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Ask HN: What should I do when I'm bored with my career?
180 points by throwaway12JpuG on Dec 27, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments
I really like programming but I quickly get bored at work. I often work on personal projects during work hours because they're more interesting. The success or failure of a business, even one I depend on for income, does not motivate me. None of my personal projects are monetizable. They're just things I do to learn. It's the experience of learning that excites me. I have a little experience teaching (after-school program) and writing about what I learn. I enjoy that too. My ideal life would be one where I am free to explore things that interest me and share that knowledge with others.

Unfortunately, I can't afford not to work. So I need a career of some kind and am looking for a career that's more aligned with what naturally motivates me. I've contemplated going back to school but am not convinced this is a good idea. I have a degree from an art school, no formal computer science education, and no math since highschool. I also don't have much money. If I wanted to study computer science, I'd have to start at the undergraduate level and borrow a lot of money. School as an investment makes sense to me but I'm not sure what I would be investing in. I don't think a career in academia would appeal to me, and borrowing that much money because I'm bored at work sounds like a bad idea.

Does anyone have a suggestion for what I can/should do to improve my circumstances?

I do career consulting (and resume writing) mostly for clients from tech. I think some arrangement where you had multiple forms of income (or potential income) might be a good solution for you. What might that look like?

- Freelance software development - This would give you some control over what types of projects you work on, and you could focus on areas that really interest you. Maybe it would be projects that enable you to learn a new language. You also can typically work from home, and you will be able to balance your time between different work.

- Freelance writing - If your writing is good you can certainly pick up some $$ here and there by writing articles for tech sites. I've done that for tech sites as a writer on career topics, and many of these sites are always seeking new content. The amount of money may not be a game changer, but if you enjoy the work you can probably make this 10% of your overall income.

Personal projects - Perhaps some of them can be monetized and you just haven't come up with the correct concept. Or perhaps you can come up with some ideas for projects that are both interesting and able to be monetized.

Working for yourself is quite motivating. I've done it for several years, and when failure isn't an option you will find ways to stay motivated. I spent 20 years in recruiting before transitioning fully to my current job (resume writing, content writing, career consulting, other freelance writing projects), and I've really enjoyed the change.

Some people aren't cut out for a 9-5. I certainly am not, and it doesn't sound like you are either.

Thanks for such a thoughtful response. What you're saying rings a bell. Do you think consulting with someone like yourself would be beneficial? I didn't know there was such a thing as career consultant.

I'm not sure if I'd be able to provide value or not, but feel free to message me with additional details and I can give you a more informed opinion. My career consulting work is often paired with resume and other services (LinkedIn, cover letters) where it serves to tie everything together, but I also provide 'consult only' packages to people who are trying to navigate unusual circumstances in careers.

Can you share some info about ‘career consulting’? How does one go about finding a career consultant? Do you work for clients direct? What are the deliverables? Meetings by the hour?

You could do a search on LinkedIn or just general web search for "career consultant" or the more popular term "career coach". I prefer "consultant" based on what I do and the level of service I provide. There are lots of people calling themselves "career coach" that are more about inspiring people (like a life coach) and less about providing actionable advice and solving real problems.

I do work for clients directly, and typically charge for consults on an hourly basis (which can be broken up into smaller sessions as necessary). My contact info is in my HN profile.

interesting about writing, could you please mention some of the tech sites that pay money for content?

I've been paid by Dzone.com (for both writing and editing) and TechBeacon. I was published a few times by Lifehacker although I don't remember if those were paid (and they aren't what I'd consider a tech site).

Reaching out to site editors with a couple samples of work could find you getting work published. As a freelance software developer, getting paid to write is nice, but just getting published can help increase exposure and lead to more incoming requests for project work and improved reputation.

Auth0 at least used to pay for blog content.

I am not sure if they still do that though - last time I did that was about 2 years ago.

I wrote about their tech and how to integrate it in a different stack. I believe they paid about 200 USD for it.

I'd look it up but I am on mobile atm so it's not convenient. Might be worth to look up their website if it interests you.

digitalocean.com, and other nich tech websites. it usually helps to have a couple example essays/posts before asking to be paid for content.

My core advise is top stop chasing whatever big dream.

Backpack and move to Chiangmai. Look at life from different angle, you'll see people who are barely getting by and still happy.

Start freelancing and getting contract work. It's not really difficult if you

a) can skype interview b) work with git/GitHub

Then find like minded people and make a team. US in not the only place on Earth.

I've moved to Mumbai from NYC and i couldn't be much happier. Our whole team is remote.

Is Chiangmai in particular especially desirable?

I would hesitate moving to a “3rd world” (I know not all developing countries are the same) long-term as I got the impression once you start caring about schools/healthcare (serious stuff, not getting some routine dental work) they become a lot less attractive.

