Professionally Speaking

The Last Waltz

Final thoughts on maintaining the IT career tempo.

This is the most difficult column to write, because it's our last. For about three years, Greg and I have been having a lot of fun responding to your questions and dispensing advice on all sorts of things, from deadly serious career issues to leisure time activities. The initial idea was that Greg would cover issues from an “employee” point of view and I’d reflect the “management” side, but for one thing, Greg became a manager and I no longer was. Most of the time, Greg and I found ourselves agreeing on most topics but with our different work and life experiences, I think we were still able to give you different perspectives.

All good things end, and we’ve come to the end of this line. So I want to use a little space reiterating some of the advice we’ve dispensed over the years. First, for those of you looking for a job, always remember that people hire people. As difficult as it is for most technical folks, you have to sell yourself—talk about your strengths, skills and knowledge. And you need to do that with as many people as you can. You need to become a networking expert--not the wires and gigabits kind, but the social kind. Never ask for a job; instead, ask everyone you know to evaluate your credentials and suggest someone who might be interested in someone like you. There are jobs out there, not nearly as many as when we started this column, but 80 percent of the jobs are never advertised. It’s a treasure hunt of the most vital kind and you have to be active.

Once you have a job, keep it. Again, when we started this column, job-hopping was common. People would stay at a company just until a better offer came along. We no longer have that luxury. Remember, the economy always works in cycles. It appears, however, that the cycles are getting longer. Be the best you can at what you do. Be the last person they think about when cutbacks come. Most of us technical folks are driven by ego and personal accomplishment anyway, but you can’t slack off. I know we’ve often told you not to chase after the next big thing, but you still need to keep your nose to the wind and follow solid trends. For example, although you may have job security right now (as you are the only ones of your species left), being a VAX/VMS specialist or an expert in FORTRAN is a certain dead end. Remember, however, that the next big thing is only big if your employer thinks it is.

Finally, have fun. Too many of us center our lives in our work. I’m not saying that work can’t be fun. In fact, if it isn’t fun, why do it with so much of your time? But don’t forget that there are other parts of your life that need attention also—your mind (active minds stave off Alzheimer’s), and your family and friends. Think about what you want to do five, 10 or 20 years from now and start moving in that direction. Who knows, you might find yourself on the kind of adventure I’ve found! Good luck to all of you.

About the Author

Steve Crandall, MCSE, is a principal of ChangeOverTime, a technology consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in small business and non-profit organizations. He's also assistant professor of Information Technology at Myers College and a contributing writer for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Feb 2, 2004 Dennis California

The certs get me the interview. My attitude, personality, and experience get me the job. The people complaining about the MS Certs being worthless, and "I have been looking for a job" just go to show how important soft skills are. Sometimes the obvious can be overlooked, and it requires someone to "state it" to bring it back into focus.

Tue, Jan 20, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

Microsoft certifications are worthless, pure and simple.

Lol, too funny as I have been looking for a job here in Phoenix nearly every IT job REQUIRES MS certs. ignorant a$$.

Thu, Jan 8, 2004 Ratnakar Auckland

A very well written :)

Fri, Jan 2, 2004 junaid nisar n////a

nothing only open the website for further information

Mon, Dec 22, 2003 DonW Atlanta

Reading the responses to the column I have to wonder: Are you guys this negative and cynical about EVERYTHING? Yeah, a lot of the time they have stated the obvious but sometimes people have to be beaten over the head with it.

Besides, there are a lot of people reading this column who are just entering the workforce and what is obvious to us battle-scarred veterans is not obvious to them. (Or their idealism hasn't been tarnished yet.)

In conclusion, it's just a column in a FREE magazine, folks. If you don't like the column don't read it.


Mon, Dec 15, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

So so, don't sugar coat the issues.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 Jimmie B. Atlanta

Definitely a splash reality. His article not only reflects the truth, but squarely puts the burden what it belongs.... with you!

