May 03, 2016

How to stay Motivated

a story about taking responsibility for your career wellbeing

Author: Sorin Cucu

Spoiler alert: your own motivation isn’t just your employers’ responsibility, and there are no one-size-fits-all easy fixes.

Obviously, there are mutually-agreed responsibilities that fall under your employer’s side of the deal (like tasks/projects assigned to you being those you were told to expect, or showing respect for a healthy work-life balance, the training budget you were promised, the end-of-year bonus, etc.). Yet, the authority over your motivation definitely is in your own hands, and usually doesn’t even rely on anything an outside force could summon.

I don’t like to work too often – unless it’s for something groovy

‘Self-diagnosing’ one’s lack of motivation is like realizing your career is suffering from a severe, possibly terminal illness (because chronic lack of motivation is, to your professional life, the equivalent of what a debilitating illness is to the body). First, you need to admit to yourself that there’s a problem. In the early stages, you’ll think you’re just tired. ‘I must be tired, I really haven’t been giving it my all lately.’ or ‘I must need some rest, I’m really inclined to procrastinate.’ Then, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into maybe a couple of months, and you need to face the fact that your ‘tiredness’ is becoming an everyday thing, yet somehow your personal life enjoys a you that is much more enthusiastic and full of vitality.

But first, let me give you some background into how I came to understand motivation.

I’ve always been tech-oriented. It runs in the family, which is how I came to have my first encounters with the world of electronics at an early age – and it was instant love, the life-long, obsessive kind of passion. It all started with the first microprocessor I ever saw (I now collect them and own literally hundreds). Coincidentally, it was the first microprocessor personal computers ever saw, too – the 33 square millimeter beginnings of the PC microprocessor as we know it, and the first spark of my ongoing career journey. That feeling of wanting to understand, to engulf myself in that miniature world and ‘speak its language’ has been a constant drive to learn new programming languages.

And it’s that thirst to know more, that childish curiosity that I keep coming back to as reference whenever I’m unsure where I’m headed, career-wise. Am I feeling like that about getting up and going to work in the morning, to face new challenges? Because if I’m not, there’s something wrong.

I traded 2 network admin jobs in my home town, before making the move to Bucharest 6 years ago, into my first ‘proper’ network administrator position. In 2009, I left for the Czech Republic, working for an international blue-chip company. I came back to Bucharest almost 2 years later, but it took 8 months and one more company before finally settling in with InCrys in august 2011. My being here ever since (wow, 5 years already!) proves that it wasn’t me or my perspective I needed to change, in spite of my initial failure to settle down.

I wasn’t supposed to have just accepted that a job is a job, and therefore automatically unpleasant, and in doing so join the ranks of thousands of unhappy, Orwellian-looking people who go to work every day while hating every minute of it. I call those ‘the working dead’. And that’s not a good or productive place to be. It ultimately proved good for me and my career to ‘own up to it’ and go after what I wanted.

Along the way, I’ve met inspiring people, like-minded ‘tech-geeks’ who question the norm and feel confident enough not to follow the rules – like my career mentor Mihai, who first introduced me to the notion of continuous challenges as a fundamental part of a happy professional life (I had always suspected there’re more professionals out there who feel the same).

When Mihai and I met for my InCrys interview, I decided I had to ‘come clean’ about my need for interesting, challenging projects.

He laughed at my way of looking at motivation (I was only half joking though), and seemed to appreciate my candor. We didn’t click instantly however – I guess people with a stronger vision need some time to know each other before they reach full operational efficiency. Even though we later became friends and are still in touch today, initially, during the interview, his questions confused and honestly kind of unnerved me. I left the InCrys headquarters thinking I’d kind of flaunted the interview. I had all but forgotten about it all and was vacationing on a beach in Barcelona, when I suddenly got the call from InCrys to tell me I had been accepted.

Later on, it was the conversations I came to have with Mihai that helped me realize: after a certain level of experience in one’s field, when financial stability is no longer a problem, you can throw all the benefits, bonuses, dental plans and whatnots you want at me (I had left at least 2 jobs with international companies, where I was getting all of those.), and I still won’t be happy if I’m making no progress. If I’m not learning anything new. If I don’t want to lose sleep thinking about how to fix ‘that thing’. If I’m not challenged, and I don’t mean just technical setbacks, I mean all kinds of challenges, like logistical or business-related, I will get bored, and if I get bored, I underperform (while also hating my life every day from Monday to Friday).

When you get bored with what you do, you get challenged

There’s a simple (and only) antidote to job-boredom: the unknown.

Challenges you’ve never tackled before, new information to take in, a new programming language you’re not quite (or at all) comfortable with yet. If you’re not feeling challenged, it means you’ve ‘reached max level’ with your current position, and it’s time for you to move on, either to a higher position with more responsibility, or to a different tech-branch with something new to learn.

There’s really more to be said about the problem, than there is to be said about the solution. While ‘the beast’ has many heads and faces, there isn’t much else to be said about the ‘beast slayer’. I know it sounds way more complicated to actually do than it is to talk about, and it is. It requires assertiveness and constant curiosity and self-discovery on your part, as well as the right professional climate (like an employer who facilitates growth/learning opportunities). Yet the alternative (a life of professional zombie-ing) is far, far worse – for both you and your employer.

Now it’s your turn to share a career story

What motivates you about your job, or what could be different about your tasks to make you feel more involved in you work? Share your experiences, and let’s help demystify motivation and reclaim responsibility for our career wellbeing.

If you’d like to know more about our culture, visit InCrys on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+ .

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