Career Opportunities

Helping to build the career you deserve!

A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

Helping them out

August 17, 2001

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Look at any 10 small companies today, regardless of the industry they are in, and you will find 5 or more that have no full-time technology staff. Instead you will find someone who is probably regretting they ever told anyone that they knew something about computers. Too often these de facto technology workers want nothing more than to get back to doing the job they really love and leave the technology issues to someone else. As you might imagine, this can be a marvelous opportunity to jumpstart your career.

Offer a helping hand

The first thing you need to do is keep your eyes open for those people who are tired of bearing the technology standard. It probably started with a simple request to set up a few PCs, but now they have to maintain all the computers in the office. You can often find these people posting questions in computer help mailing lists or forums. Watch for messages requesting assistance with what you might consider basic issues. Do you get a sense of frustration from the message? Does the sender sound as if they are fed up with technology?

If you can help this person out, make an introduction. Perhaps they could use more of your help. Oftentimes, they would love to have your assistance, but they need help in selling it to their management. Many companies will figure they are already getting technology support for free, totally disregarding that their employee is not doing what they are paying them to do. You can help your new acquaintance to make a case for your services. Offer a free evaluation meeting to check out their needs and make some recommendations. Show them how you can solve their more pressing problems, like software and hardware upgrades, in much less time then their in-house technology worker.

You should also talk about how you can be an on-call resource to the in-house staff. Maybe they don't need you every week, but having your skills available can significantly reduce downtime and increase productivity.

In demand

Once you get your foot in the door of a small company you will quickly find that the workers there will come to depend on you more and more. Your hours will increase regularly as old problems get killed off and new uses are found for the company's technology. Hopefully, too, the ad hoc technology worker will be freed to get back to their own work.

It is important that you service this company to the best of your abilities. These arrangements can last for many years and help to keep your cash flow stable as other projects come and go. If you need to spend more time on another project, arrange to have another consultant manage the account while you are busy. Once the project ends you can return to the company.

It is not uncommon to be called back to a company you once thought had forgotten about you weeks or even months after your last visit. Often these calls come at the best possible time, when other projects are stalled or non-existent. Stay in contact with the company with regular telephone calls or emails every few weeks.

Despite what some people might think, don't make the company too dependent on you. While it might generate a bit more income in the short term, it will eventually destroy the long-term relationship. Forcing the client to call you for each and every small change works fine when you have the time to service the company. The minute your schedule becomes more crowded you will not be able to service the company in a timely manner and that will generate much ill will. Give your clients the tools they need to get through their daily issues. They will still call you in on the more difficult or time consuming projects.

You can build you high-tech career by looking for opportunities to be helpful to those people who may have fallen into a high-tech career. There are a myriad of small companies that have a need for high-tech assistance, but can't afford a full-time staff member. While it is certainly more work to service many small companies instead of working a 9-5 job, it can also be more challenging and more rewarding.

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