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[P]
Career Burnout

By stewartj76 in Op-Ed
Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:46:00 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

I've been having really bad days at work lately. I don't just mean "I hate my job" bad days. I mean "I don't ever want to type another line of code again" bad days. I know how to deal with the first type of problem. Take a vacation or get a new job. Has anyone else had these kind of feelings and what did you do?


Some background would probably help, so here goes. I'm a 24 year old web developer (anyone want a message board JavaBean?), college grad (BS in Computer Science) currently working in Western Michigan. I know 24 is a little young for a midlife crisis, but I just don't want to spend the next 30 years of my life sitting in a cube writing webpages.

Should I just go with the answer to the Office Space question "What would you do if you had a million dollars?" because I would agree with the answer "nothing." Or should I look deeper than that? There is just so much more of the world to see than the inside of an office, what do I do? I realize this is very open ended, so any input is appreciated.

Thanks

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Career Burnout | 35 comments (33 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
sabbaticals... (3.66 / 9) (#2)
by 31: on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:19:45 PM EST

I'd recommend a long break from computers... and then don't go back to that company.

Now i'm a bit young to talk about mid-life crises, but i've had some bad jobs, and some good, and most of the time with the bad jobs, it wasn't the work that got me down, it was the enviroment. Making web pages in a cubical sounds pretty dreary to me, but it seems if you take a break, you might be able to seperate "I hate my job" away from "I hate working with computers"

And when you go back to working with computers, don't settle for any job that'll keep you from being creative, and solving problems... so you'll probably need to save up a bit of money to be able to afford to hold out, but eventually you should be much happier as a result.

-Patrick
and one more thing (4.14 / 7) (#3)
by 31: on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:21:03 PM EST

IF you try to use alcohol as your solution, not only will you be bitter, but you'll be a bitter alcoholic, at which point it'll be much harder to fix things.

-Patrick
[ Parent ]
A long break from computers? (3.00 / 4) (#7)
by marlowe on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:47:47 PM EST

Your skills will be out of date in a couple of years. This industry moves fast. Don't take a break from development unless you intend it to be permanent.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
that depends (4.20 / 5) (#11)
by 31: on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:08:11 PM EST

If your skills get out of date that quickly, you don't know the right things. Sure, his wicked knowledge of HTML4 and Javascript might be worthless... but if after getting a CS degree, someone doesn't know the basic concepts those are based on, they aren't going to be too useful in the future anyhow...

As an illustration of that, I've got a book on shelf, 1992, so 8 years old... the concepts in there about file systems, multithreaded systems with deadlock issues, how memory managment works, and it's all still valid. How can I say that? I'm currently taking a class with the next version of the book, with almost no content changes, and I'm using it to emulate memory management systems, and write multi-threaded programs in windows 2000...

And when a new trendy language pops up, well... how different are they? If you had a good solid education in, say, C and C++ (those are what're used at my school primarily), and you get a job using perl or python, or java, it shouldn't be too much to learn those languages, as the differences are syntax...

Someone who knows how to do efficient sorting, understands big O notation, and has a grasp on NP != P are going to be able to get into computers again without too much pain, but someone who's career is based on chasing the most current tech, and learning syntax without the concepts, is just gonna get burnt out.

-Patrick
[ Parent ]
The trouble with basic concepts... (3.00 / 4) (#12)
by marlowe on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:13:48 PM EST

They don't really jump out of the page on a resume. You're not gonna get lots of offers because you can write a quicksort from memory.

It's not right, and it's not fair, but it's the way it is.


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
I think you're applying to the wrong places. (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by scottg on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 10:55:31 PM EST

Making somewhat of a rash generalization:
If the people who are responsible for hiring you care more about whether you know stupid-internet-trick-number-seven more than whether you have general skills and the ability to adapt to new situations by applying what you already know, then I'd say you don't want to work with them anyway.

[ Parent ]
Ok, I'll bite. (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by marlowe on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:45:53 AM EST

What are the right places?

Yes, I'm willing to relocate, so long as it's not Calcutta or New York or some other hellhole.

(Maybe that's unfair. I've never actually been to Calcutta.)