I assumed he's single. Asia in particular is lot of fun.

Quite interesting to see (single) Westerners moving to Asia to find happiness, all the while here I'm born in India but had moved to the West to find independence and opportunities. Right now I'm looking towards achieving a balance: get dual passport and live 1/4th of the year in India and the rest in Canada (including other countries).

Works well for me as I prefer, and am happy, to be single.

The western singles looking for that (I assume) are still hoping to make their money in the West (remotely) and enjoy all the western privileges and “eastern” lower cost of living at the same time.

Accept it or change it.

Accepting it is transitioning from the realisation that you’re doing it because it’s interesting to doing it because it pays the bills and funds other interests.

Changing it is transitioning something else into the place that is currently occupied by work.

Both of these require finding something that interests you so start there.

But remember, life is long, interests wax and wane so this is perfectly normal and don’t sweat it as some failure or worry about it being a wrong attitude.

Edit: Just to add I’ve been through this twice. First I changed it (electrical engineering to software engineering). Now I accept it because my interests will never pay the bills I have :)

Boredom is caused by a lack of attention. You can change your activity as much as you want but after some time it will become boring again.

The only solution is to realize the scale of this Grand Happening which we call as life or existence. That every day comes fresh and new, not a single atom is the same as it was a moment ago. But if you don't have this much attention it feels "the same", "boring". And it's not about the job only, friends, family, movie you name it.

If you realize this you can swipe a floor for the lifetime and it will never be boring.

> That every day comes fresh and new, not a single atom is the same as it was a moment ago.

So what? What difference does that make to OP?

It should show him that the world is alright and he should focus on developing his sense of attention, not changing the activity (which is just temporary "workaround").

Hey, great answer, totally on the same page with you. But at times the boredom voice is just so loud, that even understanding that this voice is also just a part of grand happening does not help.

I'd love it if you could share some more information or materials on this. It's something I've been trying to comprehend and understand in my own way.

Another way to look at is is to channel William Blake:

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
    And Eternity in an hour
Almost anything turns out to have interesting hidden depths that normally only specialists have access to. The world is super amazing.

You're living in your own petty creation, man!

Just kidding. Aside from some of the funny wording this is a nice, simple philosophy and I'm going to think about it today.

Be careful: you are going to think about something which requires you not to think. Think twice about that ;)

Alan Watts

In your opinion, does mindfulness meditation help in regards to developing attention sufficiently to alleviate the problems mentioned by OP?

Meditation isn't meant to do anything for anyone, this is a very Western idea. It's play. I think reading on the topic would be more helpful

Any reading suggestions? I've only begun looking into it, with The Buddha Pill being a more skeptical book on my list

Not sure if trolling. But unless you elaborate, very few people are going to read this and comprehend what you are on about

He asked a question, I gave my best answer. Whether it will work for him or anybody is not in my control. If you have any specific questions - ask.

I was into Vipassana meditation.

I warn anyone getting into meditation. It leads to dissociation (an extreme form of everyday withdrawal from emotions) which creates the illusion that one is "happy" or "not bored".

PM me if you'd like discuss more but can't be bothered to do it publicly for fear of opprobrium from other meditators. :-P

I get what he's saying. If you feel at one with what is going on around you, it isn't boring.

You may want to change your attitude toward work. There's a reason it's called "work" and not playtime. There's a reason they pay you to do it.

I like to think about the guy stuck in a shit town, working in a coal mine. Maybe they all drink themselves to oblivion and I'm delusional, but I envision at least some of them this way: Guy goes down there and busts his ass all day in the dark, getting dirty as fuck, probably doing long term damage to his lungs and such. But it's his job and at the end of the day he goes home to his wife, kids, and dog, and realizes that work is just something he has to do to support the parts of his life he cares about.

>> Does anyone have a suggestion for what I can/should do to improve my circumstances?

Yeah, quit acting like an entitled little child. Be grateful that you have a job that often requires more education than you have. Stop thinking you can just monetize some personal interests and retire. Life requires effort, give it some. Once you get over that hump you may be able to consider which alternative you're willing to put actual effort toward.

I appreciate the spirit of what you're saying, though I disagree a bit with the details.

I worked a blue collar job manufacturing commercial signage for several years before I got a job as a programmer. I'd wake up at 5, work on learning to code, and then go to my job. Sign making isn't coal mining but it is a low wage job with few benefits and negative impact on your health. I didn't find much of the stoic worker type you describe among the people I worked with. Most had families. Everyone hated their job. It breaks you down physically, the boredom wears on you mentally, and providing for someone else doesn't make this easier.

I am grateful that I now get paid 5x what I used to make, sit in an expensive chair, and get free beer at the office. But I think it's good to be honest with yourself when what you have doesn't feel like enough. Trying to push that feeling away doesn't help to resolve it, in my experience.

