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I've had 7 jobs in 16 years.

This is what happens at every job:

  • Year 1: New people! New place! New tech!
  • Year 2: Productive.
  • Year 3: Disinterested. Can I get another job, doing the same thing, but make more money?

Now I'm in year 5 of my current job and I'm still disinterested. But, I'm making 99k as a "consultant" and won't be able to make any more money anywhere else, for just programming. Also, I never make friends at my jobs. I don't write code in my spare time. I chose MIS because I knew it would get me a good paying job and I wouldn't have to rely on anyone else for money. I'm surrounded by people who have a passion for developing, which makes it even worse. I have to take anti-depressants and I have a post-it note saying "Gratitude" that I have to look at everyday to remind myself that I have it great.

Does anyone else go thru this? Is it normal for programmers?

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closed as off topic by GrandmasterB, Walter, Dynamic, Glenn Nelson, BЈовић Jan 11 '13 at 21:48

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What is more important to you - the money or your health? –  Kramii Jan 11 '13 at 20:16
    
could you make enough money to do what you want doing something else that you hate less? if not you have to decide is work is really that bad or giving up X activity I couldn't afford while doing what I love is worse. –  Ryathal Jan 11 '13 at 20:18
    
@BadDesign Sounds pretty typical for an experienced dev in the U.S. if you ask me. PS: I'm at 3 years and 3 jobs since getting my degree :P –  Rig Jan 11 '13 at 22:40
    
@BadDesign pay is relative to the cost of living where you work. For example, what percentage of your salary do you pay for rent/mortgage? –  James Jan 12 '13 at 1:22
    
@9emE0iL18gxCqLTa. Living expenses are higher in London or a major US city. 10k would not be enough to pay the years rent. –  mike30 Aug 14 '13 at 22:51

6 Answers 6

I am not a doctor but it seems you are suffering from some sort of depression. I would seek professional help of the appropriate kind, after all you make enough and probably have insurance to do so. I don't believe this is related to your profession at all.

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You're in the wrong line of work. Sure, programming pays well, but it also takes a certain degree of dedication and passion, otherwise you end up... well... like you are now.

I'd advise you to take some of that money you've earned and go back to school, or whatever it would take to get you qualified to do something you'd actually enjoy. Life's too short to waste doing something you don't like just because it pays well.

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The problem is, I don't enjoy anything. –  user78278 Jan 11 '13 at 20:18
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@user78278: Have you considered talking to a professional career councilor? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jan 11 '13 at 20:33
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Have you tried everything? I'd imagine you've got enough money to start going down the list of things a human being could for do fulfillment and find one long before you came anywhere near running out. –  MobyD Jan 11 '13 at 21:22
    
@user78278: I might recommend reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. –  c.hughes Jan 11 '13 at 22:02
    
@user78278: You are right. That is the problem. You're not going to solve it by increasing your salary. Take a year off or whatever. Go see the world. Try something new. For once, do not let money be the decisive factor. As for depression, personally I wholeheartedly suggest practicing meditation and mindfulness. –  back2dos Jan 12 '13 at 11:30

8 jobs in 22 years. 2 of those moves were voluntary. 4 were layoffs, 1 was a short-term contract. I stayed in my first job the longest (not quite 8 years), and would have stayed there longer except the interesting work was drying up (defense and government sector) and I was being payed significantly below market. Loved the people, liked the environment, but at the time felt it was the best move for my career (and I wasn't wrong). Second longest was 5 years and some change (I just got my third week of vacation, but was never able to use it), also defense sector.

The shortest was 5 months before I got laid off. Won't say much about it, except that it taught me not to take the first offer that comes along unless I feel really comfortable about it.

The key to staying in one place is for the work to be interesting and engaging. Corporate IT pays the bills, but it doesn't exactly get the blood pumping, at least not for me (I know some people who live for that kind of work, and they're nuts). I've spent about 2/3 of my career working in defense (mostly simulators or combat awareness apps rather than weapons systems) because the projects were interesting, even if my particular role wasn't. They also afforded me opportunities to learn new skills and technology on a regular basis, which kept the job fresh and helped me stretch professionally.

It sounds to me like you're taking jobs solely based on what they pay, not because you find the work itself engaging. IMO, that's a mistake, and no doubt why you're feeling the way you do. Unfortunately, I don't have any real advice beyond "find work that you enjoy doing". That may require a pay cut, it may not. You can't work just for a paycheck, at least not in a field that requires non-trivial amounts of brain work.

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Oooh, simulators. Flight or combat? I used to do electrical design/wiring on commercial flight sims. The work was extremely challenging and a ton of fun. –  Evan Plaice Jan 11 '13 at 21:48
    
Sonar sim; we basically generated the noise spectra that would be picked up by the hydrophones. My first professional gig out of school, and the coolest thing I've ever worked on. It's been all downhill since. –  John Bode Jan 11 '13 at 22:28

If you don't find joy in being a professional programmer, perhaps it's not for you. On the other hand, there's no shame in gritting through the 9-5 as long as you're finding fulfillment in some other area(s) of your life.

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I'm not finding fulfillment in other areas of my life. Maybe that's the problem. –  user78278 Jan 11 '13 at 20:16
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If you want more money, update your skills! Learn a new, in-demand language. You might find it invigorating. –  Jeromy French Jan 11 '13 at 20:16

Well, it seems to me that the best thing to do is to figure out how to have "year 1" and "year 2" on a continuous basis in the same company. If you went to work for a large company, perhaps you could transfer departments within to effect this kind of situation. Otherwise, perhaps you go to a consulting shop where engagements are a year or two and tend to be different techs.

And, I think what you're experiencing is more normal than you might think. Check it out

(Incidentally, if you dislike your current job, you're a lot less likely to feel passionate the activity in your spare time -- an interesting question is whether in your "year 1" you are passionate/hobbyist about the new tech).

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I've had 7 jobs in 16 years. Is that OK? Does anyone else go thru this? Is it normal for programmers?

Yes, there is nothing strange in changing your job every 3-5 year. Moreover, it is even beneficial to be in different company/development environments, because you would be exposed to different software development processes, tools, company cultures and projects.

Overall, programmers tend to become dis-satisfied when majorly evolved in support/maintenance type of projects. Maybe what you look for is a next challenging project?

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