Avoid The Mid-Career Doldrums


I’ve been a professional developer since 1999. After more than 16 years in the business I’ve had my share of ups and downs. My motivation has come and gone. My ambition and determination has been hit-and-miss over the years. However, a number of years ago something changed in me. My motivation has been consistent and my drive and determination have been steady. Whenever I started to veer I was able to acknowledge the change and adjust accordingly. Being able to detect and alter my own attitude has been instrumental in my advancement.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. I’ve written before about making sure you enjoy what you’re doing. One of the most detrimental aspects for any position is lack of enjoyment. If there’s no enthusiasm for the job at hand it can become a tedious chore to complete the work.

One of the best ways to ensure success is to make sure you love the work you are doing. It may take some time to discover what are the key details of your perfect position. Once defined, with a little luck and perseverance you should be able to find a position with which you will be happy.

Are You Not Entertained?

No matter how great the job, how perfect the position, sometimes your interest and excitement may fade. Not to fear. This could just be temporary. No need to jump ship just yet.

Work on side projects – At any given moment I may have 5 different side projects going. Not all are tech related (bonsai, guitar, woodwork), but all can divert attention away from the day-to-day stress of the job. If you find your current work project to be lacking in it’s current excitement, find a quick project that will get you excited again. Reward yourself with the opportunity to work on your project after completing some of the (perhaps mundane) work related tasks.

Pick up a new language – The great thing (and perhaps sometimes worst things) about this industry is that there’s always a new language to learn. Now, it might not be something that you’ll get an immediate opportunity to use with your current employer, but it likely won’t hurt add a new language to your belt. Think of it as a proof of concept for a work related problem. Perhaps you’re looking to utilize SignalR for some real-time dashboard info for your corporate client. Whatever. Just pick something that interests you so that you can remind yourself what fun new and different technologies can be.

Try new patterns – Familiarize yourself with the core patterns and look for opportunities to utilize them. Refactor to common patterns once you get a feeling for them. Design new projects with patterns in mind. This is a great way to learn and grow as a developer.

We’re Professionals

Remember, it isn’t your employer’s responsibility to keep you marketable. If you’re not staying on top of your skills training you’ll likely find yourself lagging behind. Take every opportunity to learn. Join a meetup. Watch a training video. Read a tech book. There’s a thousand different ways to keep up. You should constantly be aware and improve yourself.

Is it time to move on?

It may be tempting just to stick out a crummy situation. Perhaps it’s sheer boredom. Or, it could be the wrong position for you. Make sure you can identify when it’s time to move on.

Beware the grass

One word of caution, don’t be tempted by just any new-shiny position. While the grass may appear to be greener on the other side, it could be an illusion. If you choose to make a move, make sure you’ve made your decision carefully. Weigh the pros and cons of the move. Be sure that this is the right move at the right time, for yourself and your career.

 

A Microsoft MVP, John has been a professional developer since 1999. He has focused primarily on web technologies and has experience with everything from PHP to C# to AngularJS to SignalR. Clean code and professionalism are particularly important to him, as well as mentoring and teaching others what he has learned along the way.

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