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I've been a software engineer with an advanced degree and more than 10 yrs of experience across some fairly big names in the industry. However, I dont always feel good about what I am doing. I feel I am not very good at what I am doing and need to have better technical skills for my experience. To make matters worse, I work in an industry where in my city, almost every day is a 10-14 hr exercise leaving no time to even think about what to do for transitioning to an alternate career.

what would be a good way to identify what works best for you - other than the usual -

  1. take online courses in areas u feel you like and do homeworks/projects (maybe from sites like topcoder) on these. Here the problem is - how do u identify what u really like?...is it normal for people to play around a lot before they are able to decide. In particular, how do I do this when I know that my industry leaves ppl with little time to even take a breather.
  2. If possible, try to take up assignments in your current organisation that you feel is more suited to what you like.

Any other inputs/suggestions?

thanks in advance.

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    Yes, it is very normal to look broadly at what interests you. It's the thing that captures your attention that is the thing to focus on. If you haven't had that, then you haven't found it yet. Otherwise we can't really help you beyond what you have already suggested. Nobody can tell you what you enjoy doing or you are good at apart from you :) – Jane S May 8 '15 at 3:58
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It is perfectly normal after a while doing the same job to get restless. Technology changes, environment changes, increasing technical familiarity and continuous apparent novelty mean technical people become less enamored with things that once captivated them. People also change, looking for new challenges.

I should also say that it is also normal to look at others around you and perceive yourself to be inferior. It is easy to look at others' successes, assume it is normal and rate ourselves as inferior. It is just like looking at other's Facebook posts - it is easy to see the stream of parties, holidays and family photos to think others' lives are all like this compared to your own mundanity. While a few may genuinely be like this, most people are quite normal and have plenty of bad days, too.

What would be a good way to identify what works best for you?

First, try to understand what you enjoy and do not enjoy in your current role. Try to emphasize parts you enjoy and de-emphasize those you do not. Ask a peer or confidant to suggest things or give impartial observations. Remember this is what you enjoy, not what you are good at. It also may change over time.

The problem might be your current role, not your career. If you think this might be the case, do something to clear your head. For example, take a holiday, work on a project at home or do some volunteer work. Reduce stress by sleeping better, eating better and getting some exercise. Make time to do something you really enjoy.

Alternatively, consider changing how you work. For example, can you work from home some of the time? Can you work different hours to avoid traffic or reduce the commute? Can you commute by public transport instead of driving or vice versa?

Second, start experimenting with more fringe aspects of your role. For example, if you are in a software development role, volunteer to be the Scrum Master (if you use scrum), write documentation, automate tests, work on requirements with the BA, work on UX, mentor junior developers, stand in for our boss while he/she is on holiday or many of the other things that go into software development. This can give you some temporary novelty or breathing room with little risk. This may help move you toward something new, give you a new appreciation for what you have or both.

It might be helpful to apply for a few different roles in other companies, even if you do not intend to leave your current position. The interview experience and exposure to other companies is useful. If you think it is not your career, just your job, this can be your ticket out.

Third, start reading books, listening to podcasts or attending conferences about things outside your area. Put yourself outside your comfort zone and try to expand your horizons. Go for breadth over depth - try to experience different things and talk to different people. Have patience - you will know when you find things that interest you.

Assuming you think a career change is right for you, do not be afraid to start small. For example, reach out to friends or contacts for part time, casual or volunteer work. At best, it may reinforce your decision and short circuit your career change. At worst, you can walk away with minimal losses.

Make sure you discuss this with your partner (if any). You may decide you want to change careers but may need to delay it until you are both ready. Career changes often involve a financial hit so saving beforehand may also help.

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    Note that it's also perfectly normal not to get restless. – keshlam May 8 '15 at 12:41
  • Good advice.. thats what I have been doing. Havent tried doing this within my organization. Perhaps I should also give that a try. Rightnow I am working through a series of upcoming new technologies to see what catches my fancy. – user56508 Jan 13 '17 at 4:51
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Since only you can answer this question for yourself, here are some thought questions to maybe help filter out the noise.

  1. What hobbies do you spend your spare time on?

  2. What hobbies would you spend your spare time on if you had any spare time?

  3. What hobbies would you gladly give up sleep to work on?

If you've worked 10 years as a developer and don't feel competent at it, it's pretty obvious that it's not what you enjoy the most. If it was, you'd gladly be giving up other things in your life to work on it and improve it. It's ok if you spend your limited spare time sleeping and eating, if that's all you have time to do. Answering these questions, though, might help you decide what you actually enjoy doing. So find what captures your interest and energy and "lose some sleep" over it.

Good luck!

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