Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch


November 21, 2003

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As you continue in your high-tech career, you will naturally find that there are some tasks, some systems, some software that you prefer. This is natural and an important guide in choosing the future direction of your career. Continually having to perform undesirable tasks or working with systems you don’t like, is a sure road to job, and perhaps, career, burnout. That said, it is also important to continue developing your generalized knowledge so that you are not left at the mercy of any one, obsolete technology.

What do you want?

Are you a Mac person or a Windows Guru? Does Unix seem to be the best of all worlds? Do you like to hunker down into a 12-hour programming session? Over time you will find those places, those technologies, those people that make you most comfortable. You need to pay close attention to them, as they are showing you the future direction of your career.

As I discussed last week, the only way to know where you want to focus you career is to experience as much as possible. You really can’t decide you do or don’t like programming until you spend a little time doing it. I found this out myself when I attempted to work towards a computer science minor when I was in college. I quickly realized that, not only did I not really care for programming, it was the focus of the entire computer science academic track. I had only had experience in programming small, fun applications for myself, so I didn’t get the full picture until I decided to wade into the programming world.

Once you start to see a trend in your likes and dislikes, you can subtly start moving more and more in that direction. If you like working with people, find jobs that lean towards technical support or training. If you don’t like dealing with people, look into network administration or, even more, programming. A high-tech career, indeed, any career is one of slow and steady change. With each new job, each new promotion you are subtly refining it to meet your needs.



While you are developing your career, there are a few traps you want to avoid. This is especially true when working in high-tech. Even as you continue to refine your career and specialize in ever-narrowing areas of expertise, you must continue to build your generalized knowledge. While you may be an expert at developing Windows programs, you still need to be aware of advances and issues in the Macintosh and Unix communities. You need to listen for the rumblings of big changes in your area of expertise. Perhaps a new method of programming is gaining strength. Maybe the popularity of your network operating system is faltering. Is the manufacturer of your company’s PCs sliding towards bankruptcy?

These issues and many others can sidetrack your career, especially if you let them come as surprise. Obsolescence effects everyone who works in high-tech. It can be very threatening and downright frightening. You have worked so hard to gain all this knowledge that will slowly (or suddenly) be rendered useless. This is why it is so important to not “put all your eggs in one basket.” Being aware of innovations and changes in high-tech can help. Also, having two or more areas of specialization can allow you to move from one area to another, as older technologies become obsolete.

No career is truly stable, no matter how it might appear. Even your neighborhood dry cleaner has to deal with changes in the industry, environmental protection laws and changing neighborhood needs.High-tech careers are even more changeable. Specializing in one particular area of expertise is no guarantee that you will have a successful career. Instead, you need to be aware and adaptable. Be aware of changes and adapt to these changes. While it can take years for some technologies to become obsolete, you will find that you need to adapt your career on a daily basis. Understanding the changeable nature of the high-tech industry and your high-tech career is one of the most important ways to keep your career on track.

Next week I will discuss how to prevent your mature high-tech career from becoming a dead end.

Book of the Week: Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work & Life by David Allen



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