Tagcareer

What I want to be when I grow up

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. When I was young, I wanted to work as a designer and one day own a design shop. I laid out newspapers in college in print. Then when the web became a medium of its own, I started learning HTML and CSS and tried to expand my work there.

I graduated college with a degree in Creative Advertising. It taught me I didn’t want to work in advertising. I wanted to work in design. But the economy was terrible and I had to find a job.

I fell into tech support. First supporting a rollout of Windows XP computers. Then moving into the world of quick printing then back to tech support. I’ve worked in some version of technical support since 2007.

In the past decade I’ve worked in some interesting places and some I’d rather forget. I find the challenge in solving problems fascinating. But fixing the same problem every day is a fast path to burnout.

I got out of straight technical support and fell into event management and webinars. An opportunity presented itself and I took it. And now a couple of years later, I find myself at another crossroads. I’ve hit a place where I need to make a major decision.

Where do I go with my career?

What I do

I could keep doing what I’m doing and work in Rich Media and Unified Communications. Explaining WebEx and teleconferencing to people. Organizing upgrades and planning future applications and tools to help communications.

I enjoy the technical challenges of building out a system for our customers. I want to help make their life easier and worry less about technology and more about what they do. I don’t want a chemist to worry about her WebEx account. I want her worrying about chemistry.

What I could do

Technical Writing / Documentation

I also have an interest in technical writing and documentation. I like to document how things work. I enjoy testing them to see how systems and applications work in practice. I need to know how something works and write it down so I remember it later.

I enjoy explaining how things work. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned and writing out detailed steps to repeat a process. I’ve always prided myself on my documentation work and always made a point to document as much as I could. Either for my team (or myself) or the customer.

I live by the idea of helping out Future Carl. I’m going to need this again and I won’t remember when I do so I better write it down. If I don’t help Future Carl out, who will?

Event Planing

There were aspects of my last job around event planning I enjoyed. I enjoyed the logistical planning for successful events. Granted, I was working in a single building (most of the time) and with a set group of people (government employees).

But I worry about the long-term appeal of the work. Will it get old after a short time? Will it be fulfilling? Or stressful?

Technical Track

I could go more technical. Find a path to take I enjoy. Whether it be in the realm of Unified Communications & Rich Media where I am now. Or if I take another branch from the tree of technology.

The problem with that is I don’t know what I want to do with myself. There are lots of things that seem interesting. But are they hobbies, fleeting interests or solid career paths?

The common thread in all my work is helping people and making things work better. I want to take the challenge out of technology and make it work for the people who need it. Not the other way around. I want to help people do their work better. I need to figure out how best to do that in a fulfilling and profitable way.

Jobs follow up

My post Did your job exist 10 years ago? got some good feedback. There was a good thread going over at app.net which I urge you to read.

The motivation for the post came from listening to the Technical Difficulties podcast with Merlin Mann. During the show, Merlin said something like Jobs fall less into tidy buckets.

That’s what got me thinking. The tidy bucket of doctor or astronaut no longer apply. I guess they never really did. But the explosion and specialization of the job market has opened a huge number of positions that either didn’t exist, or as a farm boy in rural Virginia, I had no way to know existed.

On Facebook, Bradley Gawthrop said,

I agree with the spirit of this post, but the particulars are a bit fuzzy. There were absolutely software developers, graphics designers, and systems administrators in 2000. In fact, I’d done every one of those jobs for actual money by that year. Probably they didn’t represent as big a slice of the economy as they do now, but there was a ready market for all three.

This is true. I was taking my experience and making it universal. Those jobs certainly did exist and there were people doing them. I didn’t’t know what a systems administrator was, nor even what system would need to be administrated.

I knew graphic arts existed and that software needed to be created, but I had never thought about how software was made.

I grew up on a farm. I’ve herded cows and helped collect and pitch bales of hay. The first vehicle I ever drove was a tractor. The school bus was delayed on occasion by a bovine blockage((cows on the road)) on the gravel road where I lived.

The Internet to me was a 26400 bps dial-up connection.

oluseyi wrote:

A decade ago is 2003; some of the claims about computers and software developers seem… poetically embellished! I was expecting to read that you were in high school in the 50s, the way they were set up 😛

I graduated high school 13 years ago. It’s nearly been a decade since I left college. I chose poor examples and an even poorer title. Replace computers with mobile phones and I’m a few decades closer to a valid example, but my point remains. The explosion of jobs and opportunities which simply didn’t exist when I was in school looking at colleges and career choices. I still feel old. 😛

duerig said:

Actually, this reminds me about an interesting book I read a while back called ‘The Shock of the Old‘. It is a bit meandering, but it keeps the focus on the diffusion and actual use of technology rather than the ‘invention’ moment.

