By Dr. Jim Anderson
Most IT jobs consist of doing work in a constantly reoccurring cycle: define, design, create, test, deploy, repeat. When we get our first IT job or when we jump onto a new program, this can all seem so very new and exciting. However, once we reach the fourth or fifth cycle, it all starts to see the same. We also start to ask the BIG question: why am I doing this and does anyone really care?
Ultimately this is THE BIG question. I know that I have grown bored with my IT jobs once they seemed to be repeating themselves. An interesting point to understand here is that just when I became most valuable to my employer, I was no longer interested in doing the job. If you’ve got a team working for you, this is going to be a big problem for you too.
There are two ways to deal with this type of “IT job cycle” burnout that actually work. The first is to have a manager who is a real leader. The phrase that we always used was “I’d crawl over broken glass for him.” These folks are very rare, but you’d recognize them by the fanatical loyalty that they create in their teams. The few times that I’ve had such a boss, I really felt that he “had my back” and I worked hard to make sure that “I had his back.” He was able to convey to me a real sense of purpose that was much larger than the current development cycle that I was working on. I truly felt that I was part of a team.
Alternatively, since such leaders are few and far between, if each member of your team is working on a longer term self improvement project then they will also be able to see beyond the current development cycle. This can be as simple as going back to school, getting some flavor of Cisco certification, or simply tutoring under your project’s DB Master. Because of the desire to improve our technical knowledge that is our core, the ability to have this longer term goal makes us happier living in the here an now.
In the end, I guess that once you become aware that you are working in a never ending development cycle, you will become dissatisfied. However, if you can provide yourself or your team with a goal that is longer term than your current development cycle, then you can create stability and retention within your team.