I do think that an attitude adjustment is called for. But I'm trying to sort out what is a product of attitude and what is a product of external circumstance.

Finally, I think a world where everyone has the freedom to pursue what they're interested in would be an ok world. It's not always possible but it wouldn't be wrong if it was.

> I like to think about the guy stuck in a shit town, working in a coal mine. Maybe they all drink themselves to oblivion and I'm delusional

> Guy goes down there and busts his ass all day in the dark, getting dirty as fuck, probably doing long term damage to his lungs and such. But it's his job and at the end of the day he goes home to his wife, kids, and dog, and realizes that work is just something he has to do to support the parts of his life he cares about.

Where this romanticizing of hard work comes from? Protestant work ethics? A coal mine person working "down there" better find a partner before starting the career (i.e before the age of 18). Otherwise with the low status of the job and its hardness one has zero change finding partner afterwards. Many don't do and wreck themselves from misery by reaching, lowered already usually, retirement age. Yes it's devastating for their health and lungs.

These "be a man" life advices are almost always obsolete.

Life is hard and it will demand hard people.

I regret having only one upvote.

Although there’s a certain segment who would/could react positively to that kind of approach in the second half, I’d just caution anyone reading who finds it demotivating to not get down on yourself about it. I’d personally offer two observations:

1. At micro, any job will have good times and bad times. Times when you’re super engaged and times when you’re slogging through it. Try to push through a bad time, there’s a feeling of accomplishment in coming over the hump. Try to find change when the hump is insurmountable over a long period with no chance of change.

2. At macro, everything in life is like this too. Some periods will just be about showing up, and that’s okay. Showing up is something you can build on. If all you’re doing is showing up and it ends up not being a period but a new normal, seek change.

Entitlement has become this derogatory term over the last several decades, but every person is entitled to pursuing greater levels of happiness. Good on you for not settling.

While it might feel good to admonish people and tell them that they have to get tough and suck it up and pull themselves by their bootstraps, it typically does not do anything to help them; particularly if they are taking the initiative to ask for help in the first place.

OP more likely than not realizes that they are in a situation of privilege compared to someone working in the mines to sustain their family; if they are posting here, then clearly that insight alone has not sufficed to help them deal with what they are feeling.

All we know from OP is 3 paragraphs of text they wrote, asking for help; telling them to stop “acting like an entitled little child” is downright rude and not what HN is about.

I realize my response may not be helpful and is not in the normal spirit of HN. But OP said this "My ideal life would be one where I am free to explore things that interest me and share that knowledge with others."

Look, not everyone can be an Instagram model or a YouTube star. Sometimes a good smack in the face is what's needed to spark a little motivation. Sometimes not, but I think it's worth putting out there.

For some less harsh motivation I'll offer this:


I don’t think OP wants to be an instagram star. They want a change in career and have only a nebulous sense of what exactly they want. “Suck it up” is not only a mean spirited response, it is beside the point.


I think it says a lot about your worldview and experience if you think there are only two careers (industry drone and Instagram celebrity). There are lots of jobs people find happiness through, like teaching or creating art. If you have some time off work for new years, I'd recommend playing the game The Stanley Parable.

Do you think the person you replied to would really think their world view is based off the two paths you've listed? Also deferring to a video game for philosophical discussion....

To be fair, is that not everybody's ideal life? To not have to truly "work", just to do things they find enjoyable? Feeling entitled would be demanding that from every job, being realistic would be understand that normal jobs can help motivate you to get to that "ideal" life.

I think the tone could have used improvement, but the underlying perspective has been useful for me when getting through hard times of all sorts. It's easy to lose perspective and focus on the negative parts of life, and often times, I've been able to find comfort in difficult situations by reminding myself that everyone has struggles and acknowledging the positive aspects of life. At least to me, a simple shift in perspective can have a huge effect on my mood and happiness.

The needless aggressiveness aside, this goes completely against my job experience. The boring workplaces were those in which putting in the effort was actively discouraged and punished. Consider yourself lucky if you never worked in one of these places.

This matches my experience as well. I've worked at places that were boring because everyone was checked out and didn't care about the work. I've also worked at more interesting jobs where the people were far more engaged. The latter type of job tends to be more challenging, better paying, and more conducive to learning.

It's possible that OP's problem is largely that he has worked for bad companies/managers.

I guess maybe you were trying to give OP some tough love here but it came off a bit misguided to me. I think it all depends what your philosophy towards work is and what you want to do with life. Your analogy kind of illustrated this, at least to me. The idilic coal miner gets meaning from building a family and doesn't give a shit about his job, others might choose a different path to that. Telling someone who's dissatisfied to basically "harden up" might work in a different context but is not constructive here. Why does OP not have the right to question the meaning in their work and surroundings?.

