Sometimes The Best Ambition Is Less Ambition

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Lately, a lot of my friends have been going through “job issues.”  Losing them, not happy with them, being pressured to trade up, and so on.  Listening to them I realized that there’s something important to say:

It’s OK to not have ambitions for a “better” job.

Yes, that’s right it’s me, Mister Geek Job Guru telling you maybe you’d be happier staying where you are, or getting a lower paying job or whatever.  Radical? Unexpected? Extremely un-Steve like?  No, it’s about things more important than getting a “better” job.

The benefits are worth it.  One friend of mine had some health issues, and their job has great benefits, so they’re not planning to move on or up at least for the time being.  This is fine.  If a job gives you benefits like great health, training, etc. it’s perfectly OK not to change.  A job that has good benefits may be worth staying at even if it’s not as high paying or lacks prestige or whatever.

It’s lower stress.  Look moving up is all fine and good, but maybe a job is going to have less chance of killing you.  Fine, worth staying with as opposed to getting a job that will put you in a grave quicker.

It lets you do other things.  Your job or future job may give you more time to socialize, build that art career, take care of kids, whatever.  Perhaps it’s less work or a shorter commute – that’s great.  No need to change.

It’s cheaper to do.  A job you’re at may cost less to commute at, require you to spend less on things like businesswear, and so on.  That’s fine.  Sometimes the money you save beats any pay raise you may have.

It works into your life plans.  You don’t have to go get the biggest title or highest paycheck if the job fits your life goals.  Maybe the job will let you retire quicker but isn’t as prestigious.  Perhaps your current position means you get to stay in a place you like.  That’s fine.

You’re tired of career stuff.  Maybe your current job is a placeholder intentionally, and that’s also fine.  Maybe you got laid off, or are changing careers or just moved.  Good, enjoy your placeholder, maybe set a time to re-review your priorities, and chill out.

It’s a placeholder.  Maybe you’re moving or going back to school or something and the job is there so you can earn money.  Great, don’t worry.

There are many reasons not to look for the better job, the best job, the highest-up job or whatever.  That’s totally fine because your career goals have to serve your life goals.

If you aren’t sure about this, let me remind you that you have permission from me, the guy who writes all sorts of career books to not think about the biggest paycheck or coolest title and just do whatever.

-Steven Savage

Q&A: Your Career In The Age Of Trump

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

OK Donald Trump is President-Elect. So I’m going to discuss what that means for your career, in a helpful Q&A format inspired by John Scalzi.

Why the hell are you writing about careers right now?

It is kind of what I do.  Geek Job Guru thing and all.

OK.  Uh, you know I didn’t vote for Trump.

I’m kind of guessing you didn’t if you’re reading my writings.  I don’t think I attract a lot of modern “conservatives.” But hey, whatever.

Fine.  Sure.  OK, what do you think Trump means for careers and the economy?

Trump’s thin-skinned, egotistical, easily-distracted, surrounding himself with terrible people, and easily manipulated.

Christ.  So anything good about this?

Trump’s thin-skinned, egotistical, easily-distracted, surrounding himself with terrible people, and easily manipulated.  This means people are going to be trying to control him and hopefully their various agendas will conflict enough to keep this from becoming a disaster.

Yeah, OK, uh . . . let’s talk about careers.  So what’s your basic view of the economy?

First of all, short-term, I think we’re good for about a year.  The economy is going good new, I’m not sure how much it can be screwed up short-term, and the above mentioned conflicts may help us.

In the next two years or so I’ve been expected a mild recession anyway merely because things have been going decently for awhile and I figure some kind of snag is due. There’s a few areas I’m concerned about like student loan debt and areas with continued sub-employment on top of this, so yeah, I figured we have a recession coming up no matter what.

The big issue twofold. First, past a year out I think we’re likely to see a Trump Administration create too much economic and political chaos, and I don’t see any stimulus proposals that create actual stimulus coming out of this. In the next four years I’d expect a serious recession, and it’s probable that mild one I predicted will be far more severe.  I’m also concerned about changes to bank regulations leading to a repeat of something like 2008 in the next four-six years.

So past 1 or 2 years we’re going to have somethig go wrong.

Well that’s depressing.  Are you saying that past one year out we’re going to have something bad happen, maybe twice, and some of the bad might be Voltroned together?

Pretty much, barring some radical changes or good luck.  Now some of this is going to be highly regional, so keep that in mind, but we’ll all feel it.

Uh, so . . . what’s your career advice?

Get your act together in the next year.  If you have a career plan, work on it.  If you don’t, make one. Make sure you have a five-year plan for your career, what you can do, and what you need to learn to make it happen. Get your certifications.

In short, get your s**t together career-wise.

What if I’m just starting college?

Well hopefully you can ride anything nasty out.  Either way, plan accordingly and watch your debt.  That could be a real soul-crusher.

Any specific career advice?

  1. Make sure you research your career and know what to do, what you need, and where best to do it.
  2. Follow all my other job advice.

Basically, this next year or so it’s not just a time to do the right thing for your career but to do the hell out of it.  Up your game.

Sort of turn my career and job search up to 11?

I admire any disembodied questioner who can joke about Spinal Tap.

But seriously, this is the time to follow not just “some” job advice but all of it.  Get your act together – the most important thing I can reccomend if you do not have said act together is make a career plan and review your plan and progress monthly.

