For many people outside the IT world, a career where you just sit in front of a computer all day seems so easy. However, the more IT evolves, the more challenging and stressful it becomes. Throughout my own professional journey, from junior to senior and leading positions, I’ve been through different types of jobs and businesses with different paces and priorities. Through these experiences, I've gained valuable insights about stress management and its impact on your career. So let's talk about how to build a nice career in the IT world and avoid falling into the depths of stress, anxiety, and depression! It actually doesn’t matter if you have just started your career or if you have been working in this field for 10 years, there is something you should analyze before getting a new or next job. Think of What You Need From the Job A lot of people may not realize it, but work is a huge part of our lives and most of our day. So, with that in mind, what kind of job would you get? Well, in terms of a career, I like to divide jobs into two parts: Work for the sake of money or stability (or both): If you have a skill that you can sell but this path is not really aligned with your dreams, you may consider getting a "work for the money" job that can provide you with a good income for living while you take the first steps into a new career or create your dream project. You can find a lot of advice on how to quit your job and pursue your passion, but it's the worst advice for those who don't have a decent amount of savings to provide themselves with a whole year (at least) of job-free living. That's why the "work for money" job is essential, and the key here is to get a job that doesn't bother you much, where you can just quietly do your job and get your money while all your focus is on your "dream career" project. It means no harsh deadlines and a very slow-paced work environment. Product-oriented companies and non-leading positions should work the best. Work for career opportunities: This is a pretty obvious and classic way, but somehow many people fail here. The most common mistake is to jump into a career without knowing what you really want out of it. Avoid getting a job in a super big company if you dream of a startup; you will lose so much time and get irrelevant experience. The same is true if your dream is to become a software engineer, but everyone says that starting as a quality assurance engineer is easier. Figure out what you want out of your career as soon as possible and choose a job that will give you relevant experience and opportunities. Some people want to believe that they can find 2-in-1, but in reality, it is so difficult to find, and mostly it is available for high-level professionals. So if you’re just starting (or not yet) or you are a lost middle, separating these types can be very useful if you have big dreams! To understand what you need right now, separate the job from the career path. Then determine your dream career goals, the "where you want to be in five years." Analyze how close you are to it now and determine the exact things you need to get there. Then look at those things and decide what kind of job can give you that. Set the Right Expectations for the Position The amount of stress you are going to have totally depends on your expectations for the position. There are situations where people take a job that they think will bring them nice opportunities, but the company itself actually has a different vector and different goals. And after some time, it turns out that such a person is actually not the right choice for the position. I myself was in such a situation where, being in a lead position, you think that you can bring so many ideas to make a company better, but it turned out the company didn’t need that at all. So, as a good specialist who fits perfectly into the position, you have to clearly understand the company's needs, its mission, and its goals. And, of course, it should also match your ideas and expectations! Because if you don't match with a company, you will rather do something you enjoy but the company doesn't need it, and you will probably end up getting fired, or you will do the job right but it won't bring you joy and growth, and you will end up in depression. So, before you apply for a job, be clear about your plans and desired career path, and make sure it fits with the company and that they can offer you what you need. To understand that, try this: Review the company's website and social media. Such platforms often reflect their culture and values. Pay attention to the language they use—do they talk more about their perfect team or are they more client-oriented? How transparent are they about the processes and overall inside and outside culture? Do they write about appreciation of innovation and personal or professional growth? How clear are their goals for a random stranger who visits the platform to learn about the company? Ask cultural questions during the interview. Don’t forget that not only they assess you during the interview, but you should also assess them. Ask them about the culture, try to use tricky questions because they will try to sell you the perfect picture. How does the company maintain a healthy work-life balance? How does the company support professional growth? What are the company's employee recognition programs? While listening to the answers, pay attention to their voice and tone - are they passionate and excited to tell you this or can’t really find the words to describe it? Examine the company's employee perks and benefits. While this cannot be an indicator of the company’s culture, it can provide clues about the company's priorities and values. And an employee’s well-being matters so much and contributes to a stress-free environment. So, this was about the pre-work mindset. Let’s now move to the point where you already have a job. Fix Your Focus Problem One of the biggest catalysts for stress is a job that is not done on time. The reasons for missed deadlines can vary so much, but the biggest one that you can actually control, no matter what your position is, is your focus. It is hard to say who has more distractions - the office worker or the remote worker. I used to work in both environments, and I can say that there are enough distractions in both places, so it's better to see why you're distracted than try to get rid of them, especially if you can't. Here are the most impactful things, in my opinion: Declutter your work space regularly, but keep it interesting and exciting to work in. Sometimes people go all-in on minimizing distractions, ending up in a very boring and unwelcoming environment. Mute everything that disturbs you. And it’s not only about notifications. People can