Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

A little crazy

July 18, 2004

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I hear it all the time; “You must be crazy to turn down that job.” “Take a month’s vacation, are you crazy?” “You would be crazy to quit your job now!” The truth is, a little craziness is something to be cultivated, not quashed. If you don’t have a little craziness in you, you are in danger of locking yourself into a life and career of staid boredom. Is that what you really want?

Who’s crazier?

While I don’t consider myself even slightly crazy, to other’s I am a complete wacko. When I decided to leave a relatively secure job to work for myself, I am sure most of my co-workers shook their heads and assumed I would be back within a month. When my wife and I decided that I would take care of the baby and she would work in an office for 3 years, most of our friends openly expressed disbelief (and immediately assumed that we had hired a full-time nanny.) When I tell people I don’t advertise my consulting services, have no written contracts with my clients and regularly “fire” customers, they simply refuse to believe me. Of course, these are the same people who regularly complain about stress-related health problems, 12 hour/7 day work schedules and outright fear of being laid off.

This always makes me question just who is the crazier person? Is it better to be locked into a job where you have no power and fear for your job or to work for yourself and still possibly fear for your job? Is it crazier to slave away at 60 hour weeks only to fired at the successful completion of the project or wonder about where your next project is coming from, knowing no one can fire you?

Out with the old, in with the new

The truth is, what may have seemed crazy a decade ago should be part of every high-tech career. If you are even moderately successful in your career at this point, you have proven that you have the talents necessary to take you to even greater heights. More and more frequently, though, you will find that you need to reach outside the old definition of success in order to transcend it.
I believe that if you really want to excel in a high-tech career, inside or outside of a large corporation, you need to forget about the old “company man” stereotypes and get a little crazy. If you want to achieve extreme success in your field (and still have some time for the rest of your life) here are a few guidelines for a little, moderate craziness.

• Find a company that is a bit crazy or create one on your own

Finding a company that can deal with even the moderate ideas mentioned below can be a daunting task. You may find that in order to have the career you want, you may have to strike out on your own.

• Care a little more…about everything

I have often been told I care too much. The fact is, I do care. I care that my clients have a good experience with their computers. I care that people don’t get screwed over by their employers. I care that everyone should have the best life they can possibly have. If you do not care about your co-workers or your customers, why are you doing what you do? Find something you care about, more than anything else in your life, and you will have the beginnings of a successful career.

• Take time off to do a better job

Whenever you are putting forth 110% of effort to get a project completed, make sure you take time for yourself. No one can work 24/7, but some companies think they should. The law of diminishing returns will soon visit a healthy penalty on anyone who tries to break it. Make sure you take that vacation. Make sure you get to spend your weekends having barbecues and watching your kids play baseball. Sure people may give you odd looks, but you will find that when you come back you will be running circles around their productivity.

• Take a lower paying/better experience job

We can all get tied up in the money trap. The truth is, though, most of us would rather be working on something exciting and interesting than slogging away putting Slot A into Tab B. Your career will be enhanced by being involved in projects that make a difference instead of producing “yet another <insert product here>.” More importantly, your life will be enhanced, as well.

• Don’t take abuse...from anyone…for any reason

Too many times I hear stories of abuse, mental and even physical, from workers in all sorts of companies and all sorts of positions. This can involve everything from excessive unpaid overtime to asking workers to do something unethical or even illegal. This behavior is often justified by the employee because they are in fear of losing their job. I would ask, is this a job worth having? Is sacrificing your own ethics, morals and well-being worth it? The obvious answer is no. You are the only one that can end the abuse. If you begin to believe that you have no other choice, no other job, no other life, then the abuser has won. The abuse will not only continue, but it is destined to get worse.

Crazy ideas? To some. To others they are the seeds of a plan. They might be just crazy enough to work. Are you crazy enough to give them a try? You just might surprise yourself.


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