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: Ok, I'll bite. (2.00 / 1) (#29)
by danimal on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 02:28:53 PM EST

Yes, I'm willing to relocate, so long as it's not Calcutta or New York or some other hellhole.,

There is nothing wrong with New York. I was hesitant to move here 4 years ago when I first got out of university. But now it is fine. The City is a piece of cake. I happen to be fortunate enough to live and work just outside the City, but I wouldn't hesitate to move there if I found a better job (although I really liked my 3 month stint in the S.F. Bay area. I would love to move back there). -danimal
--
<tin> we got hosed, tommy
<toy> clapclapclap
<tin> we got hosed

[ Parent ]

The Right Places to Move (2.00 / 1) (#32)
by phliar on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 12:29:37 AM EST

What are the right places?

Yes, I'm willing to relocate, so long as it's not Calcutta or New York or some other hellhole.

San Francisco.

Yes, it's expensive as all hell, but there is no better place to live. Excellent music and culture, never snows, never gets hot enough to need A/C. Public transport mostly works. Socially progressive. And the food.... my god! Beyond compare.

(Only downside is that you're surrounded by California.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

The problem: (none / 0) (#34)
by error 404 on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 11:07:34 AM EST

It's all very well to say "you don't want to work for idiots like that", but the gatekeepers aren't the people you end up working for.

In order to get a job, you have to get past HR and recruiters and people who you pretty much won't ever have to deal with day to day. Those people are specialists in other fields, so they look often like idiots to us. And since they lack the deep clues and have to write reports to justify their decisions, they go for the easy things. Buzzwords are easy to look for, and easy to put in a report.

..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
Is relocation out of the question? (3.00 / 5) (#4)
by tewl on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:23:49 PM EST

I would definitely recommend getting out of that job before further burnout occurs. Would a change of scenery help?

There are some sweet jobs/companies I could recommend here on the East Coast that would definitely make your career much brighter.

If not, hopefully someone can recommend some good companies in Michigan.

Good luck!



Eject! Eject! Eject! (3.80 / 10) (#5)
by Smiling Dragon on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:34:26 PM EST

Bail out now then. I went through the exact same thing a year ago. There are better jobs for certain that will suit your work habits and needs. I had decided that IT was full of wankers and paranoid managers and I could never get away from it, but I was proven wrong thankfully. With a little luck we can prove you wrong too <grin> :)

If you stick at it for too long you'll just get turned bitter and it'll take longer to get back to enjoying work again even if you find the idea spot.

The only proviso: How long have you been there? Stick it out for at least 6 months, pref a year otherwise it looks bad on a CV. Potential employers worry that you'd be flighty. If you've done your time though, then get out now.

If you really are fed up with the web design game, look into other options for a while. I don't really know what makes a web-monkey tick so I'd guess at something like Marketing? Probably not but you don't have to go pure Computers if you feel you need a break.

I'm considering dumping the Systems Admin role and heading into embedded systems, like car computers and designing brains for kids toys or scientific equipment. Same skill-set, different goal. I'm hoping it'll be the refressing change we all need from time to time.

-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
Same basic field, different focus (3.83 / 6) (#10)
by vaguely_aware on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:53:23 PM EST

I'm doing this right now. After two years of writing HTML, copy-pasting javascript and making 1K GIF buttons I've decided I'm sick of web design. So instead I'm teaching myself to program for real.

It helped me to figure out why I was so disgruntled with web design. In my case, it was the fact that with page layout and UI design the reward should be the finished product. Since I have to work so often with the marketing department and cater to their whims, I feel apathetic about the end result. There was no reward in it for me.

As I become more familiar with programming, I find that the act of programming itself is the reward. The function of the finished program is almost incedental. I'd write the code anyway, just to do it.

I would have to concur on the 6 months - 1 year bit as well. There's no job so bad (well, shovelling elephant dung maybe) that it can't be put up with for a couple of months to make it worth something to your future.



"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
Good topic, similar situation (2.33 / 3) (#8)
by ahabel on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:49:28 PM EST

I'm currently going thru a similar. I'm quite burntout at my enterprise help desk job. When I took the job I wanted to be doing more then just helping some guy with a tripple digit income and a double digit IQ setup his email, but day after day this is what I'm doing. I was thinking of getting a sys admin oriented job, but I fear that I don't have the experience (3+ years in IT) for it. Anyone have any tips for helpdesk to sysadmin transition? A little background, I'm 21, I currently have my MCSE(not just paper, I know my stuff, and CNA in Netware 4.x). Any advice would greatly be apreciated. Thanks

Re: Good topic, similar situation (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:54:21 PM EST

I was thinking of getting a sys admin oriented job, but I fear that I don't have the experience (3+ years in IT) for it. Anyone have any tips for helpdesk to sysadmin transition? A little background, I'm 21, I currently have my MCSE(not just paper, I know my stuff, and CNA in Netware 4.x).
Sysadmin jobs can be excellent. They can also suck really bad. It all depends on the company and the people there. One thing is for sure, though: Unix sysadmins make more money and get more respect than Windows admins.