Why? Why should life be that way? What’s the point of doing unfulfilling things that make you die sooner?

> Why should life be that way?

The point is that life is that way, not the way we would like it to be.

> What’s the point of doing unfulfilling things that make you die sooner?

The point is that (almost?) all jobs are like that.

Airline pilot? Yeah, you fly, and that's cool. Get to see the world? Also cool. Get to travel the world and not see it because you have to fly back out? Less cool. Being chronically sleep-deprived? Not good for your health. Waking up when the alarm goes off in some random hotel room, and not knowing what city you're in? Not so glamorous.

Even computer work is bad for your health. Sitting around being sedentary, for years? Not good. That's without carpal tunnel, but that can come from the work too.

Now, neither of those are as unfulfilling or as dangerous as working in a coal mine. But all work is unfulfilling, at least some of the time. If you don't understand that, you're going to be unhappy no matter what you do.

That said, some jobs are a whole lot more fulfilling than others. More: Some jobs are a lot more fulfilling for you than others. It makes perfect sense to try to figure out what kind of work you would find more fulfilling, and how to get a job doing it. But if you expect it to be fulfilling always and never unfulfilling, it will disappoint you.

In fact, I'd say that you need to find your real fulfillment somewhere else. That way, you can come to work without expecting it to fully fulfill you. You then won't try to squeeze out of your job what it can never give you, and then reject it because it couldn't give you what you wanted.

Horrible advice. If everybody thought like this then we would still be living in caves.

If nobody thought like this you wouldn't have people building sky scrapers and collecting garbage in the winter

I found myself in a similar situation about a year ago. Started developing https://mocktastic.com (REST API mocking electron app, with team collaboration) on the side. It's kept me going through periods of mind numbing boredom in office, even though the user growth has been rather slow (but steady).

I'd say find an area of interest – one that doesn't have anything to do with programming. Then learn as much as you can about it. Next, identify things you can change with your programming skill.

Once, you've identified 3/4 things, find some people who make a living dependent on those things. Go talk to them about how you would improve things. If they light up, it's time to start coding. Else find something else to change.

The combination of learning about a new industry you know not much about and trying to build a solution for that industry, should keep you busy outside office. Leverage that, and use your office time as your down time.

great name!

This is just my experience and of some I observe around me. I see a lot of very talented and passionate developers wanting to come up with personal projects that can make them money but, because they're so deeply interested in software engineering, the only ideas they have are related to (surprise!) software engineering problems.

Yes, you can make money selling products or services for software development but to really come up with something that reaches more people or businesses you need to invest in other interests, you need to be around more non-techies, you need to try more concrete world things.

Use your acute problem analysis and solving skills to identify and model problems in the world "out there." Model and remodel the problem to exhaustion, fall in love with it; think, design, experiment solutions and a why people would pay for it.

It's possible there's a lot of stuff to learn in this whole process. And you can do this over and over, with different problem spaces, if you become good at it.

In short, part time remote freelance web development. Do it for 10-20 hours a week depending on how much money you need/want. Do whatever you want with the rest of your time.

I've been doing this for 8 years (the entirety of my professional career).

I've had times when I worked about 10 hours a week and nomaded around Europe.

I've had times when I wanted to build a thing, so I spent 30 hours a week working on the project and 10 hours a week on freelance. The thing didn't work out but it didn't matter because I had "safer" money coming in from freelancing.

I've had times when I wanted more money, so I worked about 30 hours a week on freelance to build up some savings.

I absolutely love this lifestyle and have basically complete control of my time now other than the time I put into freelance. I currently work about 3-4 hours in the morning in my home office and then do whatever in the afternoons. Currently my afternoon project is a website for helping other developers switch from full time employment to this part time lifestyle (www.lessboring.com).

If you can succeed at full time development employment, you can succeed in freelance, you just have to learn some social skills and some business skills depending on how much you know about those areas. The people I see who are struggling as freelancers seem to basically think they can operate exactly as an employee and succeed independently.

OP, I'd be happy to talk with you specifically over email or the phone about your situation. My email's in my profile. I've basically determined that my life goal is to help people get better jobs they actually enjoy, and as a developer you have way more options than most people since development is such a valuable skill right now.

There’s an old zen expression: “Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

One benefit I’ve found from meditating is that it makes me less judgemental of tasks and more willing to approach everything in life with a desire to do the task well.

I’d recommend reading one of Phil Jackson’s books (the NBA coach). He’s got some great thoughts on Zen, and it’s interesting to see how he used meditation to help superstar athletes with big egos to focus on tasks that others might find “boring”.

My naive impression of why this is effective is that meditation helps your brain realize that labels like “fun”, or “boring”, tend to fall apart upon scrutiny.

