(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)
Of all the feelings you can have about your high-tech career, you should never feel despair. Too often, though, this is exactly what I hear in people’s voices — a sense of despair. For whatever reason, high-tech careers tend to generate these feelings far out of proportion to other avenues of work. Many high-tech workers have concluded that their work, and their lives, will never change, no matter how hard they try. Let me say to them, and to you, this is sheer nonsense. Even the smallest action can put you on the road to alleviating your feelings of despair or avoiding them altogether.
The deepest cause of career despair is the simple act of giving up. If you have decided that nothing will ever change, you’re assuring your own despair. There is always something you can do until you breathe your last breath. Some wise sage once said, “Where there is life, there is hope.” No one can make you give up. This is a decision you come to all on your own. You might not think about it, but over time, you simply stop trying. Instead of taking new action, you avoid it. Instead of seeking out new challenges, you focus on rote work you could do in your sleep. Worse still, you start creating your own excuses for your despair. “They’ll never give me a raise. I’m trapped in this dead-end job. No one cares about my work.”
Thought and action, not complaints
I must admit that one of my pet peeves are those people who find endless energy to complain about their fate, but dedicate none of this energy to finding a way out. You need to see your unhappiness as a call to action, not a reason to despair.
It is important to understand that alleviating your despair doesn’t require dramatic actions, such as quitting your job, divorcing your spouse or leaving home — although you might eventually do any or all of those things. Rather it starts with the smallest action — deciding not to give up.
Next, you need to do some hard thinking. Thinking about what gives you joy. You probably already know what you dislike about your life, so dedicate some thinking to the other side. What would you do if you could do anything? What tools, knowledge or training do you need to get there?
Don’t worry about how feasible it is to pursue these activities, just re-visit them in your mind. You will find that you naturally start to think of ideas about small ways you can engage in your favorite activities again. Take one of these small steps and do it. This can place you back on track. Then, choose another idea, and make it happen. Repeat as necessary. You’re not trying to run a marathon, simply taking one step forward.
Now, look at your current job. Is there anything you can do about the problems that have caused you to lose hope? Be honest with yourself. Are any of the problems of your own making? Can you find a way around them? Are you truly faced with intractable management issues? Is your manager abusive? Does the company engage in criminal activities? Are they simply clueless? If you have truly lost hope in your current company, your only choice may be to get out.
You may have convinced yourself, though, that all the companies in the world are as messed up as your current one. Once again, this is nonsense. This is simply something we tell ourselves to validate our despair. Don’t fall into this trap. I can guarantee that there are better places to work, even if it might take you some time to find them.
Look around you. There are countless people who are willing and able to help you, if you only rise up out of your despair and give them a chance. Instead of complaining about your job, ask for their help. Instead, of falling into despair, take an active role in making your life better.
When you feel that others have given up on you, it is often because you have given up on yourself. If you want a better career, and a better life, you cannot accept despair. You cannot, and should not, give up. The future of your high-tech career lies in your own heart and mind and can be achieved by taking one small step at a time.
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