There seem to be a fair number of "should I leave this job" questions. Are they actually useful to anyone except the OP? Do they add to the value of the site? A lot of them strike me as just a platform for the poster to vent about how frustrating his workplace is. Is that a valid use for P.SE?

  • 1
    See this recent post: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/the-pee-wee-herman-rule
    – Maniero
    Nov 30, 2010 at 21:30
  • 1
    Great question. There's been a bunch of recent 'what should i do' questions.
    – Walter
    Nov 30, 2010 at 22:02
  • 1
    Note: neither of these tags exist anymore.
    – user40980
    Dec 2, 2014 at 21:27
  • career-transition and career-development are the new substitutes.
    – AShelly
    Dec 3, 2014 at 15:19

5 Answers 5


Note: The current Meta thinking is "No", they are never on topic.
Some may be appropriate on The Workplace, see their guidance.

First and foremost, any career advice questions need to relate directly to software development; general career advice questions with no relation to software development or where software development is a minor facet of the question are off-topic. A good way to test this is to ask the question, "Would the answer to the question be materially different if a non-programmer answered it?" If no, the question should be closed as off-topic.

(This aspect is discussed in Dealing with “What are some good types of pickles for programmers?” type questions.)

Beyond that, the general rule of thumb should be whether the question can help others in a similar situation. If the circumstances surrounding the question are too specific to the question asker such that there is no way to generalize and answer the question, they should be closed as too localized.

Applying that rule should put a theoretical limit on the amount of ways the question "My job is X, what should I do?" can be asked. Questions that have similar set of circumstances to already-asked questions should be closed as exact duplicates.

Finally, if there isn't something pointed being asked in the question, and the asker is merely using Programmers.SE as a means to vent about whatever annoyed them at their job that day, it should be closed as not constructive.

If, and only if, a career-advice question passes those three tests, should it stay open.

Examples of career guidance questions that should be closed:

It should also be noted that most, if not all, of the other Stack Exchanges have elected to consider their versions of "help my exact situation"-type questions (gaming recommendations, code reviews, proofreading, etc.) to be off-topic on the basis that a Q&A system does not lend well to the necessary discussion to tease out all the details to fully answer the question. I don't see why Programmers.SE should be any different.

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    Good answer - couldn't have put it better.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Dec 1, 2010 at 19:31
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    Well said. When asking any question, I think the poster should consider if it will be helpful for anyone else before posting.
    – Jason
    Dec 2, 2010 at 12:22
  • I would lump into this all of the "what language should I learn next" questions.
    – Walter
    Dec 3, 2010 at 13:06
  • The example that is "on topic" is closed for "off topic"
    – paul23
    Jan 18, 2013 at 10:43
  • I feel like the suggestion here is that most of the career questions should be wiki questions/answers; that would reduce the number of duplicates and we could continue to close off too localized answers or integrate them into the wiki question/answer
    – user7433
    Oct 11, 2015 at 15:00

I'm new here, but I think that kind of question will be very useful for many people, because it often attracts lots of ideas, opinions & experience. But the bad thing is that it's hard to go through every answer, to extract the best idea for a specific programmer.


I think some of these questions are closed too quickly; especially when closed as too localized. In many cases a reformulated question would be helpful to future visitors. For example: https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/20289/mid-level-it-lead could be reformulated as 'What do you do when you get limited learning opportunities in your job'.

Closing a question is negative feedback to a user, and I think it should be avoided when possible. If it's not a real question, but just to vent, sure close it as non constructive. When it's a duplicate, close it; at least you're giving the user a place to find his/her answer. But with too localized you're closing the door to someone seeking help. If you can instead nudge the user into reformulating the question to make it more useful to other users everybody wins.

  • We generally try to edit questions before closing. Unfortunately, it is not always possible or we just miss some. If you see a question that could benefit from being edited and would become generally applicable to a wide audience, please propose an edit and/or flag the post to ask a moderator to review and potentially reopen the question.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 27, 2011 at 14:23

I think it is strange that a question about job hopping is on-topic, but a question about the relation between maternity and software development career is closed. I hope it wasn't closed because it concerns women only (and as we all know, women can't program, etc.)

  • I highly doubt that there's any sort of discrimination going on here. I do think, though, that both job hopping and maternity questions should remain open. While they may not be strictly unique to programmers, I think they are valuable questions that pass the three "tests" Mark outlined in his answer back in the day.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 28, 2011 at 22:32
  • There's nothing in the question that specifically requires the special insights of a programmer to answer, and Programmers.SE is not a general career advice site: questions need to be about software development. The one part of the question that mentions software development isn't a real question: "Do you think that discrimination against women in our industry is higher then other industries? Maybe because our field is male dominated?" The second question is specious and presupposes the answer to the first. It's not clear how asking it invites constructiveness or a real answer.
    – user8
    May 28, 2011 at 23:09
  • I think it is quite clear, unless you want to stifle debate on this topic.
    – quant_dev
    May 29, 2011 at 0:46
  • 4
    SE isn't for debate: it's for questions about solvable problems. And real questions have answers, not ideas or opinions.
    – user8
    May 29, 2011 at 3:30


As Robert Harvey says

Software Engineering is a site for asking questions directly related to the Systems Development Life Cycle (but not code troubleshooting or writing specific code).

Questions seeking career or education advice are off topic. They are only meaningful to the asker and do not generate lasting value for the broader programming community. Furthermore, in most cases, any answer is going to be a subjective opinion that may not take into account all the nuances of a (your) particular circumstance.

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