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Update on the mid-life crisis

1 June 2010 by superlative

I have been doing some further thinking about my previously mentioned mid-life crisis over my career, and I think that I’ve sort of decided what it is that I need to do. Whether or not I’ll actually do it remains to be seen.

Basically, I had a good read of a book called ‘Changing your career’ at the weekend,  having decided that as with most problems in my life I could solve it by getting a book on it. It was quite good, and it talked about the reasons people have for changing career, and what you need to consider before doing it. I also spent some time thinking about what things I enjoy in my work, and what things I don’t, and how that might affect what I want to do in the future. The back section of the book was devoted to profiles of about 20 different careers, so you could have a look through them and see if the type of work would suit you.

The upshot of my research, my personal audit (that’s the wanky technical phrase the book used), and the comparison to the career profiles was that the job that seems most suited to me is Web Developer. Which is what I’m doing at the moment.

So… um… There you go. I was a bit surprised, but actually it makes a lot of sense. I moved to this job from my previous administrative roles because this was more what I wanted to be doing. None of that has gone away, I’ve just lost sight of it after two years in post and the creeping boredom being in the same job entails. And in particular I have issues with this job, not my actual choice of career.

When I looked at the things I have most enjoyed in all my previous jobs, they were (apologies for the inarticulate phrasing):

  • Being given a goal and being asked to work out how to achieve it
  • Taking something, unpicking it, working out how it works, and then understanding it
  • Learning new skills
  • Checking things – proof reading, making sure things add up, being meticulous

All of these things fit fairly well in web development, or at least they seem to to me. The projects I have most enjoyed here have been the ones where a designer sends me a set of images and a list of requirements, and says “Can you make that?” Sometimes I know how to do it straight away, and sometimes I have to go away and learn something new in order to achieve it, but I get there in the end.

The problem I have with my job at the moment is that, despite being called a Web Developer, I actually do very little development. Most of the time I’m limited to web editing, which is just updating text and fiddling about with a pre-existing website. And even then, my workload is quite light, and I have to ration what I do so I don’t get too bored. Both of those things leave me feeling unfulfilled, unstretched and quite de-skilled, as anything new that I do learn while working on a project then doesn’t get used again for nine months, by which time I’ve forgotten it.

So anyway, it seems to me that web development is an OK career for me still to be in. What I need to do though is either fix this job by taking on more work from somewhere, and hopefully making it more interesting work, or find a new job where I’m actually a web developer and not just called one.

The latter may well mean working in the private sector, and this concerns me. My only experience of working in the private sector was not a good one, as it was a smallish company and any mistakes you made had immediate financial consequences attached to them. I’m also not keen on any role that involves a sales aspect, and I don’t enjoy being public-facing.

So I’m not actually sure where I go from here. My plan is to start keeping a closer eye on local web jobs, and if I see something that looks promising I’ll apply for it. If it means taking a pay cut for a while, that’s OK, because I know my current skill level doesn’t really match my salary here. Luckily, Brighton has one of the highest concentration of ‘new media’ jobs in the country, so at least I know there are lots of web-type employers around.

I’m also considering starting some study in my spare time, so that I feel more mentally challenged (not in the spakka sense) and might gain a new qualification. I’m having a look at the Open University undergraduate courses in Maths at the moment, and I might think about doing it as a second degree. I enjoyed it at A Level and it would be nice to use those skills again; and you have the advantage with the Open University of stopping part-way through if your circumstances change or you just go off the idea. So I’m going to give that some thought anyway.

I feel a bit more positive than I did last week, and at least now I feel I’ve narrowed down my options and given myself some areas to focus on.

1 Comment »

  1. Urban Cynic says:

    I’m glad you’ve had some movement on this; you were a bit worried about it before. I agree, seems as though you like your job but you don’t have much to do & it isn’t very challenging (I can see how much time you spend tweeting & visiting other sites on Twitter & you seem bored)

    Another great book is by a guy called Jack Canfield -‘How to get from where you Are to where you want to Be’. I set up my own business within a week of reading it & another friend opened a second shop within a month of reading it. It’s very good. It’s about working out what you want (work or/and personal) then pulling your finger out & getting it.

    Wired Sussex is a great place to start or you could set up an online portfolio & contact places you’d like to work. Good luck anyway. x

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