June 09, 2003
I am having a crisis of faith this morning. My employment situation is such that I may have to find a new job soon. It has been almost three years since I found my current position. In that time the technology that I have been using recently has gone from a cutting edge, in demand skill; to a little heard of dead-end.
My entire career has been based on staying current with new technologies and trends. I have always managed in the past to sense when it was time to shift to a new area, and I have always managed to improve my skill set and advance my career as a result. Now, for the first time, I feel like I am faced with entering the job market without any one outstanding qualification. I am not current in the latest trendy technology skill.
When I look at the requirements for jobs listed on Dice or Monster I start to question why anyone would want to hire me. I know that I need to stop thinking of myself as a programmer and start thinking of my self as a project leader or manager. I have done those jobs in the past and I have excelled at them. But it was always an outgrowth of the situation I was in; I have never gotten a job where my base responsibility was that of leader or manager.
If I could find another job using my technical skills I would be very confident of myself and my ability to accomplish the job. While I am confident of my leadership skills I start to lose faith in my ability to use them when I consider marketing myself as a leader. When I have marketed myself as having this or that techie skill I have been able to back up my claims; I can talk the talk and I can walk the walk. When I start to market myself as a leader I get nervous because I have not walked the walk as much as I’d like.
Sure, I have come into more than one new job situation as a tech resource only and rapidly grown into a leader and manager. In those situations I had time as a programmer or engineer to learn the company, to see the lay of the land. Coming in as a manager would rob me of that opportunity. I would have to hit the ground running and learn the lay of the land while simultaneously leading the way across it.
In my mind I need to start seeing my leadership skills in the same light as my programming, designing, or testing skills. I have a viable, marketable skill as a leader. I understand people, I excel at seeing the big picture and translating it into workable requirements and goals for others. I am very good at communicating with everyone, and I can explain complex issues to people, technical and non-technical alike.
I know I can do the job if I am given a chance. I am afraid that I won’t be given the chance. If I don’t express my fears about this then they will be apparent to anyone I talk to about employment. There won’t be a flashing neon sign over my head proclaiming to the world that I am unsure of myself. But there will be sense of something left unsaid that the other person will sense. And not knowing what they are sensing will create a gap in their understanding. Being human they will fill that gap with their own fears, and in the end I won’t get an offer.
Only by talking about my fears can I address them in a safe place and time. If I know what my fears are and how to comfort myself around them, then I can face the challenge of moving my career in a totally new direction. I will be able to approach employers with confidence and truth rather than need and hope. I won’t be making them responsible for taking care of me.
That is the key here: I am responsible for me. If I go to a situation expecting the other side to take care of me I will fail. I must discover my fears and doubts and learn how to comfort myself around them. Once I have done that then I am not bringing my needs to the table. Instead I am coming to the table as an equal, as a positive force, as someone who has faith in himself.