Whither the Joy?

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It seems sometimes that the “joy’ of a particular vocation fades. No, I’m not in one of those places today, but I have been from time to time. You’ve probably been there yourself – when the job you have just isn’t as much fun as it once was.

This can happen for a lot of reasons. One is time – personally, I’ve been working with technology since 1979. Like most geeks of my time, I was a big sci-fi fan, so robots, electronics and computers were just part of the landscape. I constructed a little home-made system from some plans, wrote a complier in assembly and started from there. When I joined the military, I programmed or implemented computer systems in every one of my jobs. Every job I’ve had since then, from an IBM technician to working at the small computer shop at the Space Center and all the way through to Microsoft, I’ve been in technology. After so long doing one thing, you’re bound to have days when you’re tired of it all.

And another reason that you might get tired of your job is that in some positions you don’t always get to actually do your job. I’ve been a manager from time to time, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t program, work on PC’s, set up servers or do database administration.

So how do you combat losing the joy of the work? Interestingly, there are two opposite answers. Doing something other than your job, and doing your job.

If you’ve been doing the same job for a really long time like I have, it’s important to jump around a little. You need to find out what made the job interesting to your in the first place, and find a parallel task you can do that brings that joy back. If programming is your thing, and now you’re doing lots of admin, volunteer to learn PowerShell and start writing admin programs. If hardware is your thing and you’re doing scripting all the time, ask to work with the SAN people (I love that term) for a while.

If you’re not getting to do the job that really makes you go, you have a couple of choices. Offer to keep your hand in the day-to-day stuff, as long as you don’t step on any toes. I mean, if you’re a manager of a bunch of admins, don’t step in and do their job. Just ask them where you can help, and lend a hand from time to time. You can also do what I do, which is volunteer. There’s always a church or some other organization that could use a good DBA. Volunteer for them and you’ll keep your hands in the work.

Or maybe it’s time for a big change for you. Maybe tech isn’t your thing any more. Make sure that’s true before you do something about it. Sometimes a change of scenery is better than a change of vocation.

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  • Agreed.  The biggest mistake that I made career-wise (at least thus far :-) ) was not noticing that I'd burned out in a DBA job that I had been doing for over seven years.  I should have transferred to another department (I was working for a City then), instead I quit, thinking I could find another job pretty easily.

    It was March of 2001.

    Big mistake.

    The sad thing was that once I gave my notice, several of my friends piped up with "You haven't been happy there for a long time!"  Well, if you knew it and it was obvious that I didn't, WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME!

    Anyway, I was not gainfully employed in database for four years (overqualified, underqualified, no degree, etc), plundered my retirement, had to file bankruptcy, but was able to keep my condo.  Eventually got back into the swing of things and now I'm the DBA for another City.

    I don't regret it at the meta level because I met my wife, had a successful consulting run, and now have a pretty good job.  If I'd stayed with the previous position, the odds of me meeting my wife would have been greatly diminished.

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