Career crisis/burnout and how to get out of it.
May 10, 2022
This is the story about how I ended up having a burnout that I didn't even noticed I had. And for that reason I didn't stop, I just kept going, kept coding, kept working on a shit ton of projects, sometimes even at the same time.
You probably know the expression:
Love what you do, and you'll never have to work a day in your life.
I believe there is another perspective:
Do the wrong job and you'll hate what you've always loved doing.
I LOVE software development. I'm always down to experiment with new platforms and tools, look at different frameworks, always learn something new (and old, e.g. algorithms), and I love doing all kinds of projects, not just my own but helping others as well. New challenge? A new project with a new stack? Bring it on!
I enjoyed all of it. But at some point in my career, I've started noticing that I dislike all my workmates (even though they're all super nice), which is not to say that I actually did, it's just when you're emotionally exhausted, your brain tricks you into sincerely believing that it's true; I couldn't bear to stand another daily scrum; it took me 2 hours to just start doing a ticket because I really didn't want to do it... I've started thinking that all front-end work is shit, and no one needs it, and I've started reconsidering ALL my future career goals.
BUT WHY? I loved all my work! I had quite a lot of offers, interesting projects, and really nice companies and they were NOT bringing me the joy that they used to! What happened to me? Am I spoiled?
At first, I started thinking that it was my speciality that was making me unhappy. I started thinking about turning my life 180 deg, switching to something new, or even a completely unrelated profession. At some point, I even thought about becoming a train driver! Because I like trains and this career is the furthest away from my laptop. Fuck all these computers and IT!
But that was too much of a drastic and unrealistic change for me, so I ended up looking into iOS, python, Rust, and Kotlin. I didn't really progress there. Still subscribed to some iOS dev channels on YouTube tho.
Then I was recommended a book called "This is normal" by Elena Rezanova. This book talks about career crises and how to manage them. I found it very relatable.
Long story short, it wasn't my speciality that was making me unhappy. It's the burnout associated with my jobs.
This book said that when you start hating your job, everyone around you, and even your profession - that's a sign of burnout. And burnout is not only when you work too much, which is often the case. But it could also be the tasks that you're doing. the product you're working on, the company you're in and its policies, and your role in it.
So I took a moment, thought about it and wrote down what I've always loved about my work. Then looked at my current job at that time and tried to see if it's matching my ambitions and goals and if it fed my enthusiasm, and helped me with my professional goals.
As a result, I've noticed that my jobs and my projects were all about the same thing: fixing bugs, building components/storybook... I wasn't doing anything innovative that the tech industry and most of the companies usually promise you when hiring. What they considered "challenging" has become a scutwork to me.
For quite a while I didn't get to fulfil the creative and explorer part of myself. As a result, I was no longer having that sense of achievement, I felt like I was creating fuck all, and the fact that I was working with the framework and tools that I've always loved didn't really kept me going anymore.
This book helped me realise that it's the type of work that I'd been doing all this time. It was great at first, but then the "challenging" work stopped being challenging. And I was just unable to take part in an interesting for me personally projects because 90% of work out there is just "do a website", "fix a button", and CRUD kind of work, i.e. fetch the data, show it on a page, get user's input and send it back.
I was stuck doing the same thing over and over again. And, I mean, why wouldn't I? Companies were happy to have me, I was bringing results, and I was good at it. I can do a pretty sick CI/CD pipeline and set up a sweet design system!
Anyway, the moral of the story is this: EVOLVE! Move on with your life! Once you feel like you're bored, or you starting to hate your work, you need to LEVEL UP. You need a new kind of challenge/project/task to keep you going.
Also, life changes, you change, and everything around you changes. Refine your goals as you grow or you'll end up burning. It is recommended to do that every 5 to 10 years, depending on a person, really.