Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

It's ok to leave

December 12, 2003

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A high-tech career is not an easy path. It is fraught with pitfalls and a somewhat dubious record for great success. You can find yourself struggling with bad technology, bad people and bad companies. Worse still, you can find yourself struggling with your own thoughts, hopes and dreams. Despite my immersion in high-tech for almost 20 years now, I would be the first one to tell you, it is ok to give up. It is ok to walk away from a high-tech career. It is ok to find something more meaningful, more rewarding and, hopefully, more lucrative.

A heavy load

I know how you might be feeling at the end of a long, unsuccessful day. I have been there. You feel like you are fighting with everything around you. You can’t make things work and your co-workers and management only make it worse, looking over your shoulder and murmuring in the background. It is like walking across a muddy field, where every step gathers more dirt to your boots, making them heavier and heavier, until you can hardly lift your legs. You feel stuck and alone.

Everyone experiences some form of this every so often. It is the nature of life that there are ups and downs, good days and bad. This should not worry you. It is when this scenario becomes the normal state of your life and world that you should worry. If every day seems a slog and it is hard to get out of bed, you may need to take a long hard look at exactly what is dragging you down.


What you may find is it isn’t necessarily the high-tech portions of your career that are the problems. Sure, many of us can get burned out on technology after working with it for years and years. Don’t think that I haven’t thought about a thousand different possibilities where I would never have to look at a computer again. More frequently, though, your largest issues are really people problems..

Too many of us find ourselves working for and/or with people with whom we would never associate in our personal life -- people so different from you that it almost hurts -- people with different ethics, different prejudices, different goals and different methods for obtaining them. We often fall into companies and industries by default, taking the first job that leads to the next and the next. Before too long, you can find yourself in a world that is so different it can seem a nightmare.

New Horizons

It is only by direct and conscious action that you can begin to remove yourself from this world and try to find someplace that feels more like home. Maybe you are truly “finished” with technology and never want to see another computer for as long as you live. That’s ok. There are millions of people who have great lives without computers, television, telephones and even electricity. No matter what anyone might tell you, if you decide this is best for you, then it’s ok.

Maybe you don’t need to go so far as to disavow all technology. I know that even if I stop working in a high-tech career I will always have my computers and other technology in my life. I like what these devices offer me and I like tinkering with them. Perhaps, though, you need to find a career in an entirely different area. Become a social worker, a coffee shop/bookstore owner, a carpenter or any of a thousand other possibilities. Don’t let the conventional wisdom that “high-tech is the place to be” lead you down the wrong path. You shouldn’t be living the life that someone else wants you to lead. You should be living the life you really want.

Too often, we listen more to career counselors, friends and family than to ourselves. You may find that high-tech is indeed your destiny or you may not. Whatever the case, I give you full permission to seek out alternative jobs, alternative careers and alternative lives. You don’t really need anyone’s permission, but I hope by offering it, it will allow you to take one small step on your way to a new career and a new life.


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