My self-worth is tied to my skillset and job title


I love programming. I love writing code and have loved it ever since I got my first taste of it in college. So of course, I decided to pursue a career in it. But I cannot stand the industry and the attitudes of other developers. In this industry, your value is explicitly tied to your skillset and your job title. It creates a living hell for me.

I have struggled with depression my entire life. When I first discovered programming, I immediately fell in love: “This is what I want to do with my life!”. And what’s more, it is the one thing that I’m good at. So of course it is the career path I went down. But after graduating, I’ve found that despite the fact that I graduated from a prestigious university with a 4.0, employers and other professionals just don’t care. “Okay, but do you know Spring?” “Can you solve this problem in less than 15 minutes?”

I spend my days working my job, being one of the most productive members on my team, but I’m labelled a “Junior Developer” because I don’t have Spring or Docker on my resume, and I’m not allowed to work on our projects using those things because I don’t already know them. I am excluded from conversations and perpetually stuck at the kid’s table because of my job title. I am given only the busy work to do, but any actual work that might help develop my skillset is given to the ones who already have those skills.

So, I spend my nights studying this technology or that technology, Docker, Spring, Angular, Kubernetes, because clearly it’s never enough. But it’s not good enough - my skillset is never enough, and my job title has doomed me to being viewed as the “inexperienced moron” at work.

You may say that this is just my workplace- but it’s not true. Anywhere I apply looks solely at the key terms listed on my resume - do you have x, y, and z? And if you do, can you write some code that solves some problem with perfect efficiency and no errors in 15 minutes or less? Oh, you didn’t remember if the size of arrays was array.length or array.size? Sorry, but you’re not the right fit for us.

And its not just employers. Every developer I have talked to judges others by the lens of how big your skillset is, or what’s your job title, or how much you know about binary trees. If I mention my job title or lack of experience, it is always clear that the structure of the conversation changes and the person I am speaking to stops viewing me as their equal and starts viewing me as some moron who is deserving of their pity. I am terrified to engage any other developer in conversation because I am certain that I will say something stupid, or factually incorrect, thereby exposing myself as the fraud that I am and thus demonstrating that I am unworthy of any kind of respect.

All of this combines to mean that I can’t stand working in this industry. Every single day I am reminded of how incompetent or worthless I am It makes me want to die. I love programming, but I hate being a developer. This industry is toxic and it is set up at every turn to pass judgement on you and tell you how much you suck. Unfortunately it’s the only thing I’m good at, so I have no choice but to stick with it, and go home every night reflecting on how worthless I am.

Thanks for giving me a place to let out my thoughts, OSMI.


Yeah I feel similar to what you do. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs type indicators, but it might be an INFP contra INTP thing. I tested as INFP myself, but I suspect INTP might be most common in this industry. Not saying one is better than the other, there are definitely different strengths in each.
Like you I find it hard to talk to coworkers about programming and CS in general.
I would be more comfortable if recruiters had taken the time to look deeper than a list of skills and a brief personality judgment.
Also, I don’t know if you feel the same, but back when studying I found it easier to feel valued. Do good in lectures, assignments, exams => get good grades and feel appreciated.
At work I find it very different. I can spend days on a hard problem but the result is not appreciated, as the stakeholders (at least where I’m at) only value progress and what they can see.
As you say (and also in line with the above) only people who already have the experience get tasks that deal with that field - stakeholders don’t want to take chances like that.
Have you considered other avenues of CS, working at a univ or other kinds of tutoring?


Do your best to not let this get you down. I have been an engineer/developer etc., for 20+ years and I am still self confident. I am not saying this to make you feel worse, simply to say that trying to find another way to look at things has helped me.

Do not let recruiters or companies define who you are. Many companies don’t really know what they need, some will be better than others. If someone is looking just at your resume I would say, be careful about working for that company as they may not have the best culture, but I digress.

Here are some things that might help you:

  • If you have a manager, reach out to them and see if there are goals you can set for learning new technologies or how they could get you involved.
  • If you have access to the PR’s do reviews and see if you can provide some feedback to show interest, or possibly even submit a PR.
  • You can learn from anyone, if the other developers don’t see that then the issue lies with them, not you.
  • Continue to be who you are.
  • Do things that make you feel accomplished (maybe its a task, maybe its learning something etc., keep moving forward).

The personality profiles like DISC are very good. I am what they call a High S, which is a more sensitive type of person. Sometimes the way people talk to or interact with me can cause me a lot of stress and depression as well. Learning how to deal/shrug that stuff off helps. When you can see these things and figure out how best to respond to them, it is called Emotional Intelligence and it helps. I still go to a professional on occasion to chat and work through, refresh my skills on how to deal with them.

Know what makes you happy and keep doing it. I was in development then went up to Sr. Leadership (lead teams of 50+ developers) only to realize I was miserable. After 3 years I came back to development and am loving it.

Do what makes you happy. You are not worthless. You will get through this and don’t let others opinions or ideas change who you are.