We tend to think that the ‘invention’ is the crucial moment, but there is often a huge gap between the invention and when it actually impacts more and more people, especially when looked at globally. It is similar with career fields.

This is an excellent point. There can be a huge gap between invention and adoption. Just because something was invented, doesn’t mean it’s accessible to everyone.

I knew graphic artists existed ((Bad example)) because my father’s business is in printing and copying. I knew what it took to make a book, newsletter, magazine. And in high school I worked on the staffs of the schools’ literary magazine and newspaper. The field existed but not in the same way it does today.

oluseyi went on to say:

The world is full of unknown unknowns. Guidance counselors should be voraciously seeking out new and interesting career opportunities, sensitizing kids to possibility, but it always seems to be a case of fitting them into existing slots.

I don’t necessarily fault the guidance counselors of the world. Their job is incredibly difficult partly due to…

It’s a shame, really. I don’t think most people know enough to decide on a career until well after college graduation! I knew, by the time I was 21, that my college degree was incidental to my career prospects—and both of my parents are professors!

I went to college to learn what I didn’t want to do. I studied Creative Advertising ((Different from Business Advertising which was all numbers and planning. It was as close to a graphic artist education I could receive without suffering through a year of trying to learn how to draw.)) I left school without a job or even the slightest idea of how to get a job in Advertising. So I went into tech support.

misterpoppet added an excellent point:

In some case, very much so. High schools in Northeast Indiana tend to funnel the student body to local factory jobs.

Having to choose a career path upon high school graduation was a terrifying prospect. What is I chose wrong? What if I went to school and didn’t learn enough to get a job? What if I didn’t go at all?

For most of my classmates, college wasn’t a realistic option for them. They were lucky to have graduated high school. The moment they did, they were back on the farm with their parents. Their life was that of a farmer. They weren’t going to college because they had no need for it, at least in their parent’s eyes. Their parents didn’t need a college degree to plant crops and tend to livestock, why do they?

I look back at where I’ve worked and what I’ve done. And I think about my time in high school. None of what I do now was even on my radar then. What jobs will be commonplace in the next decade? What jobs will continue to disappear until they’ve nearly extinct?

Choices

I’ve thought a lot lately about the choices I’ve made. I try to make the best choice I can. I try to do what is best for me. No one is going to look our for me but me.

There are times when no amount of research and planning and thinking through all the possibilities the choice will bring, in the end it’s the wrong choice.

Choices

Choices are tricky things. I make them all day. Most of them are inconsequential. Whether I’ve made lunch or laid my clothes out the night before may have a small financial impact. But it won’t have long-lasting effects.

The decision to find a new job, and leave my current job is a bigger choice. It’s not one I ever take lightly. Every decision is a trade-off. Every job has it’s rewards and challenges. Before I make a move, I try to think through everything that will change.

There are the big questions.

  • How much will I make?
  • Are the benefits good?
  • Are there any perks?
  • Could I get a raise, or a bonus?
  • What about advancement? Will I be doing the same thing I am now in five years?

Then there are more deceptive questions. These don’t seem as important but are vital to the decision.

  • What will the commute be like? How much of my day am I giving up?
  • What is the culture where I’m going?
  • Will I fit into the team? Is there a team?
  • Will I like it there? This is where I will be spending eight plus hours so I should consider if I like it there.

Finally, there is the biggest question of all, do I make a move at all?

Every decision starts with a yes to the last question. Yes, I want to work somewhere else. Before the hunt begins, I have to decide to start looking.

After all the careful and considered planning, there is still risk. Even after all the pros and cons are identified and weighed. There is still a lot I don’t know.

The situation you think you’re walking into may not be what you find.

Every choice could make my situation better or could make it worse. I try to better myself and my situation with each move. But sometimes, I choose wrong.

And when I do make that wrong choice, I need to keep choosing. No choice is final. Nothing I decide to do is forever. Nothing I do can’t be undone and no matter who my choice affects, the choice is still mine. And I have to put myself first. I have to do what is best for me.

And hope this time I make a better choice…

Photo from: Unsplash.com Photo by: Dietmar Becker

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