Author Topic: The age-old question, do I maximize income or job satisfaction/fulfillment?  (Read 4737 times)

rawsted

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I currently work in IT in the public sector and I make around 60k/yr. I'm 30, have a relevant degree, and I'm pretty good at it, so I can reasonably expect my salary to balloon close to 100k/yr by the time I'm 40, or whatever the equivalent salary would be inflation-adjusted after 10 years time.

The problem is, I hate it. It's incredibly low-volume and boring, I mostly sit around inside all day with a grey-walled cubicle surrounding me, and when issues do arise or projects become available, they're often not challenging or fun enough to provide any fulfillment, only frustration. I exhaust reddit.com every single day and take several 10-minute or longer walks just to get outside, kill time, and get some exercise. Always being debt-free but without great saving habits, since discovering MMM, I've been putting 40% of my net income into a Betterment account for nearly a year now and making good progress, working toward 50% and beyond

I expect to be moving to another part of the country 7-10 months from now, the exact destination TBD. When I land, I'm wondering whether or not I should continue with my current profession for maximal income, or try to switch careers to something I have genuine interest in. I've always loved sports cars (the final money pit I've thus far been unable to kill off), and I have tons of fun wrenching on engines, though I have no formal experience/training/certification.

Some obvious pitfalls of a career switch of that nature:

- Turning hobby into job might kill the interest (after all, computers/programming started as a hobby)
- Considerably less money, at least to start
- Worse or no benefits
- Difficult to find ideal scenario (working at a performance shop on my preferred flavor of car(s))
- IT/software industry will likely continue to increase in demand/compensation, opportunity cost?

Thing is, I just keep wondering that if Iím this bored and miserable in my job at 30, what is it going to be like at 40 and 50 if I donít change things up and 'do what I love'?

Iím looking for insights, suggestions, perspective, alternatives, success stories; whatever the MMM community thinks might be of help. Thanks!

deborah

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You have several options. One is to change your life, another is to change your attitude to your life.

It has been shown that people can be much happier in their existing life if they:
  • Look into the mirror and smile each morning. If you can't smile, put a finger in each end of your mouth and lift. The resulting face is so funny that few can resist laughing at themselves.
  • Write down at the end of each day the things that made you happy that day.
  • Review your work and think of the parts of it that you like - even if it is only meeting someone for a chat at the coffee urn.

Trying this for a month will cost you nothing, and might help. It will also help you to identify things that you like about working, so that you have a better chance of making a good decision if you decide to abandon your current career for a new one.

AZDude

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I work in IT. I hated my career for years and years. I tried multiple times to switch careers, but the money was always too good in IT. Eventually I accepted my fate and made my peace with the IT establishment.

Money is a tool, use the higher pay in IT to make your life outside work better(save it for FIRE, use it on a hobby, etc...).

jjcamembert

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What are your goals? What do you want to be doing in 5-10 years? I think if you answer those big questions first it will be easier to see which path leads there.

Do you like IT work? Maybe it's the company; maybe you should look for a position at a smaller / more dynamic / fun company. It's fairly common to move around in IT. I took a 50% pay cut to switch to my current job, but because the environment and actual work is so much better I haven't looked back. I still have at least 10 years to FIRE so I'd rather make the most with my 40 hours per week!

I imagine switching to mechanical work would delay your FIRE significantly, but would that still be worthwhile to you? It probably sounds fun now, but in the end it's going to be a job. Maybe that would make a good side-business instead, or even get some part-time work.

mozar

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I hate my job too. What I'm doing is hopping to a new job whenever I am offered a higher salary. When I first found this site I thought I would have to FIRE in 15 years. I have gotten it down to 8. I also was making 60k a year and a half ago. You're in IT, surely you could be making more money.

rawsted

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What if you kept your current job, but also started a side gig using your IT skills?  Is there nothing in IT you find enjoyable?

Can you do something more productive than surf Reddit?
Most of the freelance work in demand right now is full stack react/js web stuff, which I don't *really* have the skills for, but even if I developed them, I find that even less palatable. There is very very little left in IT that I find enjoyable.

There are many things that I could be doing that would be more productive than Reddit, but my current environment is lethal to my motivation, energy, and ability to self-start. I don't know what your office is like, but suffice it to say that I have found it extremely difficult to learn new things or invent projects for myself while I'm here. I continue to try.

It has been shown that people can be much happier in their existing life if they:
  • Look into the mirror and smile each morning. If you can't smile, put a finger in each end of your mouth and lift. The resulting face is so funny that few can resist laughing at themselves.
  • Write down at the end of each day the things that made you happy that day.
  • Review your work and think of the parts of it that you like - even if it is only meeting someone for a chat at the coffee urn.

