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I was always an ambitious, jack-of-all-master-of-none kid with above average skills and interest in technical topics. Working for the software industry was always looked upon from where I grew up and ended up naturally getting into it. I like it and it is a definitely challenging domain to work in. I now work for a company that makes cutting edge products for Healthcare.

Somehow the work that I am doing doesn't seem that rewarding. There are physics researchers studying new aspects about universe that will eventually help mankind in interstellar travel, scientists coming up with new ways to grow artificial food so that the world doesn't die of starvation in future. My work seems irrelevant, brings no change to where mankind is headed. I for sure am lacking some motivation to keep going at my work as I feel my work has very menial impact on the society and its well being.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you make yourself better again?

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    "cutting edge products in Healthcare domain" sounds pretty impactful to society
    – cdkMoose
    Jan 3, 2020 at 13:55
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    To me if you can make a painful or incovinient examination even just 5 minutes shorter then you already gave your 50 cents to mankind. If you need something more visible then what is it stopping you to pursue your target? Jan 3, 2020 at 17:34

4 Answers 4

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Understanding what excites you at work is a universal challenge - we've all felt like you're feeling now at many points in our careers.

You might consider different "sources of meaning" as your reflect on your current role or potential future roles:

  1. Self - "What's in it for me?" Do you enjoy improving your own skills, learning about new topics, or developing as a leader? Are you energized by personal rewards and recognition?

  2. Team - Do you enjoy helping your team succeed? Is it more fun to see your whole team win than it is to have a personal victory?

  3. Organization - Are you excited by seeing your organization grow in reputation and impact? Are you energized by working for a "name brand"?

  4. Customers - Is the impact that you and your organization has on customers and end users a strong motivator?

  5. Society - Do you feel energized by contributing to a positive impact on society (e.g., addressing global warming or disease)?

Different people have different sources of meaning. Your sources of meaning could change between projects and in different parts of your life. Reflecting on which types of meaning give you energy can help you know how to contribute at work to feel most engaged and energized (e.g., if you care a lot about "team", then spend your time teaching and developing your colleagues, and spend less time on solo projects).

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And what is stopping you from applying for jobs in companies where you think you can make a impact?

If you can't leave your job because of money (or any other reason) maybe you can start working as a volunteer on something that might have a more immediate effect, like helping feed the poor in your city, or maybe teaching people in the poor part of town how to program so they can have a better chance to have a better life?

You don't need to be a scientist to make a impact on society. You don't need to build a rocket to make a difference in someone's life.

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    There are also lots of possible software-related pet projects out there. In times of Covid finding such shouldn't be that hard! E.g. google for #EUvsVirus hackathon. Or if Covid is unnerving, such projects existed long before Corona. E.g. a social lottery organized a hackathon helping the spastic brother of a software developer (sorry, it's German): aktion-mensch.de/neuenaehe/biswanger.html . If you want to help you'll find the needy!
    – Jessica
    May 27, 2020 at 9:23
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Working in the software industry does not seem rewarding anymore

Are you sure this is the actual problem?

There are physics researchers studying new aspects about universe that will eventually help mankind in interstellar travel, scientists coming up with new ways to grow artificial food so that the world doesn't die of starvation in future

One of the beautiful things about working in software is that you're not tied to any one industry and all of the fields you mention would certainly involve software in some way. Personally, I've been in your shoes and have found moving between industries keeps things fresh and interesting.

Another way to look at it is to derive your meaning from something other than your career. It's great when everything aligns and our jobs bring us a wonderful sense of accomplishment and meaning, but it's not always the case, and that's okay. It can be easy to forget that each of us is so much more than how we make a living. Consider creating or contributing to something of interest in your own time.

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I agree with the other answers. But, I think burnout is also an avoidable problem. Usually you don't realize when you are in the process of burning out, then when you realize it, it's too late.

To avoid this software teams can use signals to figure if they are closer to burnout or not.

https://usehaystack.io/blog/post/using-git-signals-to-identify-burnout/

This post has details on which signals can be used. You can probably find your own signals too.

Note: I'm the founder of a Haystack, providing insights and alerts for github teams.

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    Are you affiliated with this software? You seem to be posting it to a bunch of answers and it's smelling a bit like advertising. You're supposed to disclose in your answer if you are affiliated with something you post. (It's not necessarily a problem as long as it's clear to everyone.)
    – Erik
    May 27, 2020 at 8:47
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    @Erik yep, added that bit. Thanks
    – Thellimist
    May 27, 2020 at 23:29

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