actually perform only one task at a time and focus on one thing at a time, so there’s no way you can be productive and efficient if you listen to podcasts or watch videos (or even movies). And if you really struggle with concentration, the music with lyrics can disturb you as well by bringing back memories or dreamy thoughts. Increase the quality of your sleep, diet, and wellbeing. Sometimes the concentration problem is deeper than you think. And so many people who struggle with concentration don't really notice that they've started sleeping worse, their diet isn't as varied, or even that anxiety has become a routine. Keep your room dark and cool for the night, reduce lights 2 hours before bedtime, and stick to the sleep schedule. Add to your diet as many plant-based products as possible, and listen to your body in terms of hunger and fulfillment. If you stress a lot or get nervous over trifles, consider using calming products such as herbs of any kind and activities such as yoga, meditations, and breathing. Learn to Say No Don't be afraid to politely decline additional responsibilities or projects that you can't handle without compromising your own workload or well-being. People usually take on more because they want to be noticed and advance their careers, but overload can play a bad game with you. Instead of focusing on your own tasks and doing them brilliantly by investing some time in research and applying more qualitative and thoughtful approaches, the quality of your work will only decrease, and your boss/manager/leader will be used to put more on your shoulders. By taking on too many tasks, you also risk losing the opportunity to grow, because the more tasks you have, the less time you have for education and exploration. Also remember that every task has a deadline, and every deadline is a stress, so the more tasks - the more stress. To decline additional responsibilities without damaging your relationships with leaders or managers, try this: Be very calm, polite, and appreciative. Express your gratitude and say that you are always very happy to help (but not this time, of course). Explain your current workload in very detailed and specific terms. Show the numbers, tasks, deadlines, and other responsibilities. Acknowledge your limits. Professionally explain how long it will take you to finish your current tasks and how the new one will affect the quality of your work, your overall efficiency and wellbeing. Propose alternative solutions. If it’s possible, suggest delegating the task or it’s part, doing the task later when you finish your current ones, or even changing a solution to be more simple but still effective. Prioritize Self-Care Maintaining a healthy body and mind should certainly be a top priority! If you want to have a stress-free career, you need to dedicate a lot of time each day to activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, good sleep, and mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga. It's very hard to get started, especially if you've never done any of these things before, but it's so worth it once you get into the habit. Pay special attention to your diet, you can even read up on nutrition and learn new recipes to speed up the process. But overall, variety of food is much more important than quantity. Also, try to learn to listen to your body and only eat food that makes you feel good. A weakness of IT workers is, of course, the spine, so in terms of physical exercise, stretching is actually much more valuable than going to the gym and lifting weights because muscle flexibility does the most to keep the spine healthy and prevent pain from prolonged sitting. So, regular stretching or yoga can help you reduce neck, back, and lower back pain while sitting, keep your spine healthy, gain body flexibility, and manage stress. Disconnect From Technology It is so difficult to think about anything else when you have only a job in your life. Providing yourself with enough "distractions" and hobbies can be very helpful to reset your brain after work and be refreshed for new challenges. It is important to consider hobbies that do not involve your devices to give your mind and body a break from constant stimulation. And try to mix up the activities that will help you live an interesting, exciting, and stress-free life. But hobbies aren't the only way to improve mental clarity. Set clear boundaries between work and personal life to prevent work from encroaching on your personal time and causing burnout. Avoid checking work emails or messages outside of work hours. In general, disconnect from technology as much as possible, allow your brain to cool down between tasks, switch out of computer activities, get out as much as possible, and reduce the internet to prevent your attention span from dropping. Make Your Work Routine Exciting If you are a regular professional, such as a developer, QA, or manager, your routine can be very boring or, on the other hand, very fast-paced and stressful. So for both options, it is nice to add some excitement to your daily tasks. Here are some tips that may help: Remember what you are doing this for - the end user (or business). Thinking about the real purpose can spark excitement and new ideas that you can propose to the team. If it’s possible, challenge yourself or even collaborate with your teammate to explore new technology. Try contributing to the open-source community. You can contribute to existing projects or create your own! It feels really good to be part of such a community, and even better when you can create something that helps you and your team solve a problem or improve a process. Probably the easiest way to get excited about what you do is to set career goals, track them, and analyze them regularly. Tracking your progress can help you stay motivated and focused. Invest in new tools, gear, or furniture. Using better-quality goods can make the daily routine not only more exciting but also more efficient. The Career is a Game The last big piece of advice is to shift your career mindset towards a game, because a career is something that you can start over at any time or even try a different one! And like in any game, career levels can be easy, medium, or super hard. But unlike in the game, where if you lose, you have to do the same thing over and over again, in life you can learn from your mistakes, change your approach immediately, and try something new. And some life lessons can be so useful that they allow you to skip a few steps and get even closer to your goal. The coolest entrepreneurs say that you cannot beat someone who is playing and having fun. So be that person, because overall, you won't be able to build a nice career unless you're happy and enjoy what you do.