Trying this for a month will cost you nothing, and might help. It will also help you to identify things that you like about working, so that you have a better chance of making a good decision if you decide to abandon your current career for a new one.
I'll give it a whirl, thanks.

I work in IT. I hated my career for years and years. I tried multiple times to switch careers, but the money was always too good in IT. Eventually I accepted my fate and made my peace with the IT establishment.

Money is a tool, use the higher pay in IT to make your life outside work better(save it for FIRE, use it on a hobby, etc...).
This is ultimately what I'll have to wind up doing. How did you make peace?

What are your goals? What do you want to be doing in 5-10 years? I think if you answer those big questions first it will be easier to see which path leads there.

Do you like IT work? Maybe it's the company; maybe you should look for a position at a smaller / more dynamic / fun company. It's fairly common to move around in IT. I took a 50% pay cut to switch to my current job, but because the environment and actual work is so much better I haven't looked back. I still have at least 10 years to FIRE so I'd rather make the most with my 40 hours per week!

I imagine switching to mechanical work would delay your FIRE significantly, but would that still be worthwhile to you? It probably sounds fun now, but in the end it's going to be a job. Maybe that would make a good side-business instead, or even get some part-time work.
I'd like to FIRE in about 10 years, but that's optimistic given that I still need/want to purchase a home within the next year or two, so I think I'm looking at more like 12-15, at my current income at least. Maybe go on a few interesting/exotic trips while I'm still young(ish), then start a family at some point. That's about it.

On a fundamental level, I don't particularly like IT work anymore, but I do recognize that it could (potentially) be made more enjoyable/fulfillling by changing organizations. If I could land in a situation like yours, I imagine that my job satisfaction would improve considerably. The trick is finding something like that -- it seems rare, especially in this field. How did you do it?

You're in IT, surely you could be making more money.
Not in public sector - I work for a university currently. Not that I'm opposed to private, this is just where I wound up (I live in a college town).




Thanks everyone, for the helpful replies. I think I'll just continue to try to make the best of my current situation, and hope to find a better environment in my field after I move next year.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2015, 06:42:29 AM by rawsted »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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It sounds like your big problem with your job is boredom. Maybe try applying the skills you've learned in the private sector when you figure out where you're moving. I would expect that would be more fast-paced and maybe better money, too.

rawsted

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http://livingafi.com
I'll check it out, thanks.

There could be a simple answer for all this.  For some people, work just sucks and it will never be fulfilling.  That knowledge can either be depressing or liberating.  I'm actually a little jealous - I've always thought it would be awesome to work for a university in a college town.
It was fine at first, even somewhat exciting, but it grew very old very quickly. I've been here for nearly 6 years now and I'd say I'm 2 years past due. Part of it is that the town is played out, the other part is the frustration of being a single cog inside an enormous, lethargic and inefficient bureaucracy. There are days when I wonder if I'm nothing more than one of many human budget receptacles.

It sounds like your big problem with your job is boredom. Maybe try applying the skills you've learned in the private sector when you figure out where you're moving. I would expect that would be more fast-paced and maybe better money, too.
The private sector is probably where I'll look first.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Not all private sector organizations are going to be efficient and productive, of course; that's why so many go out of business each year. If they're still running Windows XP because the documents team likes it, or they act like they ask the same questions in every interview, or when you walk through the office nobody is working, it probably won't be an improvement. Not that this isn't obvious, just clarifying that I don't think every private sector organization is going to be more fun to work for.

AZDude

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Quote
This is ultimately what I'll have to wind up doing. How did you make peace?

This will sound bad but it was a couple of things. First, I stopped working so hard. 50 hours a week? No thank you. I do more than the bare minimum, but working nights, weekends, and even later than 5 pm is a big no unless there are special circumstances(for me its if *I* screwed something up and it needs fixing or if a co-worker is on vacation or something and I am covering for them). Second, I no longer put up with all the bullshit politics and other nonsense. I say "No" more often, and happily hop to another job if my supervisor throws a hissy fit.

Good things about IT are flexible schedules and a very good job market. This means you have the leverage when negotiating stuff like your schedule, telecommuting, bonus money, etc...