There's a strong community/guild feeling to the Unix sysadmin community. Classes and certificates don't mean that much, it's still more like an apprenticeship program. But if you're smart and want to learn, it is very cool.

You're 21: have you thought about graduate school? Pick a good Unix school with a strong hands-on focus. (Utah, Arizona, Cornell, Berkeley, ...) Get a part-time job as a grunt helping the sysadmins. If your undergrad record is good and you have good GRE scores, you don't even need any loans; assistantships are available. In two years you will have a solid grasp on programming, CS fundamentals, and hands-on Unix sysadmin experience.

From there you simply watch the money rolling in as you drink beer in the sunshine with other intelligent people!


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Grad School (none / 0) (#23)
by UrLord on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 07:30:30 AM EST

Well it's never too soon to just go out and get a job in the field. I don't have any certificates, I don't have a degree... Yet. And I have a good job, in the just starting out sense of the word ;)
I was going to school part time and working about 50-60 hours a week. And I will be going back to school soon... It's not easy, but I've got plenty of extra cash, and I go out and have fun once in a while.
But if he is considering continueing to go to school, he shouldn't stop. That is the worst mistake that a student can make (been there doing that). Especially when you are ~21 (I'm 20) and seeing sweet paychecks ;)

We can't change society in a day, we have to change ourselves first from the inside out.
[ Parent ]

Experience (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by Erf on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 06:53:50 PM EST

A friend of mine recently got a B.Sc. in Physics at roughly the same time I did. He's now a sysadmin for a software company (here in Canada). The extent of his administration experience? He's been running Linux at home for a few years, and he had a 4-month co-op term doing sysadmin stuff somewhere, I forget where. I keep asking him Linux questions, and he says they're getting harder and harder to answer -- ie. I have just about as much experience as he does. Neither of us has taken any computers courses except for 1st year programming.

I'm not trying to be a Linux advocate, here. My friend's experience just happens to be there; this probably works for windows experience as well, but I have no information on that. I don't know if his is a unique situation (I doubt it, though; before he took this job he got a pretty significant offer from San Francisco for sysadmin'ing there), but I take it as evidence that as long as you know what you're doing -- and are willing and able to keep learning -- 3 years is a hell of a lot of experience (depending on what you were doing).

-Erf.
...doin' the things a particle can...
[ Parent ]

Friends. (3.44 / 9) (#9)
by Signal 11 on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:53:22 PM EST

Friends go a long, long, LONG way towards snuffing out boredom and burnout. It's grossly understated. You can try all the vacationing and excercises and diets and every other damned thing on the planet to avoid burnout, but the truth is you need friends. It worked for me...


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
Friends (3.40 / 5) (#13)
by theboz on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:22:58 PM EST

Well, I was going to post the lyrics to the theme song for that stupid TV show, but instead I'll post something serious. You said:

Friends go a long, long, LONG way towards snuffing out boredom and burnout.

While that is true, you should elaborate a little more. Personally, I moved to Atlanta about six months ago, and have not made any new friends. I used to be very social where I did live, but I just don't like the people that are around me here. I have become very misanthropic when I used to think that people were generally good. With all the change in my personality, when I go back to visit my old friends, or they come here to visit me, things don't work out very well. I think stressful jobs and living conditions can't be helped completely by friends, because you end up losing your friends and not being able to make new friends. I think it is all balanced but for a lot of people it is easier to get a new job than to be nice to people. So what is your story?

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

A Well-Rounded Life (3.60 / 5) (#14)
by phliar on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:39:08 PM EST

I've been doing computer stuff full-time for about 14 years now, and I've been through many slumps - although never to the extent that I never want to write another line of code. The most important thing: a well-rounded life.

Take a vacation or get a new job.
As you said, this is only works for the ordinary bad day. If life really does suck as much as you say, you need something permanent. I keep my sanity because I have an incredible community of friends, I have my creative endeavours, and I'm a pilot.

Or should I look deeper than that? There is just so much more of the world to see than the inside of an office, what do I do?
Exactly! There is more to life than making web pages! Or any one thing, for that matter. Make sure that you have a rich and fulfilling life outside work. How's your social life? A good circle of close friends does wonders for your mental state. Do you have something you've always wanted to do but never could muster the courage? Learn to play trumpet? Paint? Study the habits of riparian slugs?

