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Where do I go from here?

fluffy profile image fluffy ・2 min read

So, I’m finding that I’m not particularly happy at my current job, but my various constraints make it very hard for me to find something else that would suit me better.

In particular, I have fibromyalgia which makes it difficult for me to do a huge amount of typing and, even moreso, limits what I can do in terms of oncall or crunch-type work. I’m also at a point in my career where I’m no longer enthusiastic about relearning everything under the sun for the flavor-of-the-week UI framework or whatever, and the chronic-pain brain fog makes it hard for me to juggle a bunch of external dependencies or manage other people.

I love programming and problem-solving from a “How do I do this difficult thing?” standpoint but the day-to-day of actually Getting Stuff Done is getting harder and harder for me to do. What are my options?

I definitely don’t have the right brain skills to be a manager, for example. And while architecting a new system from the ground up is absolutely in my wheelhouse, that's not really something that's a career path so much as the initiation of a new project — something you do when you're already established at a place.

I already tried the "do my own thing, try to make a career out of it" thing, for two years. While I got a lot of stuff done that I care about (particularly my web publishing pet project and a bunch of games and music, I never managed to turn any of it into a sustainable source of income. I have a decent amount of savings, but not enough to last me the rest of my life by any means.

I'm at a loss for what to do next. I'm in my early 40s, and I'm tired — exhausted, even — and burned out and disabled. I have so many things of my own that I want to make but I don't have the energy to do any of them, and I don't have the wherewithal to make them things that other people do either. I've worked hard all my life — harder than I should have been capable of, if anything — but now I feel completely spent and I don't know what to do.

There are many things I'd love to do and which I think I'd be good at, were it not for the issues my disability brings, but anything that puts me on a rigid schedule that can't accommodate how my body is doing from a day-to-day basis is an absolute no-go.

So, given that, does anyone have any ideas for what I possibly can do?

(As a note, please spare me any medical or ergonomics advice; I'm already working with doctors and trying to address the fibro issues as best I can. There is no one perfect cure for this poorly-understood condition, and if you haven't lived with this condition you definitely don't understand its implications on what I can or cannot do.)

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

I wonder if you can make some kind of transition to make life easier for yourself within the company you currently work for. I'm thinking of things like reducing your hours, or maybe going into another role. For example, becoming a business analyst or scrum master vs. a programmer (if those positions exist). Or possibly going from development to something like maintenance or QA. It depends on what specifically is the problem. That is, is it a matter of the number of hours you're working, or is it more to do with the kind of work you're doing? Programming involves a lot of typing as well as a lot of hard concentration, so I wonder if doing something related but slightly different would help.

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fluffy profile image
fluffy Author

Currently I work in a small research lab at a university and there isn't really any mobility in terms of job role. This was a job I took specifically to get away from the stresses of working for corporate/commercial software, where the only lateral moves were into project management, which I don't have the brain for.

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

Would teaching be a viable option? Maybe you could replace some of your current work hours with time as an instructor, teaching assistant, something like that...

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fluffy profile image
fluffy Author

Unfortunately, I only have a small amount of teaching experience, and bigger the issue with fibromyalgia is that it does its own thing on its own schedule; I can't predict when I'm going to be in too much pain to get out of bed.

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

I understand. Hopefully you can talk to your employer and get some reduction in your work hours so that you can have time to recuperate. It may be worth considering asking to do some work from home as well if that is possible. That way, if you're not feeling well, you can stop. But if you feel up to putting in an hour or two, you can do that, and then go back to resting some more. I hope that you will have some relief and that things will get a bit easier for you.

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fluffy profile image
fluffy Author

Thanks. The thing is, I'm already being very well-accommodated at the current job, but I'm just not happy with the work I'm supposed to be doing. But there's this gigantic barrier to me finding another job I'd rather be doing, because of my constraints.

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

In that case, my sense is that staying at this current job is the right call to make, at least for the time being. Even if you're not terribly fond of the work, it's work.

