Hi, I’m Ken Mazaika and I’m the CTO & Co-founder of The Firehose Project.
If you’re in a job that you don’t like, one thought has probably entered your mind at some point:
“I just don’t care.”
Maybe it entered your mind while you were grinding away over a weekend to hit an aggressive client deadline.
Maybe it entered your mind when you were talking about deliverables and timing in a big internal meeting.
Or maybe it entered your mind pretty much every single second of every single day.
If it happened at all, it could be time for you to consider switching careers.
You spend a ton of time at work. 40 hours a week makes up a significant portion of your life. Spending time working on things you don’t care about, sitting in meetings discussing things stuff you find pointless, or engaging in silly office politics that leave you with a feeling of “I don’t care” is the sign of a big issue.
It’s a problem if you feel apathetic towards a major part of your life. You should be passionate about the things you spend your energy doing. So if you just don’t care, it could be time to switch things up.
You probably used to care. There likely was a time when you felt optimistic and excited about the opportunity to be involved in something. Maybe you were excited about the mission, purpose or the potential for your role. Set out to get that feeling again.
Think about how you ended up where you’re currently at.
Map your life backward. If you do so, you’ll realize that a lot of random and seemingly unimportant events ultimately led you to where you are now. Think about it. If most people map their life backward, here is what they would find:
High school sets you on a certain track.
In high school, most students have the opportunity to pick certain electives. These electives (things like video production, journalism, business law, economics, etc…) generally give high-school students exposure to things they may or may not be interested in. You probably decided which electives you wanted to take based on four key criteria:
- Things you were interested in
- Things your friends were interested in
- Things that you thought would make you look cool to your high-school peers.
- Things related to what your parents do for work
Personally, one of my high school friend’s father was a computer programmer. I got an introduction into programming from him.
During college, you pick a more defined track.
Eventually, you pick a specific university to attend. You probably have a general idea in mind for your major. This would largely be based on the things that you’ve found interesting previously in life.
You might make adjustments over the course of your college career based on the classes you try and the friends you make, but you have far less time than you think to pick a direction. Especially given the fact that you need to start pursuing internships in the field that you eventually want to pursue while you’re still unsure of what exactly you want to do.
Once you graduate, you’re pushed to pursue a career within the track you started on years ago.
Your best chance to land a job coming out of school is to pursue one that fits with your major and previous internship experience. So you continue down the path that you set in motion years ago.
This is exactly why so many people in their mid/late 20’s find themselves stuck with a plan that they made decades ago without really knowing what they enjoyed doing. To make matters worse, these people had no reason to fully understand the ramifications of the decisions that they made at the time.
Just because you’re here now, doesn’t mean that you need to stay here.
Now you’re here. And you’ve realized that just don’t care about the industry that you identified as an interest over a decade ago. This shouldn’t be that surprising! It’s ok to zoom out and start searching for something that you care more about. When you make progress towards a goal that you no longer care about, are you really making any progress at all?
There are so many different career paths out there. You don’t need to continue working in one that you hate. Go find something that makes you feel like you’re making a meaningful difference. You’ll find yourself caring again. You’ll start caring a lot.
From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that it’s possible to find a career that you truly care about.
I’m a programmer, and I find it quite easy to care about the work that I do on a day-to-day basis. Below, I’ve listed a few reasons why. These are characteristics of a career in programming, but they’re important principles that you can might want to look for in any career that you choose:
There is a feeling of success from launching and building something.
When I was a kid my father installed carpets, and personally I’ve installed a few carpets too (or rather helped my dad out). There is an interesting parallel between installing carpets and writing computer programs.
You typically will only install a carpet at someone’s house one time. This means that you’ll have a high amount of appreciation for the labor that you put it. You’ll want to pay attention to every detail because you’ll only be able to see the brand new, tangible product one time.
Spending time doing work and seeing a tangible result evokes a visceral feeling. The same can be true for programming. You’ll spend hours firing up a text editor, jumping around, researching, and seeing and fixing error messages. You pay attention to every detail and micro-decision because you want to be proud of the final tangible result: the finished product live on the Internet.
It’s not easy… and that’s good!
Things that are easy are often a really hard to actually do. Uninspiring, monotonous work leads to an attitude of “I just don’t care.” On the other hand, programming involves complex problem-solving abilities. It’s not boring. It’s just hard, and it stretches you to challenge yourself and learn more every day.
You’ll have the opportunity to give back.
There are many communities in programming, and people will be at all different phases of their process of learning to program. This allows you to learn from more experienced developers and give back to newer developers over the course of your career.
Programmers are constantly in a state of learning new things. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that you can use every bit of the struggle you face to help someone else down the line.
Starting today, everything that happened before no longer matters.
It doesn’t matter who your best friend was in high-school. It doesn’t matter which courses you took in college. And it doesn’t matter which job you took coming out of school.
It’s never too late to throw away the arbitrary sequence of life events that led to you being where you are today. It’s never too late to start something new.
If you’ve been thinking “I just don’t care” a lot lately, know that the path you’re on now isn’t the only path you can take. You may need to shake things up to find something that you do care about, and you’re definitely not alone.
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