Move somewhere else. What about western Michigan keeps you there? Go to LA or San Francisco or New York. Move to Paris!


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

Ahhh... Burn out.... (4.60 / 5) (#16)
by metachimp on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 07:35:52 PM EST

Yes. I have been where you are. I was working at the same place for 4 years, from startup to eventual buyout. Towards the end of my tenure there, I was really getting sick of coding, in fact, sick of participating at all in anything the company was doing.

So what did I do? I quit. But I didn't get another job right away. I had some options that where worth something, so I took 9 months off. I traveled a bit, and I climbed a mountain in Canada. I took up some new hobbies that I'd wanted to try. (Buy a gun, they're fun). You don't have to take 9 months, but at least take a few weeks.

The long and the short of it is, I don't know if you're sick of coding, or sick of coding for the people you work for. You probably won't know that until you've left. After you've left the bastards, you'll be able to figure out whether you want to do the same thing for someone else, do some different kind of coding for someone else, or get out of the biz altogether.

With some time off, you'll know.

Academia (3.88 / 9) (#17)
by fluffy grue on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 07:59:43 PM EST

Academia is vastly underrated. After I got my BS, I couldn't wait to enter the real world, the "oh so wonderful" world of startups and "finally programming worth something." Three months later I quit that job, and a couple months later I was applying back to NMSU as a grad student, and now I'm happily on my way towards a PhD. Dunno what I'll do after then, but it'll probably stay in the academic world.

Academic computer scientists don't have to write a single line of code if they don't want to (except for finishing classes), since academic (i.e. graduate-level) CS is more about the algorithms and the theory of programming, rather than about writing code. This varies greatly based on the department and interests, granted, but it's still a pretty good general thing.

What I love most about academia is that the attention isn't on getting a product out or a certain number of lines of code written or being "productive," it's about learning, and creating, not just about implementing. Any sufficiently-trained monkey could implement code to conform to a spec, but it takes actual thought and creativity to come up with notions of what to implement.

What I hated most about the "real world" was having to be productive - i.e. spreading out my workload so as to keep busy 40+ hours a week, rather than spending most of the time thinking and a short amount of time implementing. The approach I always take to programming is spending 90% of the time thinking about how to do it, and the remaining 10% of the time is just committing it to bits, doing a coredump from memory to keyboard. For the people I was working with, there was no creativity, it was about spec-filling, and when there were things with no spec, they just flailed about randomly putting crap on a plate and calling it "product." In the long run, my 5-hours-of-coding-a-week was a lot more productive than my coworkers' 40-hours-of-shitting-on-the-keyboard, but the company I worked for couldn't handle that, and insisted that I keep up those 5 "productive" hours up for the entire week at a time, as though what I was programming magically came out of thin air as it was being typed.

So I quit, and returned to academia.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Try different kinds of coding,,, (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by tjb on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:30:13 PM EST

Not everything programming job in "the real world" is a code monkey job writing applications. If it were,I'd have thrown myself back into college months ago.

In my case, I found embedded coding, specifically DSP coding, to satisfy my need for a job that requires very little actual implementation and a lot of thought, on a percentage basis. The difference between DSP programming and application/systems programming is shocking, mostly due to the extreme limitations of the hardware that you are presented with. Consider:

-My last project- I spent three weeks coming up with the algorithm to make it work, and four days implementing it (would've been more like four hours, but it was my first go at that particular processing unit)

-More generally the problems are along the lines of "How do I keep these two pointers accessing a block of memory asynchronously from colliding when a direct compare is too expensive and the hardware lacks any suitable locking features?"

No one in my group spends even close to 20% of their time actually banging out code. The vast majority of our time is spent with a white board drawing timing diagrams and discussing buffer management. Which brings up the other point about embedded coding that I like: Good embedded coders do it right the first time because debugging with limited (or sometimes no) output is damn near impossible. The "try this and see what it does" mentality doesn't exist mostly because there is no way to actually see what it does :)

-Tim

[ Parent ]
Nice pointer... (none / 0) (#33)
by fluffy grue on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 02:29:29 AM EST

If I were still in the real world, I'd probably consider your advice. :) Thing is, I'm personally more of a high-level programmer; embedded stuff tends to give me migraines. I mean, it's fun and all, but I don't think I could handle doing it for a living.

Unfortunately, with my skillset, the only places I can work for in the real world are shitty contracting places which pretend to do graphics programming and for typical .coms who need database-monkeys. Guess which I ended up at. (Hint: the first one.)

