People before business. Business before technology. Technology making people’s lives better.

What is a career? We are going to talk about technology careers here since this is from Business of Technology. In technology, careers are evolving, and while most aspects of a career are similar, the changes are significant. We are all sure the future is certain. Wisdom tells us none of us are certain what that future will be.

We will be talking about influencing our careers. Certainty and control are presumptuous. In technology, I was certain flat-screen monitors would replace the small appliance box-sized monitors. Who would create them? I did not know. That is the reality. Even when we know the future, there are aspects of the future we do not know.

Career Traction

It isn’t a career unless we get paid along the journey. Companies hire us as vendors, contractors or employees. Most companies are not career minded, they are task minded. While they may have a vision for their company it is rare companies have mastered individual support for staff careers.

Sometimes there is a focus on inhouse advancement and career paths. These paths are more often about staffing the company but it can be a shared advantage when it is real. Real internal career paths allow the employee to contribute based on their strengths. Name only career paths tell the employee what strengths to develop. This isn’t something we are calling evil, because the employee where that works benefits. We are saying when we are blind to the employee strengths and challenges it hurts both the employee and the company.

“Traction comes when preparation meets opportunity.”

It is a little more complicated than that, but without that brittle results are the expectation. If we understand that truth then there are two goals in our careers.

  • Understand Predicatable Opportunities
  • Prepare for the future

Predicting the Future

We stated above that nobody can predict the future, right? No, we know nobody can be certain. Here we see that the closer to today, the more likely we can predict. The longer into the future, the harder it is to predict. This will be our first principle; certainty fades with distance.

With distance, we need to adjust in cycles. The more uncertain, the more we need to review our assumptions and adjust. Heh, in technology, the distance tends to be greater than in careers like baking. But in careers like truck driving, technology may be creating a situation where career pivots are going to happen regardless of the will of truck drivers today. So we, like truck drivers, need to plan to be pivot ready. Pivot readiness is the second principle we should embrace.

In preparing, delay is how we become retro, legacy. Regular steady investments in personal growth are essential to readiness for change within our core planned careers. Regular but less steady investments in one or two pivots give us a benefit beyond the pivot. Knowing we could pivot, even if to a secondary choice, removes the anxiety that will distract us from our primary path today. So don’t get distracted by options; get focused with them.

Here are the key considerations. Are we doing them in our career journey?

  1. certainty fades with distance, timely review for planning
  2. pivot readiness is essential, it makes the uncertain less uncertain
  3. options strengthen our core path

The Paradox

Companies need what they need today and in the future. The past helps us predict the future, and it tends to blind us from seeing the future. That is the paradox; the past both enlightens us and blinds us. We are familiar with the past, but none of us are familiar with the future. It is human nature to gravitate to familiarity. The patterns of the past may indicate coming change. The familiarity of the past is not that change; it is what inspires resisting the change.

These are some of the phrases I have heard over my career.

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • Don’t mess with success.
  • It’s the future.

The first two are often blind to the future, and ironically the third phrase tends not to consider the past. The best understanding comes from the mix.

Understanding the Mix

“There are no facts inside the building, so get outside.”
Steve Blank, Bob Dorf – Startup Owners Manual.

To correctly mix past learning with future opportunities, we have to understand people. This is where we get outside our monolithic mindsets and prove our expertise without hubris as a guide. We either need to do some personal research along the way or find others who are proven counselors. Advice is easy to find; good advice is a career-building game changer. Let me add one item to the list above.

  1. certainty fades with distance, timely review for planning
  2. pivot readiness is essential, it makes the uncertain less uncertain
  3. options strengthen our core path
  4. find great advisors, and mentors, but make your own choices

Why do we make our own choices if others know more about a topic than we do? Because we carry the outcome of those decisions.


So, in closing. How will you influence your career today?