I realize it's a bit of a silly analogy, but I really dislike certain chores like folding laundry. I've found it helpful to take a patient attitude toward it of folding one item at a time and not worrying about how long the whole process takes. Hopefully you can take the same approach - just do one task at a time. Focus on getting the work done rather than whether it is deeply enjoyable or satisfying. Try to get the satisfaction from the effort and time you put into it, rather than whether it is inherently fun or interesting.

If/when you're able to, go out into the world and spend a bit of time doing other things you enjoy outside of work - it doesn't have to require a huge commitment. Maybe take a class, like a yoga/meditation class, or do some meetups related to technology when you can, that sort of thing. If you're able to do some things like that, I hope it can make up a bit for the lack of engagement at work...

If you're able to stabilize your health situation, then you can start to think about getting a different job as well.

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fluffy profile image
fluffy Author

It's not just a lack of engagement or a mild dislike for the work, it's that it's stuff that I don't have any competency in and, due to the brain fog due to being in constant pain, I am unable to focus enough to learn what I need to learn.

If I had this workload at a job where I already knew what I was doing, I'd agree with you, but I'm out of my depth and I feel like I'm just wasting everyone's time.

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

That's a tough one. If you haven't already, and you think it won't be used against you, it may be worth talking to your boss about the situation. Maybe they can adjust the kind of work they ask you to do so it's a bit easier for you to handle.

It also may be worthwhile to start looking around for other opportunities while you still have this job. They say it's easier to get a job when you already have one. Maybe you'll find something that's more in line with things you already know and they might also be willing to accommodate your health issues.

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fluffy profile image
fluffy Author

Yes. But what jobs might those be? That was entirely the question I was asking by making the original post.

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

I apologize for misunderstanding your original post. I guess that was a lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing" :)

My thoughts turn to doing the same things anyone would normally do looking for a job: Check the most popular job boards for postings in your area. Also, do searches for companies in your area that you think you may enjoy working for and see if you can contact them directly somehow (via email, linkedin, whatever the case may be). Possibly get in touch with some headhunters to see if they can bring opportunities to you.

Given your situation, I'd try to apply for jobs where I think I already know how to do stuff quite well, to reduce the learning curve. The idea is to leverage the knowledge and experience you already have as much as possible.

If you get to a point where they are interested in you, I think that is the time to mention your health issues and see if they can help and support you to work around them. I wouldn't bring it up right away - I think it's better to raise it once you already have their interest and attention as a stand-out candidate.

I don't know this for certain, but it may be worth looking into government or non-profits, with the idea being that they may pay less, but perhaps they'd be more flexible in accommodating you.

Searching for a job may be taxing on its own, so make sure to space this out and not do too much at a time.

Of course, this is all stuff you may have considered already. I don't have any really unusual or original ideas that come to mind.

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vuild profile image
Vuild

Hey fluffy.

That sucks. I am not going to offer empathy or sympathy because they don't really help much. I look for things that help:

My suggestion would be to find someone young, fit, eager & capable of doing the things you can't as a co-founder. Between the two of you, it's possible to get what you need done that way.

I hope that is helpful in someway.

Gl.

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fluffy profile image
fluffy Author

While it would be great if it were as simple as me starting a company and paying someone else to do the things I can't, that requires a lot more money than what I have, a product idea that would generate revenue that attracts investors, and a completely different set of skills than what I'm good at.

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vuild profile image
Vuild

Not paying someone. A partner, co-founder. It is pretty easy (relatively) to raise money with some kind of startup. There is wealth of VC/big tech/gov/crypto funding from Seattle to San Diego.

The co-founder is supposed to have the other skillset you need.

It's unfair when your options are cut off while looking around to see lack of gratitude/waste/easy options for others. It is frustrating & demoralizing but it is that way.

I prefer to direct anger into the thing I need to achieve than be defeated which makes it a lot harder.

This option is the one that allows: work anywhere/any time/on your terms while filling the gaps where you can't. Not many other things work like that (freelance/jobs etc).