My job versus my career: some thoughts
One of the things I've said to people in the past is that while I have a job I didn't really have a career. Not in the sense that my job is unstable or unsettled (it's actually been rock-solid) but in the sense that I had no idea of where I wanted to go, no particular vision of my future. With no real view of what I wanted I've never had any strong basis to do things like evaluate my current situation, consider other options, or assess my progress towards, well, what should I be progressing towards? To be progressing towards something implies having some objective and I've never had any grounds to establish such a thing.
This has led to me having a huge inertia in my job (which has generally been both pleasant and interesting). I've changed jobs here at the university only once and even then it took a huge upheaval to do it; this puts me way out on the 'time at a single employer' and 'time at a single job' curves for computer people.
One consequence that I've been thinking about off and on is that I don't even know what it would take to attract me away from my current job, since I don't have anything I'm aiming for and I'm not sure there's anything in particular missing or wrong about my current job (things where another job would simply make me happier).
(It's possible that I'm deluding myself here for various reasons. Universities are comfortable places but at the same time they're places that basically can't value IT as much as some places do out in the outside world (cf).)
Writing Wandering Thoughts has made me somewhat more aware about this (because it's prompted a certain amount of self-reflection), but what's done more to bring this to mind is reading about the interesting sysadmin-related things that other organizations are doing (Twitter has been especially good for exposing me to this). I still don't know where (if anywhere) I want to go but at least it gives me more of an idea of what's out there.
By the way I have no idea if it's important to actually have a career as such, in this sense. If you're happy with your job (and paid well enough), do you really need anything more or would it just add extra stress to your life? And balancing the relative happiness of the known present versus uncertain potential futures is a hard problem.
(If you're bored or unhappy in your job it's another matter, of course. Then you at least want to figure out what'd make you happier and move towards it (which is easy to say but potentially hard to do).)
(This is one of the entries in which I ramble, partly writing to myself.)