Avoid the pitfalls of career advancement

I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I suspect that many of you remember what it was like graduating from high school and trying to decide on a career. For me it was a process of elimination, but for many, it’s the first step toward a future so bright that you have to ware shades (Borrowed from a song lyric by timbuckthree).

So you decide on a career and you spend the next four or more years at a university learning what you need to know to do that dream job. It’s a big change, followed by an academic struggle, but eventually you graduate. Oddly enough you graduate right around the time when you have had it with school and feel the need to make some money and buy some material things. Some of us can hold on a bit longer to get a masters or PHD, but that was not me.

So now you’re out working, making money, enjoying what you do and applying what you’ve learned. This goes one for a few years with regular salary increases and then for some reason things start to go off the rails. Many of us decide that we want to climb the corporate ladder. Sometimes the decision to enter management is because we believe that we could do a better job than the people there now. Other times, it’s all about the money.

Making a decision to move to management means that for many of us, we will be abandoning what we spent those years of school becoming. In some cases it means learning a new skill (How to deal with people). In too many cases the best technical resources get promoted to management as a reward for being at the top of their field. Many times promotions cannot be refused but sometimes you actually have a choice.

If and when this career transition happens you should  think hard about your next step. If you really love what you do, you may not want to walk away from that. In technology companies, managers have to know as much about the technology as their employees and this gets more difficult without the day-to-day hands on. Many of my friends that made the management choice, did not spend the effort to maintain their technical skills and find themselves over 50 without a job.

Retired plumbers can still make money doing the odd jobs. This can be said for most of the trades. Trades people can also supplement their incomes by taking jobs on weekends and evenings. For technology workers that maintain their skills, contract opportunities for work continue long into retirement. The same can’t be said for management.

If you love what you do, like I do, keep up your skills any way you can. Find ways to contribute and make time to keep you technical skills current. The alternative is a completely different retirement career.


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