FOMO and Co. - the intruder of the Tech World

Anne-Lise Brown
Anne-Lise Brown ↓ citește în 9 minute
Apr 21, 2022
Citit de 162 de ori

Think about this scenario. You work at a good company, make a slightly more than decent living, and you have a pretty good level of well-being. However, you often find yourself talking to fellow software engineers from other companies, or scrolling on jobs’ websites, wishing you were working for a bigger tech company with higher salaries, perks, stock options, profit shares, or whatever else you don’t get now. And you can’t help but wonder - will you be happier moving to a big tech company? Will that make you more content and accomplished? Will that make you a more valuable developer or say something about your abilities? Or is there still always going to be something else you will be wishing to have?

In the IT world, the feeling of never being able to keep up with the technology, with the innovation, with the rhythm of the market, is pretty common, and to be honest, it kind of makes sense. The tech world changes so fast! Should you invest time into learning ReasonML or should you keep trying to master JavaScript? Yesterday you were supposed to learn one language, now another one is trending, and who knows what comes next?!

The organizational structure and processes are changing faster than in most industries, with so many new unconventional ways of working set in quickly. The market is exploding with offers and approaches. When are you supposed to look into new opportunities? When do you know that what you have in front of you is an opportunity (for professional and personal development) and not just a different job? How do you caliber your expectations by objectively analyzing your skills and the market?

These continuous changes and the fast-paced environment of the IT industry are leading developers to FOMO, the "Fear Of Missing Out", the paralyzing experience of always wondering if you’re letting opportunities slip through your fingers, the daunting thought that you are taking the wrong decisions.

Comparison is the root of FOMO. But are we always having an objective perspective of reality?

Where does FOMO come from?

The root of FOMO is the comparison between self and others. But the truth is, no matter at what point in your career path you find yourself, there will always be someone who has, earns, knows, or does more.

But comparison of what? What are the main factors that could lead to FOMO in the field of Tech? From our experience with our candidates and the companies we are recruiting for, we’ve noticed 4 main categories of Software Engineers. Of course, the grouping is a little artificial, since in real life people experience more than one FOMO activator to various degrees.

In reality people experience more than one FOMO activator to various degrees.
  1. Bigger salaries. And we mean 20-30% bigger than at the current job, without the bigger budget necessarily involving greater levels of stress or work. A report conducted by Loginro in 2021, found that tech professionals expect an average of +27% increase in order to change their job, with young professionals being the ones who expect the highest increase in salaries, 25% of them looking to get 40% raises or more. And in 2022 the stats don’t cease to change either. Loginro found that in January 2022, the expected salary to change jobs reached 31%.
  2. Stock options, profit shares, and other cool benefits (that can add up to thousands of euros yearly). We’ve all heard about that one senior developer whose worth in the company is hundreds of thousands of euros. These success stories are one forum click away, or maybe we heard about them in our networks, and they raise of course the question of missing out. Other attractive benefits that tech professionals prefer are the 13th salary, additional vacation days, investment in the wellbeing of the employees, training and development plans, flex time, medical insurance, or working remotely (but this is slowly getting to be the norm)
  3. Talking about remotely... You can now work remotely for fairly any product company in the world. The products are interesting, challenging, and innovative. This brings so many options to the table that you have to eat on the couch. The doors that working remotely has opened for the IT professionals are countless and, according to the same report by Loginro, the second reason for leaving one’s job (after a salary increase) is being offered a better product and more complex technologies. The targeted professionals for this aspect are especially the mid-seniors who aim to be constantly challenged by new products, complex technologies, or interesting projects. They represent the “in-between time in the employee life cycle, when they are experienced enough to explore new possibilities but not ready yet to settle down, narrowing their focus and vertically growing inside the same company” (Loginro, 2021).
  4. No FOMO, all good! This category is composed of the professionals who are good where they’re at, accomplished with where their career is heading, and how the process is going. They are not so easily influenced by FOMO and find it natural to stay loyal to their projects regardless of what is happening in the industry. Now, do we actually believe nothing gets to them? Probably not. They for sure had their share in pondering on the things they’ve heard about, be it the big budgets some companies are offering, the cool projects some people are working on, or the great, out-of-the-box benefits. But what they do is find a balance between -> what I want vs. what I need -> what I value vs. what the industry values, -> what brings joy or comfort for me vs. to others.
We teamed up and we’re ready to have a word with FOMO

The following section is not a guide to getting over FOMO.

