Career Opportunities

Helping to build the career you deserve!

A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch


June 25, 2004

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WelchWrite Reader/Listener Line

After 20 years of working in high-tech, there are a few common themes that run through my career. Certainly, one theme is frustration. You can become frustrated with yourself, your skills, your clients and your career. Despite the fact that everyone experiences a certain amount of frustration, most people can have a difficult time dealing with it, including myself. Frustration can distract us from those things that truly matter at the very time when we need to be the most focused. Thankfully, there are a few ways to help work through frustrations of all sorts and get on with your career and your life.

Get away from it all

The best thing you can do when you are frustrated is to stop. Stop banging your head against the problem. Stop trying to explain a particular task to a client for the 100th time. Stop trying to explain how you could do your work much more easily with a new computer. Just stop. Forcing yourself forward when you are frustrated is a sure road to ruin. Sometimes you can’t make something happen just by working harder.

Instead, get out of the office. Walk over to the coffee shop or cafeteria. Take a few minutes to get away from it all. My favorite way to clear my head is to take a walk around the block. The physical activity works out the tension and stress captured in your body and the different visual stimulus can help you to reframe your problem in a new way.

While you can continue thinking about your problem while you walk, it is often better to push it out of your mind and concentrate on the scenery, the birds, the cool cars in the parking lot or the wonderful smell of fresh roasted beans coming from the corner coffee shop. While you might not be consciously focused on the problem, your mind will continue to mull it over. Often you will find that your mind will present options on its own once you have taken off the pressure a bit. This will allow you to return to the problem refreshed and with a few new ideas to try.

Take a deep breath

Sometimes, when you are working directly with clients, you can feel frustration start to creep into your voice and your attitude. Showing this frustration to your clients can be deadly to your career. No one likes feel that someone is “talking down” to them. Even worse, the frustration often has little to do with a particular client or situation, but is more a factor of your own fatigue or simply not feeling well.

This week I faced a bout of frustration with my clients. I had not gotten enough sleep and the calls were longer than usual. I could feel the frustration creeping into my voice and my attitude.

Luckily, I was also aware what was happening and I was able to re-direct it. The first thing to do is take a short break. Ask for a glass of water, tell the client you need to check your voice mail messages for a second, use any excuse to step away for a moment. Once alone (or quietly, if you can’t get away), take several deep breaths to calm yourself. Frustration often has a way of running away with our breathing and heart rate, so getting them under control is very important.

Next, if the client is having difficulty understanding a particular task, you need to find another way to frame it. Can you find different analogies that might relate more to their experience? Can you find a simpler way to accomplish the task? Can you automate parts of the task so the user can navigate it more easily? It is important to understand that when a client doesn’t understand something, it is as much your problem as it is theirs. They might not be understanding you, but you are also not making yourself understood to this particular person. You may have had great success explaining this idea in this exact way with most other clients but this one is just not getting it. Without taking a few minutes to think about the problem you might find yourself in the middle of a much larger personality problem…and no one wants that.

Frustration strikes everyone in a high-tech career, and usually at the worst possible moment. It is always the most important, the most troublesome, the most critical client that brings out the worst frustration. You can regain control, though, by taking a few minutes away to gather your thoughts, calm your body and mind and come back to the task refreshed. If you let your frustration spill over, your high-tech career might be much shorter than you would prefer.


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