Most of us , whether we realise it or agree or not, work for income which in turn allows us to work on more interesting things. Some may save up some money which lasts for a duration and go do the interesting things. You are doing it right!

However what will help is doing it differently. Can you do time blocking? I assume that while you are doing interesting things at work, no one notices or cares. That is a great job! So why not block your 1st half to do the necessary boring work, and the second half the interesting work. Win Win! I agree this may need some discipline but think of it as a daily ritual! Btw, many greats [1] have had rituals like this, so who knows? :-)

The other aspect you might be missing is 'when interesting things turn boring'. Usually that happens when you want to ship the product and you hit the long tail of shipping. Try replacing 'doing interesting' vs 'doing interesting and shipping'. But we don't want to give up the idea of doing only interesting? That happens when you can work through the boring parts of shipping an interesting piece of work. Keep trying and you will find it, then find a job in that domain or do your startup in that domain and you are set. I realised 3D graphics was my calling the same way, so I am saying from experience.

[1] : https://www.amazon.com/Daily-Rituals-How-Artists-Work/dp/030...

I personally attempt to rotate what I do and am always trying to optimize (it keeps me interested). An example: when I was 14 - 18 I worked in a medical billing office scanning old documents (and new documents as they came in).

There were 3 of us working 15 - 20 hours a week. Most boring job imaginable (I'd do it Saturday and Sunday, 10 hours each). I found I could listen to audio books so I smashed through several hundred over the years of doing this (as well as the Teaching Company and other lectures).

I also started to look for ways to improve the process. I spent a little time exploring databases and OCR over my mandatory unpaid lunch and breaks. Eventually, I realized I could rather eaisly automatically change filenames, add to an SQL database, add a few tags, etc.

I then could setup a scanning job, which used to require manual data entry after each page, to then do one massive scanning job and only edit a few "failures" after the fact. This let me scanning 10x over the other two employees.

It looked good for me, so I got moved into network admin (more fun), which further kept my attention.

My point, it's up to you to find the motivation. But if you're curious and interested in self improvement, money, moving up the company ladder, etc. Then you can find the motivation to push yourself to at least try to change your situation. I did it via audio books and experimenting on breaks, what you do is unique to you.

I've been there my friend. I've done as you have done. I even managed to convince my wife to let me go part-time for 6 months to pursue my "dream" and find meaning, you know, attempting the ideal. I eventually came to the conclusion that taking on more responsibility in my life gave me more of what I have been looking for than pursing only what I found interesting (remember interest fades!).

Do not cheat your employer (if you owned the company, would you appreciate your employees doing this?). Perhaps search for better ways to accomplish your work duties, take on responsibility, or move on to another endeavor where you would be more inclined to be an actual steward or leader.

Best of luck, don't be afraid to do some reflection, perhaps you will surprise yourself in regards to what exactly you are looking for, I know I have!


The main thing to learn in a work environment is how to finish things - or what it takes to finish things.

I suspect (happy to be wrong) when you say you like learning you mean you like everything about programming except the tedious task of drawing everything into a coherent whole and polishing it.

I think if you conceive of learning in a broader sense you may enjoy work more by finding insights in the process and in the people.

The problem is that you don't feel like fulfilled at your current workplace. I can guarantee everyone had that feeling at one point or another. I have a PhD in engineering and I'm still not fulfilled. It's not about degrees, how many certs, how many side projects, etc. It's about life. You already answered your own question - you'd be happier to be free to explore things and share the knowledge. The keywords are "to be free", "to explore," "to share knowledge." How to make them into something sustainable is the question. And I suspect they are not the only things you want. The modifier is to be GREAT at them.

Look around your local university's external job listings to get attached to a team as a research programmer. Often they are just looking for somebody to build and maintain a UI the scientists can use more easily, but you'll have lot's of opportunities to start rewriting algorithms to make them more efficient, and you're working with post-doc researchers and grad students so everyday is interesting not to mention some come with benefits, such as free tuition credits so you can P/T take courses at the school. Some resources here for teaching yourself these topics https://functionalcs.github.io/curriculum/

You will also collect letters of recommendations from the PhDs you work with, guaranteeing future employment on more research grant teams or for use to apply to a grad school program. Most students and developers pass up these opportunities because they don't pay near the same salary as industry does but if you can live with a hit in income you'll never be bored again. Sometimes you'll be the 'CTO', your job is to design whatever you think is the best way to sort/access/display research data which leads into Knuth territory generating all permutations, creating graphs, building a DSL, creating the user interfaces for it, best way to host an interface online for remote access, ect.

Stop coding at work for non work and start coding at work for work.

Why not write something useful to help your daily work?

I can't imagine a project where i would not love to have enough time to actually cleanup/fix/extend/create x for our project we are working on.

