Trading Your Job for a Career

Career Paths: In his new monthly column, careers expert Brian D. Jaffe will look at every aspect of careers in the IT field.

For some, IT is their job. For others (those in the geek category, perhaps) it is their life. In between we have categories like trade, vocation, livelihood, line of business, occupation, calling, pursuit and living. But, for most of us, IT is our career– even if we didnt view it that way when we first started out.

"Career" is one of those terms that usually gets applied to bankers, lawyers and doctors. After enough years doing what they do best, actors and professional athletes usually adopt the term as well. But every professional has the right to use the term. When you have a career, you tend to set your sights differently. You begin to think of the longer term, and of the bigger picture. You start thinking about things like growth, direction, opportunities and paths.

This Career Paths column will focus on these things as they apply to your career, your staffs, your peers and colleagues. It will concentrate on the unique challenges of working in IT, whether as a hands-on techie or a hands-off manager; seasoned veteran or newbie; pocket protector or designer suit (except on casual Fridays).

I hope to look at every aspect of careers in our field. Some columns will be about your own career: Finding advancement, the job search, evaluating offers, etc. Others will be about dealing with the careers of others: Recruitment, staff evaluations, coaching, terminations, etc. Still others will deal with life within IT: the constant change of technology, controlling what is probably your companys largest departmental budget, managing vendors, etc.

What makes me the expert? Im not sure I am. In my 21-year career Ive certainly made some bone-headed career mistakes (among other kinds.) But, its also given me some great firsthand experience, good and bad. Ive had jobs Ive loved, and some Ive hated. (Some have been both.) I can say the same about bosses and companies Ive worked for. Ive had bosses whom Id followed to their next job, and have had staff go with me to mine. Among the promotions and raises, Ive also been caught on the wrong side of a corporate acquisition. As certain as I am that my past has had its share of successes and mistakes, Im equally certain that the future will as well.

Ive shared a lot of my thoughts about the field of IT in public forums. In the past 12 years Ive written numerous articles about IT. Many have been for eWEEK (and PC Week), and many for its competitors. And (shameless plug coming up), Ive co-authored a book on the field that has become my career. As eWEEK and I launch Career Paths, I look forward to your comments, ideas, suggestions and complaints.

Brian D. Jaffe is an IT director in New York City, an eWEEK contributing editor and co-author of "IT Managers Handbook: Getting Your New Job Done." He can be reached at