The Danger of a Tool-Driven Mindset
Knowing that transferable skills can help you quickly advance in any field should reduce the stress associated with such changes. Many professionals I've spoken to express a fear that their field of technology will one day be phased out. They worry that the skills they have built and counted on will become obsolete, forcing them to learn new skills and setting their career back to entry level.
There is a sense that this could occur. If a technology professional is locked into a stagnant or dying technology, refusing to learn newer tools, he will find himself in a precarious position. This, however, is due largely to a mindset that I refer to as "the tool-driven mindset." You can understand it best by looking back at the builder.
If a builder showed up for a project with only a hammer and a screwdriver, claiming he was a "hammer and screwdriver builder," you would probably question his sanity. The tools do not define the worker. And yet, how many times do you hear programmers, for example, claim that they are a particular type of programmer?
"I'm a VB programmer." "I'm a C++ programmer." "I'm a .NET programmer." These phrases and other similar ones are indications of a tool-driven mindset. I address this idea briefly in Chapter 3, "Information Technology: A Great Career." Later in Chapter 21, "Concept Over Process," I discuss how to change from being process driven to concept driven, which is critical to the growing career.
You must view your career with an overall plan. Such a plan might involve methods more than actual results—particularly at the beginning of your career. You might include a period of fact-finding and soul-searching in your career plan. In fact, I would recommend it.
Over the course of your career, continue this type of assessment. One challenge that veterans of any field face is the sudden realization that their interests have suddenly shifted. Because of their belief that they are too far into their career to change, however, they plod along with little passion. This ends up becoming a self-defeating and demoralizing approach because the employees' performance decreases with their interest and desire.
Good career coaches understand that careers can be repurposed in much shorter time than the average employee believes. This is particularly true if you find an area that really interests you.
Doing so will ensure that you bring your best to the job. You will have a much greater interest in the developments in your industry, and you will have much greater job performance.
Better performance, in general, leads to better value. The employee who provides better value in turn receives higher compensation.
Make sure, as your career progresses, that you assess your overall enjoyment and interest. This does not mean that you should immediately drop a given career direction because you read about a job you believe you would like more.
Although I believe you have to make concrete career decisions, you would do well to carefully assess whether something that interests you is a career or a hobby and whether it is likely to keep your interest for an extended period of time.
Also, if you find something that you have great interest for, is there a transitional career route that lets you leverage the bulk of your developed skills?