A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch




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December 5, 2003

For Better or Worse

© 2003, Douglas E. Welch

As I write, California has recently recalled one governor and elected a new one. Regardless of your politics, these events are sure to bring some large changes to the state. These events are a good reminder to be prepared for whatever business eventuality you might face in the coming months. Whether the news is good or bad, the economy up or down, you need to have a plan that allows you, your company, and your high-tech career to thrive.

The Good and the Bad

In the real world, everything is cyclical, business goes up and down, along with prices and the stock market. By planning ahead for these cycles, even if you are not exactly sure when they may occur, you can react more quickly and less emotionally. This allows you to make better decisions overall.

While it might seem counterintuitive at first, it is just as important to plan for the good times as well as the bad. Too many people are hyper-focused on layoffs and other cost reductions instead of planning for business growth. Worse still, these attitudes become more entrenched year after year and can blind companies to any approaching upturn. This can prevent them from making the most of any new opportunities that might appear. They resist the need to invest in more people or infrastructure so intently that the opportunity is often gone before they even see it. Just because things might be gloomy now, they might (and probably will) get better. Will you be ready?

Start thinking

In order to protect you from focusing on the down side of your career or business, you need to pull pen and paper and start thinking today. It may sound impossible, but I want you to take some time away from work, possibly with a few close friends or co-workers, to simply think. Too often we get so tied up in our daily crises that we don't have the time to think about where we are headed, in business and in life. When you are away, start asking some questions.

What good things might happen to your job, your career, your department or your company in the coming year? Are there some big contracts that might be completed? Is the industry expanding? Are current trends offering new opportunities? Have you found a new passion that you want to pursue?

For each possible positive aspect you list, develop ideas regarding how you might take advantage of them. If your skills will be more in demand, this might be the time to ask for a promotion or look for a new job. If the industry is growing, maybe you should be asking for additional staff and infrastructure for your department. If you see the possibility of an expanded market, maybe this is the time to open that new plant or store. You don't have to (and probably won’t) put any of these plans into action immediately, but the simple act of thinking about them puts you ahead of most companies.

Now that you have first thought about the positive, think about the opposite. What if your skills are less in demand than before? Is the time right for retraining for developing a new career? Is the time right to reduce costs now and refocus on your core business so you can avoid layoffs? Is the time right to sell, mothball, or re-purpose your excess manufacturing capacity or move into a smaller storefront/office? Thinking about this now, before you need it, allows you to think more clearly. When you are engaged in the depths of a large problem, you often don’t allow yourself the luxury of taking the time to think. You feel you should be reacting, not thinking.

Thinking = seeing

Thinking about these questions will begin to illuminate and inform your day-to-day thinking, both consciously and unconsciously. When you buy a new car, or become interested in a particular model, you suddenly start seeing these cars everywhere. Your mind is become more attuned to them. You notice them because you are interested in them. The same is true of these questions. As you flip through a magazine or book, information related to your questions and answers will suddenly start to pop out. You will begin to see more and more useful information because you now have some clear idea of what you need. In the past you may have simply glossed over certain items, but now you have a mental index of information that you need.

Regardless of your position in the company, or the level of your career, a few minutes thinking can save you years of disappointment and missed opportunities. When you feel that you don't have the time to stop and think, this is precisely the time when you need it most. Disconnect yourself, even if just for a short time, and think about where you are, where you are headed and the good or bad situations you might find. Once informed, your everyday thinking will be clearer and greatly benefit your high tech career.

about this column.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/

He can reached via email at douglas@welchwrite.com

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