This is not even the core intention, since maybe that existing fear might sometimes be a sign that you could actually change something for the better.

But, it is equally true that most of the time that fear is irrational, unhealthy, and insatiable. So how can you check in with yourself? How can you get a grasp of understanding of where you are, and where you want to be?

  • Reframing. This right here is your new best friend. This psychological technique is a way of changing the way you look at something and, thus, changing your experience of it. Let’s say you are experiencing salary FOMO. Everybody around you or in your Linkedin network of SE seems to earn more. You like your job though, and you are doing pretty good in life with the income you’re having now, but you kind of want more money too. This internal tension can appear when the need is not necessarily yours. You believe you should earn more because that’s what loud voices are mitigating for. But ask yourself a few questions before you decide to aim for a bigger salary. What else does your current job/employer offer that aligns with your needs and values? Is there a real discrepancy between your skills, the work you put in, and your salary? What changes would the new job bring that you are not willing to accommodate into your life? I encourage everyone to first objectively evaluate the reality and only then decide what path to choose.
  • Get on track with what you want out of a job. List the factors that you value (or maybe also the ones that are a big no for you) like compensation, work-life balance, culture, project, skills development, hybrid or remote opportunities. What can both you and your employer do to meet your needs and help you achieve your personal career goals?
  • The honeymoon. Did your current project seem interesting at first? Were you enthusiastic to do it? Are there still parts you really enjoy doing? All projects are thrilling at first, nurturing enthusiasm and the desire and the motivation to grow and expand in your work. But in most cases, they can also get to a stagnant point at some moment in time, making your mind crave the excitement you experienced in the beginning. Ask yourself if the project would really bring you great joy and learning opportunities or if it is just a fear of not catching the latest train?
  • So much tech. It's unrealistic for a SE to be an expert at anything, and to be up to date with all the latest technologies. To deal with FOMO in this regard, recognize how you can use your existing strengths and experience, focus on principles and patterns, learn how to learn, stay curious, and choose to master a few things over knowing a little bit of everything.
  • Pros of stability. If you aren’t freelancing but working in a company they pretty much need you to do some particular tasks. And most likely those tasks are not changing every week, which allows you to better yourself and get comfortable with a particular skill set. Companies usually prefer something that works to something brand new and shiny, especially those that sell to other businesses or use software internally, so maybe this kind of setting would suit you (at least for a while) if FOMO regarding keeping up with technologies and the pace of software growth is affecting you.
Yaaaay! You’re ready to take action!

How to prepare for change?

You don’t have to always actively seek for more, and better. But maybe, at a certain point, the reality will be that you actually are missing out. How can you prepare for that realization?

One keyword. Ok, it’s two words. CORE SKILLS.

Once you have a solid programming foundation with one language, learning other languages won’t be that hard. The core principles remain almost the same, so being confident in your core skills, will allow you to pick up quickly on any new shiny language, framework, or API that comes your way. Research is one click away, documentation is easier than ever, and blog posts and tutorials are our heroes. Be a self-starter, embrace a forever-student mindset, and try to get comfortable with the trial and error phase for a while.

And once you feel confident enough, get to the fun, hands-on part of creating your own little projects. It doesn’t have to be anything that’s unheard of, just a practical way to put book knowledge to use. Seeing your small project come to life will take away the fear that the market is evolving in a way you won’t ever get to catch up with. And from here, it can go two ways - maybe you decide you’re good where you’re at and FOMO was just an emotional reaction to what is happening around you, or maybe you realize that you actually want and can upgrade a little (in whatever way that clicks for you) to which I can only say - good luck! :)

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