Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch


November 28, 2003

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So now that you are on your way to developing an excellent high-tech career -- you’ve either accrued a group of steady clients or snagged a solid corporate position -- how do you ensure your continued success? Last week, I talked about the benefits and problems of specialization. Today I want to discuss the best method of keeping your career fresh in an ever-changing world.

No rest for the excellent

No matter how good you are at what you do, you can never sit still in your career. Technologies become obsolete, new business methods and models are created and time waits for no man (or woman). Your career never simply stands still. Without constant focus on improvement, your career will start moving backwards. You will find yourself marginalized and left with a progressively smaller piece of the workplace pie. You need to keep moving forward in your knowledge and skills to just keep pace. Ideally, you should do more than just keep pace, you should also continue advancing your career. While you can take great pride in your successful career, you can never rest on your laurels. There are several ways to insure that you don’t just tread water in your career, but continue to set the pace for those around you.

Be aware

First among the tools for staying current in your career is awareness. Too often I see high-tech workers who have specialized so doggedly that they actively ignore anything outside their current knowledge. You can usually tell this type of high-tech worker by their dismissive behavior towards anything new or different. They are often the ones constantly involved in the on-going Windows/Mac/Unix flamewars that seem to percolate online.

Instead of ignoring or dismissing technological advances, you should be investigating them. Dig deeply to find the good points as well as the bad. Try to find the best part of any technology and do some hard thinking about how it can be exploited. Your first question about any technology should be, “How can this benefit my career?” By cultivating an open mind towards technology, you will be able to find new directions for your career to replace the inevitable obsolescence of other skills you might have.

Read, Read, Read

The most important way to remain open and aware to new ideas is to read. Read everything you can get your hands on, whether it applies directly to high-tech or not. The Internet, of course, is a great source for high-tech news and every high-tech careerist should have a method for collecting and analyzing it. I recently started developing and using RSS feeds to monitor a variety of web sites, blogs and search engines. This passive system monitors various sources on the Internet and then reports items that might be of interest to me. It is like having your own personal assistant, who knows all your most important interests, gathering information for you 24 hours a day.

As useful as the Internet is, traditional print publications like books and magazines are also important. This is one reason I have started adding the Book of the Week to each installment of this column. Books and magazines can introduce you to new concepts that you might not have otherwise found. This is especially important since some of the best technology ideas are first sparked by their use in an unrelated area. You never know how a book on race relations or chaos theory will inform your understanding of a high-tech problem.

Constant learning

Overall, the most important aspect of any career is that of constant learning. If you are not learning, exploring, questioning and curiously seeking something out every single day, you are not fully alive. Humans, as a group, are creative, inquisitive, curious beings who derive great joy in discovering new things. Make sure you are providing your mind enough fuel for the fire. Your career is never complete. It will be a part of you all your life Take the reins of your career and seek out new stimulus, new thoughts, new opportunities instead of letting the world push you from one job to another. Each and every one of you has a unique gift to share with the world. Your career can be a way of sharing this gift.

Over the last 4 weeks I have detailed what I believe to be the most important parts of an education for your high-tech career. Whether you are just starting out or already have a successful career, it is important to be aware of your desires as well as the ever changing nature of the high-tech world. When you remain aware and alert, you will see opportunities to expand your career that others might miss. More importantly, you will develop a high-tech career that not only suits you, but enhances your life and the lives of those around you.

Book of the Week: The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action


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