People used to say that opportunity is everywhere, you just need to pay attention. Fun is the same thing.

Some things that make every day fun

- trying to know for who you are building your software for, talk to this end user, get to know how useful (or useless) your construction is actually solving something or not. I'm 100% sure that if you see many people using and feeling thankful from what you made, that would make you feel great. Nothing less!

- improving the environment of your company. Look, everyone has a big problem. They are also coming to work with some problem on the back of their heads. If we could just light this a bit, it is immensely rewarding. We're going to die anyway, so why not make our existence a noble one? :D

- find a topic that you like and present it to your boss, try to find together a way to combine both. He may have some idea, or the boss of your boss. Everyone wins when you are motivated

- plan your big escape: if your goal is to only study, consider making some money, moving to a cheap place (Thailand?), and with a leeway for a few years, you can try to experiment some ideas. Why not put some courses on udemy for example? Teach all you could, in the best way possible and learn how to promote what you do

Have fun!

Freelance. Seriously, freelance remotely.

You will be able to find work you love. If not, you will be able to easily switch projects and find something you will love doing. You will have the flexibility to work when you need money and the flexibility to work on your own projects when you have some savings in your pockets. Or better, you can do part-time projects for clients and part-time in your own projects. You can tailor your working habits.

It's hard to find freelance work - the contract roles are guarded jealously by recruiters and agencies (who take 30-40% of the revenue prior to giving it to you), and anything else is extreme luck or extremely good networking. If the latter (networking), remote is very very hard for someone who isn't already well-known.

Based on my knowledge of the market for freelance software gigs, I think you are grossly overestimating the difficulty of finding good work. "Extreme luck" is not necessary, nor is "extremely good networking".

30-40% is also probably a bit of a stretch for the recruiter's take (former recruiter here). Those numbers and higher are certainly possible, but 20% is a bit more likely. Also, if you are getting a competitive rate for your work, it really doesn't matter what the recruiter is taking, does it? If they are able to negotiate a huge finder's fee on top of your competitive rate, that's their skill being rewarded.

Also, if you are getting a competitive rate for your work, it really doesn't matter what the recruiter is taking, does it? If they are able to negotiate a huge finder's fee on top of your competitive rate, that's their skill being rewarded.

Hold on - I'm not talking about "finder's fee," I'm talking about agencies that seek consultants (W2 or C2C) that take a cut of 30-50% or more in perpetuity. For example, a job advertised as "$80/hr" to the consultant, is billed to the client as maybe $130/hr or more. That keeps consultant pay suppressed. The way around that is to a) know people in companies, like CTO's; or b) have a reputation that lets you not have to go through the consulting agency (or recruiter, same thing in NYC) bidding process (or at least that's what I call it).

I understand, but is in essence a 'finder's fee' that just works in perpetuity.

When I was a recruiter, if I placed a candidate for a FTE role and get say 20% fee (based on starting salary), I got that same fee whether someone remains in the job for 90 days or 90 years. I don't get additional money for each year they stay. That makes sense, because I'm not really responsible at all for that hire once it's made.

For consultants, recruiters may play some role in maintaining the relationship between the hiring client and the consultant. Not all recruiters do this, but many stay in contact with the consultant (to protect their investment) and with the client (to maintain that relationship, place more consultants, and ensure the client is satisfied with the work).

I'm not trying to defend predatory practices by recruiters, but if a recruiter is able to negotiate a large mark-up for their consultant, that's a skill that they should be rewarded for financially.

To view it another way, if I get a client to pay $130/hr for an open role, and I identify a qualified consultant willing to take that job for $70/hr, that's a combination of A) my skill as a recruiter, and B) the consultant's inability to recognize their own market value or inability to negotiate a higher hourly rate.

I don't think gouging is good for the industry overall, but if the consultant is happy at $70/hr and the client is also happy at $130/hr, what's "wrong" with the recruiter taking that $60/hr?

Everybody is happy, no? At least everybody is happy when there is no transparency as to where that $130 is going.

FYI, I'm playing devil's advocate here. During my career I did very little consulting work and my margins were usually closer to 15-20% of hourly rate, though I once worked for someone who had a 400% mark-up on a consultant for almost 3 years (consultant was paid ~$50/hr and bill rate was over $200).

how would you recommend finding work?

There are probably too many ways to respond to this question without making a full post, but a few examples: 1 - Reach out to other freelancers - many freelancers actually have too much work and will refer some leads along to others they trust. 2 - Recruiters - find an agency recruiter who you can trust and tell them to keep an eye out for you. Recruiters love placing contractors, as it is basically an annuity revenue stream. 3 - General outreach - just reach out to people. Founders, meetup leaders, CTOs. Do a little research and send short messages declaring your availability and interest. 4 - Let the work find you - make sure you have a discoverable presence on LinkedIn and elsewhere.

