I've been in my current role for about three years, after graduating from University. I haven't really been impacted by COVID work-wise because I'm a software developer so I can WFH.
Lately I've been losing motivation at my job, partly because it's not interesting and I have some frustrations with how the company operates which doesn't look like it's changing any time soon.
But moreso I'm starting to get worried that I'll never really enjoy a job again, because throughout my time here I've experienced the following things, and from what I hear from others, it's similar elsewhere:
- You don't get rewarded for hard work or even being good at your job. The people making decisions about who gets promoted are typically high-level managers who don't really know you or understand your work. Getting promoted is all about appearances and playing office politics, which I dislike.
- Companies typically don't have loyalty. Ultimately, you're a disposable resource to them, to be used and thrown away when it's convenient or necessary. It sucks knowing that, despite all the hard work I put in, I can easily lose my job like so many others.
- Following on from that; when I first started I naively thought that if I worked hard and put in a lot of effort, I'd get rewarded. What I actually found was that when I gave more, they took more, and that was it. No reward, not even an acknowledgement, just a new expectation that I will work more than what's in my contract for no extra reward.
- I have raised my concerns about these things and others with my manager, who is sympathetic but ultimately can't really do anything about it, so nothing changes as a result.
I used to be enthusiastic about working and learning new skills, but now it's at a point where I'm fed up and burned out. I'm still doing my work (albeit no more than I have to), but it's not enjoyable, and all the while I'm thinking "What's the point?" I know that this mindset can apply to any job, not just my current one.
By and large I do enjoy software development; I have some side programming projects on the go which I enjoy vastly more than my day job. I actually look forward to working on them, whereas I only do my day job because I "have to," and I know I'm producing sub-par work (by my standards) because of that.
I know this is a negative, unhelpful mindset, but it's how I feel right now. How can I get back to being able to enjoy work? I've been thinking about switching to a career that's more focused on the bits and fields of software development I enjoy.
Or is this just how it is, and something I'll have to accept? If I talk to friends or family about this, I usually hear "Well, that's life," in which case I'll find a way to make peace with it, but I would like to get the feeling back of enjoying my work.
Thanks for all the answers; they each made good and different points which I'll consolidate here (at least, what I got from them). There is no one objectively correct answer to this. This is mainly for my own benefit so I can refer back to it when necessary.
Don't let your job consume the whole of your life.
- In some cases, you might be extremely lucky and have a job you love 100% of the time, but more realistically, jobs are fickle; they come and go, and sometimes they go well, other times badly. If you let this translate into your life going well or badly, you're bound to suffer as it's something you don't really control.
Tend to other areas of your life; always have room to do things you enjoy.
For me personally, I know I have a tendency to overwork and get stressed and burned out. When this happens, I have no time or energy left for side projects, which then makes me feel guilty about neglecting them, creating a downward spiral. It's easy to sink into this mindset and keep digging a deeper hole. The problem is you get diminishing returns; over time you become less effective, meaning you have to work more just to keep up with what you did before, leading to more stress, etc. So it really is important to take some time out and cultivate social relationships, go outside, exercise, and work on enjoyable things. There's nothing wrong with taking a break to refresh yourself if you're getting burned out, because even if you stress about the time you "should" be spending on work, that time is likely to be mostly spent in a mental funk not really getting anywhere.
Don't underestimate the importance of looking after your mental health, and don't expect others to look after it for you. Most people may actually be suffering in their own ways and tied up with their own problems, so the best we can do is to support one another as best we can and not add to their problems.
Accept that reality doesn't always align with your expectations.
- If the way to get recognised or promoted is to play office politics or exaggerate your accomplishments while downplaying those of others, ask yourself: Do I really want to be that kind of person? If not, then the only way to be happy is to simply accept that this is the way things are, and take whatever pride you can in the job that you do. At the very least, you'll still be growing and developing as a professional, and such experience is always a useful thing to have.
Don't let yourself be exploited or coerced by an employer.
- Ultimately, you are employed to do what's in your contract; anything else you do for your employer is a bonus. Whether or not you choose to do that is always up to you, not your employer.
Remember why you're working in the first place.
- For me, it's not for money. There will always be ways to earn money, and a multitude of jobs to be done. What's important is to remember what led you here to begin with, and if you're finding yourself in a position where that no longer holds and is unlikely to change with effort, then there's nothing wrong with looking elsewhere.