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Thursday, January 7, 2016
5 Signs Of Career Burntout
The new year is an ideal time to stop and reflect. Another year has passed, and we don’t get all that many of them — maybe eighty-five, if we are lucky. We have to take the passage of time seriously, and the new year reminds us of that.
If your job is not lighting your flame anymore, you might be burned out. You might be done with this particular job or with your current career path.
For years the traditional advice given to people experiencing career burnout was “take a vacation.”
Vacations are great. They are essential, but vacations don’t cure burnout. In fact, some time away from the job may be just the nudge you need to conclude that another year at the same job would only beat you further into the ground.
Here are five signs that you are burning out and that something has to change.
1. You Don’t Care Anymore
It’s not your fault if you wake up one morning realizing that you don’t give a hoot about your goals at work or the company’s mission, either. It doesn’t mean that you work for evil people or that you’re not a serious person yourself.
Energy ebbs and flows. Sometimes we get incredibly excited about a new adventure, but then after a certain point we’ve sucked all the juice out of the new experience. There isn’t any juice left in it, and there’s nothing new for you to learn.
When you realize that you’re trying to care about your work and failing, you’re burned out.
2. You Don’t See Interesting Challenges Ahead
Our client Rita worked in the same job for eleven years. “I never thought about whether I was learning and growing on the job,” she said. “I was happy to keep the same job for so long!”
One day there were layoffs in Rita’s department. She kept her job but she got the work of two other people added to her former workload. “That’s when I said ‘I don’t have it in me to keep doing this,” Rita told us.
“My manager tried to convince me that I’d learn all kinds of new things by taking on the work of my two former co-workers, but none of it was interesting.”
Rita gave notice at her job before she started job-hunting. “I was too depleted to work and job-hunt at the same time,” she said. She quit her full-time job and took a part-time job at her daughter’s school.
“Instantly my income was cut by more than fifty percent, so then I had to get serious about my job search,” she said. She did. She shifted her branding and focused her job search on a completely new career path, one that interested her for years. Rita got a job in a new field where she learns something important and new every day.
“My biggest challenge now is to stop beating up on myself when I realize that I stayed at my old job at least five years too long,” Rita said.
“Not in the slightest!” we said. “It only seems that way. None of that time was wasted. Everything happens when it should.”
3. Small Annoyances Irritate You More Than They Should
You’ll know you’re burned out on the job when little obstacles drive you crazy and make you angrier and more frustrated than they normally would.
Your body is telling you that you’re done. When you work in a job that grows your flame, you have more than enough mojo to sail over small obstacles that show up in your path.
Peter experienced this phenomenon when he took his third job in a row in a software start-up. People who had worked with Peter at his first two start-ups thought highly enough of him to recommend him for open positions at their new firms.
Peter took his third start-up job in a row and immediately knew that he didn’t have the heart to get excited about another under-the-radar software venture.
“Too many hours, too much posturing, too much crazy CEO energy – I couldn’t do it,” he said.
“I went to work in that third start-up and every time I turned a corner in the office or overhead a snippet of conversation, I had a feeling of deja vu. Tiny things started to get under my skin. They couldn’t decide on my title, for one thing. I thought that was ridiculous. You’ve got eight employees, and you’re stressing about my job title?”
Peter quit his third start-up job after a month and got a consulting business card. “I’d rather stumble and fall in a new adventure than go through the motions in a job I could do in my sleep,” he said.
4. You Can’t Focus
The fun of a job that speaks to you is that you’re operating at all three levels of altitude at once: the cloud level where you set your vision, the hilltop level where you plan your strategy, and the ground level where you take care of daily tasks and fire-fighting.
When you are immersed in your job, you find yourself strategizing your work for months or even years ahead, but you’re also solving immediate problems on the ground every day.
It’s hard to operate at three levels of altitude simultaneously. It requires a big investment of mental and emotional energy.
It only comes together when you’re pumped about what you’re doing — when it feels like you own the company, even if you work for somebody else.
When you lose focus, you can’t keep the thread. You can’t remember how your long-term plans and near-term plans intersect. The job stops feeling like a grand adventure and feels like a job again — just a place to push the work off your desk and then go home to sleep.
When you look at the clock in your office, see that it’s two p.m. and wonder “How will I make it through to quitting time?” you are burned out – no question.
5. You Can’t Pull Yourself Out Of It
Most of us are more change-averse than we care to admit. If we can avoid changing jobs, we will — even when the job we’ve got becomes boring or downright grueling.
When you’re burned out, your mojo tank is nearly empty. You can’t see a way to improve your situation. You take a vacation in hopes your mojo will come back and while you’re on vacation, you feel better — but the minute you’re back at your desk, the familiar gray cloud hangs over you again.
You can’t think creatively about your situation, because your fuel tank has nothing in it. Your job only takes mental and emotional energy from you, without giving you anything back.
If you spend your time at work thinking ahead to your next vacation, you’re burned out. That’s an unhealthy state for your brain and body, as well as for your resume. The only thing you have to market to future employers and clients is your incredible achievements at each job you take, including the job you’ve got now.
Once you realize you’ve reached the point of no return with respect to your job, a weight may be lifted from your shoulders. Your situation is not dire, but it is clear that you and the job are no longer well-suited to one another.
You can take your time. You can spend your commuting time or your exercise-bike time or any part of your day thinking about what you’ll do next. The minute you commit to stepping up from your mojo-depleted state into a new job that grows your flame, you’ll feel a little bit better.
The more clearly you see where your path lies, the more your mojo will grow. You can take time re-writing your resume and building your target employer list. Ignore well-meaning friends and family members who say “You’re just burned out — you don’t need to change jobs! Just plan a vacation.”
Vacations are awesome, but you shouldn’t return from a vacation dreading going back into work upon your return. Burnout is a signal from Mother Nature that your job has given you all the good stuff it had to give. The next step is up and away. Your path is up to you and it’s right in front of you, waiting for you to take a step.