Without a doubt, 2001 has been tough for everyone. Certainly the reaction to the dot-com crashes, the layoffs of many within the die-hard tech industry, and the drought of new IT jobs have depressed many of us. Pile on the surge of certifications, the holidays, and the defeat of personal goalsand it is no wonder Prozac sales are climbing.
Of course, the toughest blow to us all was the terrorist attacks on September 11. Those acts of violence made our own attempts at the next certification look pretty foolishif not petty. To me, it's been like a punch in the gutand I can't catch my breath. I'm angry, sad, and confused. I want revenge, and I don't care if that's right or wrong.
If you're like me, and I suspect you are, you've made contributions to your favorite charity to do what you can to help the victims of the terrorist attacks. You've put out your American flagand it's still out. You watch the news and check your favorite Web site for updates. You're looking for a way to make sense out of something that cannot make sense.
Changing careers? Working toward your Cisco certifications? Still plowing toward Microsoft? Do you feel guilty working toward new certifications in light of the terrorist attacks, the war in Afghanistan, and the general unrest of people around the world? It's hard to press on regardless, when people are dying in the streets around the world. Peace on earth goodwill towards man, or configure Active Directory to work in Native Mode? The two just don't seem to mesh as they did a year ago.
It has been difficult for me to get excited about new software, XP, or some new script I've discovered. As a writer, I've seen the luster of technology careers tarnish. I've read emails from angry individuals who flocked to technology like it was the gold rush of 1848, only to discover the vein had run dry.
I've met people at seminars, in classes, and at bookstores who've offered to buy me dinner if I could give them the inside scoop on how to land that perfect IT job this year. They'll ask if I'll look over their resume, give them some recommendations, or just listen to their troubles.
I get daily emails from individuals considering a career switch or a college major in IT, and are worried that maybe it's not as promising as they once believed. These folks aren't happy where they are, and are looking at the green green grass on the other side of the fence.
For all of these people, I tell them that I'm sorry. I'm sorry that things are tough. I'm sorry that the career salary surveys we see all over the Internet don't always measure up with reality. And I'm sorry that I can't do more than listen, offer an encouraging word, and recommend a few books that have helped me.
And sometimes that's enough.
In addition to this recession, this war, and these layoffs, we've faced shocking news from Microsoft when they rescinded all of their tough talk on the MCSE front. You do remember their tough talk, don't you? Now for some of you, this was great news: your Windows NT 4.0 MCSE was sticking around. This makes perfect sense because many companies aren't upgrading to Windows 2000 anytime soon.
For others, this was just another kick in the pants from our friends in Redmond. Many of you (and yes I've read your emails) have shared your discontent with Microsoft on this decision. Many of you have worked long hours; and invested nights, weekends, and thousands of dollars in training materials to learn and earn your Windows 2000 MCSE. To you, this change of opinion from Microsoft just wasn't right.
Regardless of how you feel about the change in attitude from Microsoft, you have to admit it took some guts to do what they did. Microsoft should be saluted for rescinding the retirement of the NT 4.0 MCSE. How you want to salute them is up to you.
So what's an IT Professional to do? How do we move on with our careers and our lives? Do we do our best to forget this year, call for a do over, or ask the operating system of life for an "undo?" Nope. We've got to suck it up, remember this year, and learn from it. At least that's what I am going to do.
Remember your 2001 New Year's resolutions? How many did you meet? How many slipped away? How many did you strike from your list because of the economy, because of layoffs, because of Microsoft, or because of those bastards who attacked us on September 11? Whatever your reason, it's okay. What's not okay, however, is to wave the white flag of surrender. What's not okay is to give up, shrug your shoulders, and think you're destined to a life of sleep, work, bills, rinse, and repeat. There's got to be more to life than just that. Right?
What you need are some new goals.
What is a goal? A goal is a dream with a deadline. Why do you need goals? A goal gives you purposesomething to strive toward. A goal is not just a wish, for example: "I'd like to get my MCSE."
A goal, a real goal, is more definite: "I will be earning my Windows 2000 MCSE by July 15, 2002." Notice how it's positive, factual, and has a definite date? Ready to set your first goal? Here's a definite method that I use.
1. Why Do You Need a Goal?
You may have a general goal in mind, but first find a reason why this goal is needed. For some of you, this purpose may be for financial gain, to expand your understanding of a technology, to make yourself more marketable, or for some other purpose known only to you. Write this reason down at the top of a sheet of paper. There is something magical about actually writing your reason down on paper. It sets things in motion.