OK, I’m thinking of relocating to a different city or state for my job.  Any advice?

Pick carefully.  I’d pick a good “Megaregion” area or one with good connections to such regions.  Make sure there’s a functional economy and a reliable government at least on the City level.  Right now in this political climate local city and state issues are going to be very important – and an area of severe division.

A good guide to me is does the city/state you’re looking at have distinct, healthy identity, economic identity, and idea of itself.  New York is . . . well, New York.  Seattle is Silicon Valley II.  Silicon Valley is itself. Virginia has growing technical areas.

Also make sure you network immediately when you arrive, or have friends and family there.  Get connected, it’ll help you stay.

Act as if your move is probably permanent – but be open to doing it again.

Well I’m thinking of just leaving the country, I mean . . .

Yeah, well if you’re young getting some experience out of the country is a good idea.  However don’t go thinking leaving America is going to solve all your problems. Also don’t you think other countries are tired of being the “second choice” of Americans?

If you’re over 35, if you do want to work overseas, act like any move is permanent.  Because it may be after you’ve stayed out of the country for a few years.

OK, long-term.  Investments and retirement?

First of all I’d consult with financial professionals or train yourself to handle investments. I know enough to do simple investing (I use a portfolio of researched index funds), but you have to find what works for you.

Secondly, save the hell out of things.  I always keep a good buffer of non-invested money.

As for investments, *I* am sticking with my index funds and riding out any changes, but I’m looking very long-term.  Consider your risks when you do your research.

Man you sound pretty positive about all this! Are you?

Actually, no, I think Trump’s going to be a lousy president. I think we’ll get through it, but he’s going to be kind of like Bush II in that Republcians try and forget him.  It’ll then take 4-20 years to undo the damage, but we won’t fix all of it.

Its just my thing is providing advice. So I do what I can!


– Steve

Job Skills For The Future – Culture Knowledge

(This column is posted at  Steve’s Tumblr)

As noted last week, I decided it’s time to put on my Geek Job Guru Hat again and discuss the job skills people are going to need in the future. This is, of course, based on my own experience (a manager in IT) so not all of it will apply. But It should give you a good idea of what to think of in the next five-ten years.

Last time I discussed the need for Vendor Management. If anything, that seems even more apparent as I run into all kinds of outsourced functions at companies.

However, next up let’s talk something that seems a bit more touchy-feely: Culture knowledge.

Let me avoid my usual subtlety and be blunt: the world is getting drawn closer together all the time and demographics are changing in many areas, so knowing about other cultures will be paramount for job success.

It’s pretty important now, but is well on it’s way to being indispensable in many areas. I’m in freaking Silicon Valley and find I have to correct people on cultural assumptions.  That’s now.

In the future you’re going to have to get along with people from different subcultures in your own country due to changes in business and demographics. The years to come will mean you’ll be exposed to cultures in other countries as the world gets smaller.. Your jobs to come may even require you to understand subcultures in other cultures not your own.

It’s a smaller world, and you can be pretty sure you’re not so much aware of other cultures, but merely less ignorant than most. Trust me, that’s how I view it sometime.

So what kind of culture knowledge will you want? I’m glad you ask. Here’s what’s helped me.

  • Holidays. No really, be aware of major holidays as you’ll better understand time off, commentary, and socializing in other cultures. It can also help when you’re sensitive about things.
  • Communications. People, obviously, communicate differently in different cultures. Sure it seems obvious you need to get other cultures to communicate properly, but that requires making an actual effort, notj ust relying on your probably limited knowledge. I dealt with this when I discovered regional differences among different Indian regions that completely threw me – and explained a team’s bad dynamics.
  • Manners. Something we Americans could be better at. you’re going to want to understand manners as you deal with people in different cultures so you don’t A) piss them off, and B) misunderstand them. Take it from a man who’s not exactly subtle, what seems to be a gregarious American Dude can come off as anything from annoyingly arrogant to charmingly eccentric depending on other culture.
  • Values. What is valued in a different culture is important to understanding motivations, communications, and negotiations. Once when dealing with a foreign company I found they were mistrusting of my team – only to later realize that I had to build a relationship with them, so we worked to their rythm and requirements.
  • Humility. Understanding other cultures – and how they view you – is an excellent ego-deflater.

The world is not going to stop connecting, and you can be sure your job isn’t. So get ready to understand other cultures in your career – it’s going to be a distinct advantage.

As for how to do it, my recommendations are to find ways to get informed – books, etc. – but mostly talk to people with the knowledge. Several times I built better relationships with people in Japan due to friends that had lived and worked there. Early experiences in IT with people from India helped me understand cultural issues better – and I had people with the patience to explain things to a young, unsubtle, know-it-all programmer.

Whe would this fit in your job search?  If you have this skill how would you describe it?

COVER LETTER: Only call out cultural knowledge if the job posting asks about it, and its a major part of the job. Otherwise it can seem like bragging (and most people who brag about cultural knowledge don’t have it).

RESUME: Only put cultural knowledge on your resume if it’s very vital to the job, otherwise it can also sound like bragging. A more subtle approach such as “work with international teams” is a good way to do it.

INTERVIEW: Culture knowledge often comes up in interviews, so be sure you have some stories to relate from your past.  This is where you can cut loose as you answer specific questions.

Hope this helps you out in the future! The future is coming faster than you may think . . .

– Steve