I have a LinkedIn presence with solid skills and I'm absolutely bombarded with full time roles. Even though I have consultant plastered all over the title and profile, and even though I'm currently in a consulting gig, and even though I'm freelancing under my own company, I get almost no consulting gig (that don't pay lower than full-time) recruiters reaching.

I'll actually pay a finder's fee to those who find me consulting gigs (ones that pay senior rates). LinkedIn isn't working for me, here.

edit: source: I was a hiring manager in a past role and I learned the real take-home pay of the consulting agencies when they farm out consultants.

There is this very popular place earlier known as Hacker School and now known as Recurse Center at NYC, so if you can manage to arrange some place to live in NYC I suggest you to go and check out this place. It's community driven and ask for no fee though is very good and worth giving a try. Here is the link to the same https://www.recurse.com

Yeah! I need to save a bit more money but I would like to participate in a Recurse Center batch. Would like to make my daily reality more like what time at the Recurse Center sounds like.


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The idea here is: if you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; if you don't, please don't comment until you do.

Edit: you've done this repeatedly and we've already had to warn you repeatedly. If you don't stop doing this we're going to have to ban you, so please stop doing this!

They are just adding an option? Usually if someone asks for advice there are other people with similar problems reading the threads and it can be useful to them.

Lots of people who live outside New York participate. Don't be so needlessly harsh.

Do you get enough sleep? I know sleep makes a world of difference to me when it comes to working on less than exciting things.

This is really true for me, great point. There have been days where I had less than 6 hours of sleep and it’s made me very easily bored and disenchanted with the work that I had previously enjoyed. When I’m very well rested, I could probably enjoy most things for a little while.

To second this... If there is any chance you have obstructive sleep apnea (big neck? snore a lot? have trouble staying awake during movies?) get a sleep study ASAP. Treating that can be life changing.

I always advise to really reflect your current situation and think what changes might be possible. Work is a big part of your life. It depends a bit how willing you are to do more risky stuff, but the great thing is that skilled programmers are in demand. You can always go back to a boring job. Freelancing is an option, but you probaly need to aquire the gigs yourself. Might be an option. But you have total control over what you're working on. You can also work part-time and persue more finanically unrewarding in the remaining time, like teaching. A friend of mine is working 80% and painting the remaining 20%. Are there part-time study options? I would not recommend an online-degree. Have you contemplated working in a startup? It's risky, but there are a lot of different challenges and you can branch out of your technical role.

I have chosen to steer my career in a “suboptimal” way: I have changed from field to field (literally having been a software developer, pharmaceutical chemist, machinist...).

I have pals who’ve stuck to being a lawyer, banker, programmer, etc and they are also happy, but that would not have worked for me. Over the decades they have risen higher in their fields, and almost certainly earn more salary than I, but I am happy, looking backwards, regardless.

So it’s possible you don’t need a “career” if you can be happy regardless.

I don’t know about art school but a humanities education can be more powerful than an engineering education in some domains — both teach you a mode of thinking in addition to a domain specific skill set.

As it happens I always put “programmer” on visa forms and the like as that is how I think of myself.

Discover what is meaningful to you. It may take some years.

Once you have ideas about what is meaningful, try to make your work more connected to these things.

If not directly, then indirectly. For example, your work could support your free-time hobbies that you love. Or, of course, the classic of supporting your family and community through a job that you may not love but can tolerate.

Try to cultivate a sense of pragmatism in your life. It is fun to hide in the clouds -- I've done it before as well -- but unfortunately you can't stay up there forever. People (and yourself) will very much enjoy what your pragmatism can accomplish, and it is nice to see that.

I once heard a quote that happiness isn't what people want. It is meaning that we want. This idea rings true to me.

I think this gets to the heart of it. Some places to start:

Meaning in Work TED talk by a researcher in the field: https://youtu.be/RLFVoEF2RI0?t=177

Happiness vs Meaning: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.830764

My favorite survey of the field: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2015.1137623

I highly recommend some bootcamps if a proper degree is too much time or money investment right now. They have a real impact on skills, and how your resume is perceived. Also, as far as career advancement is concerned, if you're bored at work and you can't get them to give you more, or at least more interesting, work then it is time to move to another company. Apply for something higher than your current role; there's a good shot you'll get it. Some companies promote, eventually, but the fastest ladder climbers I've seen promote themselves by going somewhere that needs them as soon as their current job isn't rewarding them, financially, intellectually, emotionally, etc., enough.

Learn to live conservatively. In other words, lower your expenses as much as you can. It will allow you to be more flexible because you can work a part-time gig and use the rest of the time to explore.

Some posters are right that you should appreciate that you have a well paying job, or even a job to that.

