Career Opportunities

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A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

Labor Day

September 3, 1999

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Labor Day

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 ( 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.

Attention, please

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 once again.

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:


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