Sat, Oct 18, 2003 Geoff Vancouver, BC, Canada

Thanks for writing, guys. And, I think, this represents an accurate summary of the trend.. at least, as I see my industry in my city right now. I don't know anybody who has (intelligently) changed jobs more than once in the last 18 months.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Listen Up Charlottesville

This column has been helpful to me. The ones here bashing it are just full of negativism. The MS certs are not worthless. They are vital in many cases to getting an interview. Many IT job descriptions state MCP, MCSE, MCSA and so on PREFERRED or REQUIRED! Doesn't sound worthless to me. It's all relative. If you got the cert and have the experience too, you will do well. If you don't have the cert and do have the experience, good luck getting past the guy who has both ahead of you. Peace

Mon, Oct 13, 2003 svetoslav bulgaria

in today commercial IT , saying that MCSE is worthless is like saying that you dont need a .... for example .. a particular part of your body. It is just that other technology is also important , and should not been left out.

Fri, Sep 26, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

good stuff

Mon, Aug 18, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Microsoft certifications are worthless, pure and simple, and career seekers looking for stable incomes need to be looking outside the IT field.

Mon, Aug 11, 2003 Too Damn Certified USA

Let's face it, MS certifications are practically worthless - especially in today's economy. This column should be written by professionals with real-world experience in applying their certifications. The fact is, MS like to give it's most loyal following(certified professionals) the shaft. Yeah, hike up testing fees, testing material prices, and require a dozen exams for recertification. In addition, surveys and employment statistics are so doctored-up and manipulated that the media(which includes MCP Mag)conveys fundementally false information to the unsuspecting certified public. Get over yourselves please. This column needs new writers or needs to be deleted.

Mon, Aug 4, 2003 Anonymous Orlando, FL

I also have always enjoyed the Professionally Speaking column and I'm going to miss seeing it in print.

Mon, Aug 4, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

The above comments were very motivating and helpfful.

Fri, Aug 1, 2003 Andy Cleveland, Ohio

Always loved your colum, wished you both would stay

Andy, MCSE, MCT.............

Thu, Jul 24, 2003 kurtg west coast

Too bad they didn't address the horriblly immature IT and computer industry and suggest ways to gain and grow maturely.
Oh, I forgot they have to report to PC bosses

Wed, Jul 23, 2003 Bill Gates Anonymous

What a nice literary fart.

Thu, Jul 3, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Good luck !!

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I'm glad that he and Greg had fun writing the column... I just wish we shared the idea that the column was "fun" to read. Harsh criticism? - Definitely! Well-deserved? - Definitely. They're big boys and I'm sure they can take the heat.

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Pub-talk without the soothing comfort of a nice pint...

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 mikal la

i think this was a very informative article.

Mon, Jun 30, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

"Good riddance to bad rubbish! Neither one of these guys ever wrote a word worth reading. "

Noone wants your spittle, you angry mofo -- go punch your Camaro, Skid Lord.

Mon, Jun 30, 2003 Jeremy W Columbus, OH, USA

have always enjoyed the Professionally Speaking column and I am sad to see it end. Thank you for the advice. Best wishes.

Mon, Jun 30, 2003 Jeremy W Columbus, OH, USA

I have always enjoyed the Professionally Speaking column and I am sad to see it end. Thank you for the advice. Best wishes.

Fri, Jun 27, 2003 Anonymous somewhere in planet earth

Excellent advice!!! Thanks and I'm looking forward to be there too.

Fri, Jun 27, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Getting paid for "stating the obvious" sure seems like a great gig! Honestly, did this guy ever tell you anything that you didn't already know? Inane at best, vacuous at worst.

Fri, Jun 27, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Neither one of these guys ever wrote a word worth reading. Now if we can just get Em C. Pea to stop writing...

Fri, Jun 27, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Good riddance to bad rubbish! Neither one of these guys ever wrote a word worth reading.

Thu, Jun 26, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Very down to earth column

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