I would say, though, life is short and you were fortunate enough to be born as a human being! One of the most conscious beings on the planet. Human potential has not been tapped. Explore it because one day, not too far from now, you will be old(if you make it) and wonder why you spent your energy the way you did, in a cubicle inside for half your life.

In my opinion, the risks are worth the reward. You can always go back to the programming.

Work or hobby, you can only choose one for each type of activity.

You need to decide if you want to do programming as work, or hobby.

If you decide to do programming as work, go find another hobby that keeps you interested and treat programming solely as revenue source and don't devote too much into it.

Otherwise, you get to enjoy programming a hobby, and you need to find a source of income. This can be from the hobby, but it kills the fun of it.

Save up a bit for say 6 months and take a break. Explore your interests and see if any of your exploratory projects can be monetized.

I felt the way you did a few years ago. There are a couple ways to navigate around this type of block. First, try to connect with the customers/end-users of your code. Receiving positive or negative feedback is a great way to become more engaged with your work. Knowing that you make someone's life better can imbue your work with more meaning. Second, if you are interested in a profitable side business approach your side projects with monetization in mind. Learning something outside programming but tangentially related has helped me stay interested in my day job. Researching the depth and breath of the space (competitors, CPC for popular keywords, payment processing) can be very stimulating. Two years ago I started https://www.delayforreddit.com and its been a great way for me to explore a side business and work towards fulltime self-employment.

Improve one thing. Begin there.

Improve another thing. And repeat.

Fix a broken latch in your home. Improve your code a few lines at a time. It adds up.

Maybe you're focusing on the wrong problem. Without knowing what "naturally motivates you," one thing that does motivate most people is helping others and feeling important. Look up from your monitor at the business around you. Your job isn't simply to sling code all day: you're a problem solver. If you can write a little script that removes a small inefficiency in the sales teams' process you'll be their hero. If you start adding some code to ship usage metrics that help your team adopt a feature that improves your users' workflow -- you'll be a champion. Follow this path and you'll come across interesting problems to solve.

I thought I liked programming as day job but realized I never was happy doing it. So I transitioned, first to self employment and then to requirement analysis, which gave me plenty of other interesting opportunities. It depends on where you work, but the fact is that much of the programming that pays is boring. Interesting, challenging programming of course happens at the companies that are technology leaders and is a different thing so I am not so much speaking of that.

In any case, my advice, don't take for granted that programming as an occupation is the right thing just because you like it when you can choose exactly what to do.

> I really like programming

What about programming do you like?

I don't have a college degree and yet I just got a junior developer position at a company. I'm probably not the best to give you this advice or am misunderstanding what you're trying to achieve but as somebody who has changed between professions, I can say it's feasible.

I went from tech support to translation and now to programming. Being self-taught shouldn't stop you from trying to get a job in a field you're interested in. Sure, a degree might be something a lot of employers look for in a person, but if you can prove you can do the job, then go ahead for it.

Best of luck.

What helped me is to focus on the end user. Those are the people that you are working for!

Once I realised that I quit my job and started working for a company with real end users...

You said you like to explore things and share that knowledge with others.

The things that you can do is becoming a tech blogger. You can explore the latest JS frameworks, Robotics, AI, blockchain, mobile apps and put your exploration in a blog.

You can monetize it by creating an ebook and sell it in your blog.

But writing is hard. So you must be patient. For now stick to your job and do the blogging part-time.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing, but weirder.”

I'm replying to this comment in the hopes of getting your attention. Hackernews has no DM system – could you shoot me an email if you have a moment? cbol###ton242#@gmail#.com

Wish I had an answer to your question. But, you can try living alone in a jungle & do the necessary things for basic survival, cultivate, hunt, cook, tailor, etc. Those activities can help you get a new interest in regular things & after a period of such stay, mundane things would appear interesting to live for.

There is a big push to pursue your passion, which could become a trap.

Mike Rowe has a different angle: "Don't Pursue Your Passion. Chase Opportunity."


Not sure I fully agree, but I appreciate the different perspective

I had a guitar teacher who put it like: When you're learning to play a song, eventually you'll hate playing it, but you need to keep practicing to get better and get back to liking the song again.

Maybe try to pivot into a less technical role, like a developer advocate where you need to be technologically current, but also have a social teaching-esque component to your role.

What I would do in your situation is start with reading books. If you’re not into reading, try Audible.

What you mention feels in line with the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

What do you work on in terms of passion projects?

reflect that on how that is a privelge for a lucky few. practice feeling grateful about it.

or go on a party binge so your job becomes harder to do, more challenging due to tiredness.

Exploring and making money can be one and the same thing too.

I was exactly feeling like this before i started budiness then i found friends to take over the boring parts.

I recommend you tell your immediate boss that you are bored with work and not motivated. They'll quickly help you out.

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