Ask LH: I’m Sick Of Being A Developer, Now What?

Ask LH: I’m Sick Of Being A Developer, Now What?

Hey Lifehacker, I work in the IT industry and I’m a software developer. I have been finding that I’m just sick of the work (three different jobs in three weeks, and they weren’t contracts). I used to have a passion for the work but just find myself really hating every aspect of the job now.

My question is what other career paths/industries could I move into? What skills are transferrable? Will I have to start all over again with a low pay?

What I would really like to do is study medicine to ultimately become a GP but I have commitments such as a mortgage holding me back. Any advice? Thanks, Burnt-Out Developer

Programmer picture from Shutterstock

Dear BOD,

If the total career change is what you want to do then I would be looking for ways I could do it rather than the obstacles. I’ve known several people who have changed out of their old career path into something they found more rewarding. But it takes planning, commitment and a solid support infrastructure.

Let’s start my thinking about the mortgage, as that seems to be something that you’re seeing as a blocker.

When one of my friends decided to return to university he and his partner changed their mortgage from a traditional borrow/payback style arrangement to one where they could draw against the value of the mortgage through an offset arrangement. That meant they were able to live off the proceeds of some part-time work and by drawing against what they’d already paid from their house.

This does have a downside as it meant by the end of the three years of study, they owed more on the house but my friend’s earning potential was much higher and they recovered quickly.

So, I’d start my looking at how I could make it work financially.

When it comes to choosing the course of study – if medicine is what you’re thinking about there are some options.

Traditional medical courses run for about six years. But there are some other choices. For example, some universities (Deakin University is one example) offer a postgraduate medical path that shortens the study time for people who have extensive life and work experience.

If you change your mind, about looking at medicine, it’s worth spending some time thinking about your other options.

When I did this a few years ago, I looked at the skills I had, the interests I had and the skills I wanted. I thought about what I wanted to do and looked for jobs where all these intersected. But you’ll need to think laterally about your skills.

For example, programming isn’t just about languages and instructions. It’s about problem solving and logical thinking. Those are valuable skills in almost any job. If you’ve had management or supervision experience then those are worth talking up to prospective employers as well.


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This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Look for a profession that leverages your competencies (analysis, logic, data ETL) in a role that is involved with the medical field. The reason I say this is if you choose a role that is far removed from your current experience – you’ll be entering a job market against younger graduates who will work for less and probably be able to work harder (as in unpaid overtime) than you.

    However if you continue to do what you enjoy about software development in a new setting, you’ll hopefully find gainful employment that rewards you for the experience you already have.

  • I am posting this under a guest account, because if I post as my usual name, then someone at work my put 2 and 2 together if they read this.

    Wow, I was reading this, and thinking, “I don’t remember writing that”. Apart from a few things, like swapping out “developer” with “technical consultant”, I could swear that I wrote that in my sleep and forgot.

    I am currently a technical consultant, and I hate IT. I have worked in IT for the last 19 years, I used to be passionate about it, I used to love to code, and run up labs, and learn all there is to know. Now days, I get home, and really do not want to touch my computer, I hate it. I have felt this way for 3 years, and know now that it is never going to change. It took a while for me to decide that a change in career was needed.

    I have always wanted to do medicine, and I have looked into it, you need to be ready to change your lifestyle completely, in a big way, you will not have time for much other than study for 6 years minimum depending on the path you take to medicine. So do not count on being able to pay your mortgage for the next 6 years, unless you have a partner who can help, you will not have much time for anything other than a few hours per week for work, if you can find casual work. The only other options are to sell your home, or rent it out. I am lucky, our mortgage is paid for by tenants, so that is covered for me, and I live with my husband, we live rent free too, which is a huge help. If circumstances change, and we can no longer service the mortgage, I am prepared to sell, you have to be prepared to do that if this is really what you want to do.

    Also be prepared to live like a student again, work out how to get cheap meals, understand that your social life will be on hold for the next 6 years, you will not be able to afford to go out often, and have no time to do so. Medicine is a huge commitment, it will become your life.

    On that, if you do have a partner, you will need to discuss this with them, and they will need to be behind you 100%, because for the next 6 years they will be supporting you, and you will have little time for them. You will also likely have to spend time away from home at regional hospitals as well from time to time. I am lucky there too, my husband is behind me 100%, as is the rest of my family, this really helps.

    My decision is that I will be starting on my path to medicine next year, but I am not going directly into medicine, but doing a year of another medical degree first, in which I have to get exceptional marks (GPA 6+ out of 7) to get into Bachelor of Medicine, so that first year is going to be a very intense year of study (and the subsequent years too actually), as I have to do extremely well. I am prepared for the commitment, I am prepared to work my arse off to reach my goal, you need to ask you self if you are.

    Even then it is not a guarantee entry into medicine, it will only get you to an interview, and you may have to sit the GAMSAT exam and pass that with high marks as well, depending on what Uni degree you do in your first year. It is not an easy course to get into by any means, so be prepared to fail to get in the first attempt, and possibly take another year or two of working hard in another degree before you get accepted, or have alternative plans should things not work out. Have you considered Biotech?

    I know how you feel, and honesty when you are at this point, the only thing you can do is to change careers, but it is not an easy step. I am not trying to put you off, I have been there (and still am, 8 months and counting), you can do it, but you need to understand that to do this, you will need to give up a lot of things, and that may very well have to include your mortgage.

  • Break the rules of society. Don’t break the law.

    You’ve had 3 jobs in 3 weeks – GREAT! That means you have a fantastic opportunity to burn your current employer without it leaving a mark on your resume. (not that you’ll need one if you succeed in the next few steps)

    Make sure you have autonomy for a certain deliverable. Don’t accept being part of a ‘team’.

    Outsource your work to odesk or airtasker. Expect to pay 1/4th of your wage on the person who will do all the work. You’re still getting 3/4th of your pay, but you don’t have to code.
    Yes, this takes as much of your time as it it would have taken for you to code it yourself. This is going to be painful for a while.

    This isn’t about money, it isn’t about getting free time, it’s about learning to manage people to do your job. This is the second most important skill you will learn in your life.

    Once you’ve found a few people who can do your job to the standard that you used to do it, you’re ready.

    You have two choices. 1) negotiate to work from home, or at least from a private office. Now you can study for 6 of your 8 hours in your workday for your new job. or 2) Get into sales. No, it doesn’t have to be “networking, closing, cold-calling” sales – it means “Sure, I’ll make that app for you” “yeah, I can help your second cousin with his website” sales. Don’t do the work. Scope it, define it, give it to your employees. Charge Australian Hourly Rates. If in doubt, mates rates are 1.5 x your cost.

    Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for your final step. Read the 4 hour workweek by Tim Ferris.

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