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I am plaged by career anxieties


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I'm 39, I'm a software developer in a major city. I've been in IT for about 10 years - struggled after college before deciding on IT as a career, worked my way up the hard way from 'desktop support', funded my way through graduate school to get a Masters in CS, and to my current job. Maybe it is the fact that I'm turning 40, but lately I've had some major career anxieties.


Here are the things I like about my current job:

-I have a few good friends there, and in general like most of the people I work with.

-It is not a glamorous job, but it pays a decent wage.

-It is a very relaxed work environment, with many perks. I get very nice computers, they pay for my phone and home internet, and I get to work from home one day a week.


Here are the things I dislike about the current state of my caeer:

-Some of the people I work with are annoying - and for me that means that I don't like their blatant pursuit of a position of power within the organization, I find it disgusting.

-Some of my friends have jobs that pay far more than mine does, jobs that fly them around the world, give them expense accounts and company cars - they are mostly in sales, which is totally not for me, and it's not like I'm very materialistic. It's just disconcerting to me to think that I worked so hard to put myself through graduate school, and my job does not seem to be as prestigious or pay as much.


-... and honestly, the main thing is that I've lost my passion for IT. I had a very strong passion for my job at one point, it got me through 2.5 years of graduate school, huge student loan bills, clawing my way up from the very bottom - but it just vanished over the past few years until I just don't have any interest at all in my job other than I have to maintain some level of productivity for the sake of appearances. I certainly don't stay up to the wee hours of the morning 'hacking' on some personal projects because I enjoy programming and learning new things like some of my co workers do, and like I used to do myself back in the old days.


And I've developed a hatred for all things business in the past several years - everything from business jargon, meetings, project managers that don't know anything about the technical side of what they are 'managing'. Most of all I've developed a lot of contempt for try-hard yuppie career climbers. I just cannot stand these types of coworkers. They justify themselves by saying that they are interested in 'excellence' - what does that mean anyways? Nobody cares if you are 'excellent' at the job - certainly our bosses don't, 75% effort is ok with them. 'Excellence' is just the socially acceptable code word for ... what else, materialism, egotism, love of power, self glorification. It's at the core of what's wrong with our society - our country would not be going through this economic crisis if the banks did not feed off this kind of thinking, our government would not have misled the public into pursuing a war for oil ... but I'm getting off topic. I'm just talking about my career.


What I need to do is try to better myself - pursue some professional certifications, maybe another advanced degree, get my resume out there to see if maybe what I need is a change of environment and a pay raise. I can't even motivate myself to try a little harder at the job that I currently have. I've talked to some friends about my dissatisfaction with my career - at first they thought maybe I'm just burned out (highly probable) or I was in the wrong line of work. I don't know if I'm in the wrong line of work. What I really want to do is be a musician - but I can't give up a job with a decent salary right now because I have a wife who depends on me, a brand new baby that I love very much, and a mortgage.


So what do I do? I live for the weekends when I can indulge myself in my hobby. I'm writing and recording an album right now and that's really the only thing in my life that I'm passionate about other than my love for my family. But I don't have any illusions that I'd be able to give up a stable job with a decent salary to pursue music full time - especially with a family to take care of. It's just something fun to do in the weekends. Problem with music is that it can take up a lot of your free time and a lot of your mental energy. I should break off a little of that free time and devote it to things that would help me fix my career - pursuing professional certs, getting my resume out there, even trying hard at my current job for a change and working some extra hours. I just can't bring myself to do it. Anyways that's my rant. Any comments welcome, I'm mainly just getting that off my chest. Cheers.

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I'm a software guy myself, been around the block a few times. While I haven't lost my enthusiasm for my work, I no longer hack in my spare time either. What I have discovered though is that there are so many different areas of application for software that once I get bored of a certain area, I just move on into some other area.


So about every few years, I reboot and move into developing software in a different field, it keeps things interesting. And since software is software, all your skills transfer but you get to learn a bunch of new things and work with different people. So I've done things from scientific software to artistic tools to media and entertainment, and I've discovered and learned many new things in each field. I still haven't decided which are more nuts, scientists or artists.


What about turning your software skills to music? Don't musicians use software? The wonderful thing about software is that it's everywhere, so there are so many places you could use your skills (current economic climate notwithstanding).

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Yeah I definitely should try a change in environment before I write off IT and the corporate world entirely (that's really a bit drastic). Here's where I get into even more career anxieties (again I'm just venting, it helps to get these thoughts out) - people who leave their current jobs and move on to bigger, better jobs are usually doing well at their current jobs. While I haven't heard that I'm doing poorly from my bosses, I haven't gotten any rave reviews either - and I have a general sense that I'm performing at a level below what a more motivated me is capable of. The job search is also time consuming and depressing (at least the last time I went on job interviews it was) - I'm not particularly looking forward to it. A few professional certs might help prep me for interviewing, keep my job knowledge current, and bolster my confidence a little - because right now, I don't have much confidence or enthusiasm when it comes to career matters. As you can tell, I'm really stuck on these issues - I see a therapist and I talk to him about my career problems, but he hasn't helped much in this regard. Really my only motivation is my wife and baby - if I was 15 years younger I might consider changing careers again and really living up to my ideals. But I want them to have the best of everything and to be proud of me, I love them so much. I don't want these problems to get worse, I feel like I have to make a change now.


I always thought that it was difficult to switch between specializations in IT - not as difficult as switching to another career entirely, but it would take a lot of effort and possibly starting at the bottom again. For instance - how difficult is it to switch from years of developing Java code that mainly interacts with database information (what I currently do) to writing Objective-C Cocoa music applications for Mac OSX? Those are two very different jobs, with their own knowledge domains that don't overlap very much - I'd expect anyone who's hiring would want a lot of experience and/or some stellar code samples. Again, very daunting and time consuming. Sorry, I'm extremely negative and down on myself currently in terms of my career. No wonder I try to escape as much as possible.

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