You'd think that a place which specializes in contracted graphics programming would appreciate hardcore knowledgeable graphics programmers. Oh well. They didn't deserve the likes of me. ;)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Whoa, fellow michigander! (3.00 / 2) (#18)
by razzmataz on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 09:06:45 PM EST

I know what you're talking about. You have that insatiable feeling that you are not doing enough. I'm bored at my current job, mostly because it isn't interesting enough. There are spurts of activity, then I'm idle for a week or so. Anyway, you say you're from western michigan? Where? What school you graduate from?
-- I love the smell of fdisk in the morning...
G.R. (none / 0) (#28)
by stewartj76 on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 12:56:09 PM EST

Since you asked, I'm in Grand Rapids. I graduated from Michigan in '98, but I've only been back home since May (1st job was in Denver).

[ Parent ]
Leave ... but that is not the answer (3.50 / 2) (#20)
by jann on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 12:26:14 AM EST

If you hate the job get the heck out ... yesterday

But, realise, you probably wont do all that much better elsewhere. I have found that I always hate my job, I always feel my fellow workers are having a good day if they can spell their names and I always want to see the company go down the tube.

And I aught to know ... I have worked in 5 diferent organisations in the last 5 years.

It is two things that keep me sane.1) study and 2)sport

So I suggest you think of your job as something you do for 8 hrs a day. At 5:00 switch your self on again and do something. I am studying law through distance education and, hopefully, will be able to leverage off my IT skills to make a killer IT lawyer. When I am not studying I play semi-competitive IceHockey, race yachts, and rollerblade ... and anything else that takes my fancy. Next week I am learning to ride a horse.

You only work to get paid. Do something fun with your income. Sailing is great ... try it ... J

It can't be worse than this... (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by communista on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 03:28:43 AM EST

Okay. I'm no basement geek that codes all day...But I am a Supervisor at an overworked, underpaid outsourcing call center. I get paid 13 bucks an hour to do many monotonous things. Of course, most anyone would say that. But it's not the monotony that makes me ill. It's the "rules" that piss me off.

No silk screened shirts.
No telnetting.
No chatting.
No surfing.
No Magic cards.

The words no echo in my head all day long. And the Admin staff is so naive it's maddening. The Call Center Analyst makes 6 figures and has a 5,000 dollar Borg statue in his office, and he thinks that using a shell account makes you a hacker. Right. Needless to say I've escaped.

The movie Office Space reminds me of my job, right down to the zitty faced fat guy that says "I-I-I believe you have my stapler".

My boss' name was Dan Boone. Yes, like the song Dan Boone. He refused to acknowledge that I had any technical knowledge because I am a girl. He would say that the poster of Tux in my cube was there to fit in, because girls are a minority in the Technical field. Feh.

I worked for Bellsouth.net (we actually had to lie about where we were...god forbid the rednecks found out we were in Ohio...)
And if someone asked where we were, we had to say (Like a good little robot) "We are based out of Atlanta". Right. My boss was so stupid that he opened the I Love You virus because he thought his wife was being frisky...And he infected 20 network drives for 10 projects...Crippling us for three days while the idiots in the NOC scratched their heads.

Then he blamed it on his staff, saying that if we didn't view evil websites like Slashdot and Kuro5hin....this would have never happened. Right again. If I were feeling especially vindicative I'd post his e-mail addy here....
/me fucks shit up!!!!
Yay! (2.00 / 2) (#24)
by rusty on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 07:41:12 AM EST

I hope he actually blamed K5 for something. Anything I can do to upset those in charge at any of the Bells is well worth the time and effort.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
To add to all the other comments ... (4.50 / 4) (#22)
by StrontiumDog on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 05:10:13 AM EST

I can empathise with your situation; here are some of my thoughts:

1. You are overqualified for your work (in the sense that it doesn't challenge you mentally). This is often so with programmers from academia: fresh into industry they get saddled with chores that are routine and don't demand very much intellectual prowess. My first real assignment for instance was working for a year on a project debugging and rewriting a horrific mass of badly-written Visual Basic code. (This after the job interview in which they said they were "impressed" by my C++ skills and OO mastery. Hah. Then they put me on a fscking VB project. "Impressed" my tush.) Try to find more challenging work, or start honing skills to enable you yo move into a more challenging job.

