Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Fighting the Futility

October 1, 2004

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I often get asked, “How can you stand to deal with computer problems, day in and day out?” My clients know how frustrated they can feel when their computers aren’t working well and can only imagine their frustration in dealing with the dozens of computers I see on a weekly basis. They sometimes wonder aloud how I can deal with the seeming futility of it all. How I spend my time putting computers back together, only to have them fall apart again. Usually I brush this off as individual differences. People have different aptitudes and tolerances for work. Something they find enjoyable might drive me to distraction. There is a kernel of truth in what they say, though, and every high-tech careerist needs to address the issue at some time in their career.

Don’t think about it

Perhaps it is simply a coping mechanism, but I don’t find myself thinking this way too often. It usually takes a string of bad appointments before I start questioning the work I do. That said, it can still happen. Fighting with a troublesome machine can be challenging, but after a point, it simply becomes annoying. In the worst cases, I dread going to see the client at all. If I am unable to solve the problem, due to hardware failures or other, more esoteric problems, it can send me into a bit of a funk. When this happens, I know I am in the danger zone. Bad moods can cause a downward spiral where you begin to question your work. This is a very normal reaction and there is nothing to worry about, as long as you understand what is happening. Before you hit bottom, you need to reach out and discover why you have chosen to do the work you do.

Doing good

Thankfully, my good calls and good clients, far outweigh the bad. I have good weeks and bad weeks, but the overall trend is always good. If it weren’t, I might make the decision that many others have made and get out of this line of business. This is a valid choice, of course. If you don’t think you are suited for a particular line of work, getting out may be the right answer. Furthermore, you may have to address this possibility at different times in your career. It isn’t a one-time decision. The answer can vary depending on how the other aspects of your life change and grow.

If you honestly look at your work, though, I think you will find that there are benefits and rewards mixed in among the troubles. This is especially true when things aren’t going as well as they should. I enjoy “doing good” in any situation -- work home or family. No matter how work may be going today, I try to remember those times when I have actively improved a client’s life through my work. This reminds me that I can, and will, do it again. Maybe the answer won’t come today, for this client but I will be able to help someone today, tomorrow or the next day. You can’t win every battle. You can’t help everyone, but those you do help with appreciate it more than you know.


Appreciation is the word that sums up one of my driving factors for continuing in my high-tech career. I know that my clients appreciate what I do for them and what that work allows them to accomplish. While I am certainly not indispensable, they know that I allow them to fly higher -- using their computer as a tool -- than they might be able to on their own. It is also this appreciation that drives me to do my best. Even when things are going badly, I know that they appreciate my efforts on their behalf, even if the solution is elusive. Without this appreciation and my understanding of its importance, I would have chosen a different career years ago.

If you find yourself struggling, one of your first goals should be to rediscover this appreciation of your own work. If you are not feeling it, try to discover why not. Are you failing in your work, or are your clients failing to appreciate you? These are hard questions to ask, but asking them will help you to make some very hard decisions about your career.

The feeling of futility can seep into any career. In most cases, though, these feelings are less important than what they say about how you feel about your work. Underneath the futility lie the true issues waiting to be addressed. These questions of self-worth, career choice, and the direction of your life are some of the most difficult to address. Go beyond the feelings of futility and use these feelings as a catalyst to ask the more important questions beyond.


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