Depending on which survey you read, anywhere from 50 to
75 percent of Americans are unhappy at work. For those of us who work in IT,
such discontent may stem from a tendency to allow our career to lead us in a
direction we never intended. We may start as a junior network admin, move to second
tier support tech, then to applications engineer, then to security expert. We
don’t necessarily plan it – in each case we just fill the need of the moment. One
day you’re asked to deploy updates via WSUS and six months later you’re
managing the endpoint protection for the enterprise. You just slid right into
it, happy or otherwise.
If you are
unhappy, you can transition into an area you like in the same way you started
out: by slowly training on the side, taking on some side work, and working your
way off your old track. This way it’s not cold turkey, your income won’t
dip, and you’ll get in on a much higher level.
IT has always been dynamic, quickly changing from one
technology to the next. But the pace of change is so rapid that we may not always
have the luxury of changing along with it. Think of it this way: We went from
Windows NT to deploying XP in about five years. It was essentially the same
architecture: one box with an OS, so it required the same level of support. Today
organizations are considering moving to a locally managed cloud where the
desktop is a single image served up on each boot. The apps are packaged and
streamed on demand. I can count a lot of positions that will be lost when that
happens. But lost is the wrong word. They
What were your daily tasks five years ago? Does that
old job even exist? Think back to the A+ certification and how that ensured a
newbie a good living. But who is diagnosing memory errors today? Who listens to the beep codes to see if the
problem is the video card or the motherboard? The stuff is so cheap that it’s
too expensive to have someone do anything but swap the whole system out.
If the auto plant workers could relive the last five
years, I have to believe most would opt to transition to a different area, happily
Suggested Transitional To-Do List
- Plan: You are in the best position to see the health of your job. How
would you eliminate it and how would you replace it? That may be your next
job. Proactively make your job obsolete by doing the next one. It’s a
natural and seamless transition if you already love what you do.
- Set a Deadline. Create a schedule, a project list of goals and dates. Just typing
it out brings it that much closer. Deadlines give you a measure of progress.
- Find What You Love. You really already know what it is. Why move from one unhappy job
to the next? Be sure your job will
be waiting for you when you arrive. And remember: You don’t want to move
from one sunset technology to another.
- Think Big. Is nanotechnology too big? It may be, but remember computers were
once operated by guys in lab coats. That rate of change may spur a trickle
down to where you don’t need a Ph.D. to perform more routine tasks. If
not, how about learning to write some APIs for the iPad?
- Go wide: Where once the trend was specialization, like an SQL server admin,
today companies are looking for people who look over a bit of code, modify
group rights in AD, and do a P to V conversion.
- Start: It’s all free to learn. Nearly all software has a one month (or longer)
trial period. Install it on a few virtual machines on your home PC, when
the trial period ends, just blow it out and start over. It only costs you
If nothing else, doing all this adds to your current
skill set. And any successful person will tell you that luck comes from preparation.
Dino Londis is an applications management engineer in New York.