2. You may be working too long, too hard, or too enthusiastically. I know it is fashionable to work long hours in the IT -- after all, we must justify our salaries, musn't we? -- but doing that is only going to lead to burn-out in the long run. Where I work, almost all experienced programmers work relatively short weeks (10 hr days, 4 days a week is popular), or take frequent holidays (they do this by anally keeping track of overtime, and converting overtime into free days not money). The guys doing 70 hour weeks are young inexperienced idiots like myself.

3. You need hobbies or interests outside work, ideally outside programming, and ideally interests that do not use the bits of your brain you use for work. Someone suggested hiking or hunting: that's indeed the sort of thing I mean. I lift weights and run track.

4. If you don't have a steady partner, acquire one and settle down. This is going to sound corny and old fashioned, but having a partner means warm meals, clean clothes, regular sleeping patterns, someone to snuggle with at night, someone to bitch to, and someone who makes sure you don't spend all your free time working -- even if you spend that free time doing chores :-).

My Thoughts (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by Jack In The Green on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 09:04:15 AM EST

Hi there...first time caller, long time listener and all that...

Reading your message reminded me of my own experiences. Yes, I've been in the same place...reaching the point where I never wanted to write another piece of code again.

What brought me to that point? A horridly poisoned and hostile work environment. The company I worked for (and happily no longer work for) is quite famous for hiring students fresh out of university. Why? Because they can take advantage of their inexperience much easier...you know, get longer hours out of them for less pay simply because the newly graduated don't know any better. In short, the place had all the trappings of a sweat-shop.

I was involved in a certain project with a very unpleasant and demanding boss who never gave me an ounce of praise (but plenty of criticism), who was always criticising me for my hours (I worked the usual 8 to 4:30...but I got much grief because I wasn't "staying late" every single night). Things were unpleasant, to put it mildy.

This experience made me realize something rather important...oftentimes, it is NOT a good idea to seek a job doing something you love. Me, I love programming. Throughout all my schooling my one and only goal was to become a programmer when I got out into the real world. The problem is, the real world can easily poison the things you love. Corporate programming is -not- (usually) fun. You get squashed by deadlines, pressured to work insane hours, and you rarely get to express any kind of programming creativity at all...you're just a code monkey. The art and soul of programming does not usually exist in any corporate environment...it's easy to get sick of it. I got so sick of it I wanted to leave the entire industry behind.

My solution may not be an ideal solution for you...but it works for me. I quit the offending job and found another job doing something that I -knew- I was comfortable with in a corporate setting...it wasn't a programming job, but it was still computer related. I swore to myself that I would never program for a company ever again...leaving me to do all my coding alone, in the comfort of my own free time. You know what happened? My desire to program returned...I started having 'fun' all over again doing the things that I love. My creative muse returned from a long hiatus. And, I found that I could actually be happy at work as well (my new company treats me extremely well...not every company is evil).

So, I sympathise...I know what you're feeling all too well. The software 'industry' is completely disconnected from the exciting stuff that lured us all to the computer keyboard so many years ago...you need to protect what you love and don't compromise on that. Ever.

Change nothing and nothing will be changed (3.50 / 2) (#26)
by tumeric on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 09:04:29 AM EST

I know 24 is a little young for a midlife crisis, but I just don't want to spend the next 30 years of my life sitting in a cube writing webpages.

Actually better to have it now than later -- there is more scope to change things. The following things work for me:

  • Long periods of travel (>1 month) to places off the tourist track.
  • Change jobs.
  • Work 9:00 -> 17:00. If this isn't OK, definately change jobs.
  • If feeling under challenged by work, get involved in Open Source (freedom to be a perfectionist and spend time on the things that interest you). Its not as tiring as you think if you're actually interested in what you're doing.
  • Change your diet completely. This works for me, I have no idea why but I have found a massive correlation between eating junk food and being bored.
  • Get rid of your TV. It makes leisure time too passive and makes work your only stimulation. I don't have a TV and now I read books and go out more -- after a month you don't miss it at all.
  • Add plants to your cube or anything else that makes you feel less like a battery hen.
Our easy western life-style has spoilt us. Put a person from a developing country in a similar position and they would be in very happy writing web pages for the next 30 years. This isn't a critism, just an illustration of the way our upbringing has undone us.

Million dollars matters.... (none / 0) (#35)
by jasonab on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 04:03:22 PM EST

I don't think you'll get anywhere until you answer the Million Dollar Question. That question defines what you truly want to accomplish with your life. If you'd do nothing with a million dollars, what sort of imprint do you expect to leave? Decide what meaning you want your life to have, and then move on. jason

--
America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
Career Burnout | 35 comments (33 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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