When I first started as a developer, I worked at least 60 hours a week, and several times was in the office late at night on a Saturday. That will burn you out. Now, if I am in the office past 4PM on a Friday, my supervisor should personally thank me for being so dedicated.

jjcamembert

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On a fundamental level, I don't particularly like IT work anymore, but I do recognize that it could (potentially) be made more enjoyable/fulfillling by changing organizations. If I could land in a situation like yours, I imagine that my job satisfaction would improve considerably. The trick is finding something like that -- it seems rare, especially in this field. How did you do it?
I just checked out the livingafi.com site and my interview process was similar to his. First, I practiced interviews and studied technical interview questions. I worked on side-projects to learn and portray new technical skills. Basically did what I could to be a great job candidate. I also joined several meetup groups that I was interested in (I was new to the area). I wrote down my requirements for a new job: casual environment, minimal to no overtime, allows telecommuting, interesting new tech, close to where I live, etc.  In my case this work paid off because 1) I heard about the job through a meetup, and 2) I had the desired skills because of the side-projects I worked on.

After several interviews I kept getting the same technical questions over and over, and had perfected my answers. I tried to screen out potential "bad fit" jobs before wasting anyone's time with an interview. I wrote my questions down for the employer so that I could phrase them well without sounding lazy. Many times just asking about their office environment gave me all the answers I needed. I was picky and let recruiters know that I was looking for the "right" job.

Overall it took me 6 months. I got some really "good" offers from some soul-sucking jobs that took effort to turn down. That's when writing down and sticking to my ideal job goals was important.

sixup

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I think it was this forum where I found this guy in the first place, but I like his stuff. Here are a couple articles that I think really nail this topic, and may help your mindset OP:

http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/08/13/dont-quit-your-day-job-transform-it-why-following-your-passion-is-the-wrong-way-to-find-occupational-happiness/

http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/09/10/the-danger-of-the-dream-job-delusion/

Quick TL;DR: Don't quit your job. Grow/leverage your current skills to find a position that offers more challenge, recognition, and autonomy. The idea of a dream job will only make you dislike your current situation.

rawsted

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I think it was this forum where I found this guy in the first place, but I like his stuff. Here are a couple articles that I think really nail this topic, and may help your mindset OP:

http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/08/13/dont-quit-your-day-job-transform-it-why-following-your-passion-is-the-wrong-way-to-find-occupational-happiness/

http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/09/10/the-danger-of-the-dream-job-delusion/

Quick TL;DR: Don't quit your job. Grow/leverage your current skills to find a position that offers more challenge, recognition, and autonomy. The idea of a dream job will only make you dislike your current situation.
Thanks, I'll check these out.

... Overall it took me 6 months. ...
What were you doing in the meanwhile for money? Had you been saving prior to the move and had your living expenses covered, or working a less than ideal/temporary job?

jjcamembert

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... Overall it took me 6 months. ...
What were you doing in the meanwhile for money? Had you been saving prior to the move and had your living expenses covered, or working a less than ideal/temporary job?

I arranged a temporary remote working agreement with my previous employer. Lots of people were leaving the job, so I also put in my notice but said I was willing to stay on in a remote capacity. Honestly didn't think it would go through, but they wanted to keep the customer happy. I know a lot of people who have moved but continue to perform their same job remotely (and not just IT people). This was the 3rd time in my career I've been able to work remotely in an office where it wasn't standard practice. Perform good work, remove any concerns why it "couldn't" happen, and be bold!

Worst case I could dip into my 'stache until I found any job. If I didn't like my first few options I would take one anyway for positive cash-flow and then keep looking for my ideal job. Or freelance/contract work. It's WAY easier to get a job when you're a local. I tried applying from out-of-state and got turned down several times because, "We went with a local candidate."

I think it was this forum where I found this guy in the first place, but I like his stuff. Here are a couple articles that I think really nail this topic, and may help your mindset OP:

http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/08/13/dont-quit-your-day-job-transform-it-why-following-your-passion-is-the-wrong-way-to-find-occupational-happiness/

http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/09/10/the-danger-of-the-dream-job-delusion/

Quick TL;DR: Don't quit your job. Grow/leverage your current skills to find a position that offers more challenge, recognition, and autonomy. The idea of a dream job will only make you dislike your current situation.

Yes, turns out no matter how much I think I'll like a job I still have to be here 40 hours every week instead of pursuing other hobbies ;)

rawsted

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Thank you all for the replies, I have read over most of everything that was suggested, in particular the entirety of blog posts from livingafi.com up until now (thank you, Dr. Doom), and I've come to the following conclusions regarding the original question:

- I will not transition careers
- My current job is not that bad. That is, it could be much, much worse

I have, however, committed to shift into turbo savings mode effective immediately, with a goal of being in the 70+% rate of savings tier by Jan 1 2016. I will do this by closely tracking and reviewing my spending for as long as it takes to get and stay there.