
the freedom to engage thoughts you might not consider otherwise. Would
the union be asking for flextime, shorter work weeks, better working
conditions, better retirement plans? These are items that you, as an
individual, can also negotiate.
Of course, to be a good negotiator you have to develop a better understanding
of your company's needs. You have to know how your requests are going
to effect company operations and revenue. Trying to negotiate something
that is clearly detrimental to the company is a sure way to be rejected.
Putting yourself in the company's shoes can help you to better understand
why your company operates the way it does. You might even realize that
your job is better than you thought it was.
What's the next step?
The next thing to consider this Labor Day is what is the next step
in your career? If you have a clear career path in your current company
you are very lucky. Too often companies put little or no thought into
how their employees can grow over time. If you feel your job has become
too restraining and there doesn't appear to be a way up, you might
be better off moving out.
It is always a good idea to be in touch with the current state of
the job market. Take a look at the classified ads every so often. Visit
and set up a personal agent to send you job listings in your current
field. Search CareerPath (www.careerpath.com)
for jobs that are being offered around the country, not just in your
city. It only takes a few minutes a month but it can give you a clear
picture of what positions are most in demand.
You might want to take some time to investigate starting your own
company or being self-employed. While this might not be the choice
for everyone you need to readdress the issue regularly. We all change.
Your desire to work for yourself might also change. Your opportunities
for starting your own business can also change dramatically. Regularly
revisiting this issue can be helpful in gauging your current career
satisfaction and re-directing your career.
Labor Day weekend holds one additional benefit, especially for those
of you currently looking for employment. It signals the end of the
vacation season for most people. As kids go back to school, their parents
go back to work. This means employment applications, resumes and interviews
will get a little more attention in the coming months. It is time to
focus on your job search before the end-of year holidays distract everyone
So, in between the hot dogs for lunch and the hamburgers for dinner,
between working on your tan and swimming in the surf, give a little
thought towards your own labor. Take a few minutes to consider whether
you could be better off than you are today. It doesn't take any more
energy than turning the pages on your beach-reading novel but can have
great results. Celebrate your labor this Labor Day and make sure that
it counts for something in the future.
For a history of the Labor Day holiday, visit The U. S. Department
of Labor Web Site at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/opa/public/aboutdol/laborday.htm
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