Avoiding Career Burnout

It’s Monday morning. Hopefully you are feeling optimistic, refreshed and productive about the week ahead. Many young professionals across the country likely are. Chances are, however, that you woke up feeling a little heavy-hearted, knowing that it will be five days and four sleeps before you can sleep in your bed without having to set an alarm. Your first thought could have been “I hate Mondays” or “I hate my job.” While hate is a strong word, we have encountered a handful of young professionals in recent weeks who are experiencing a case of career burnout.  For them, work is a chore. They are generally not satisfied, feel undervalued and stagnant, and are therefore constantly entertaining other options and complaining about their current job in the process.

Early on, we probably imagined our blossoming careers and their subsequent rewards and recognition, how we’d climb the ladder and where we would be professionally at certain ages. For many, things didn’t go exactly as planned and the workplace may not seem as glamorous or rewarding as we once envisioned. If we are relatively new in the workforce and already suffering career burnout, it is going to be a long road ahead so we suggest preventing it early on. Avoiding burnout is a challenge in itself, but there are a few tips to help falling into this trap. 

Self Reflect
Evaluate the source of your stress. Identify what clutters your life, wastes your time and sucks your energy. Determine whether you are in a temporary rut, having a bad month or whether the issues are in fact deeper rooted. Are outside stresses affecting your job? Or is it the job itself that is causing the burnout? Be conscious of what you can and can’t control and don’t simply identify problems; propose solutions. Whatever the case, don’t make any rash decisions until you understand what truly holds you back and is making you unhappy and whether change is necessary.

Without a plan that includes goals and benchmarks, chances are you are going to spiral further into your burnout. Literally spell out clear and attainable goals and identify the steps you need to take in order to achieve them. Keep your initial goals small and realistic like a few small, non-work-related daily achievements like going to the gym or calling a particular friend to catch up. A few small tasks in a day can help you avoid a steady stream of setbacks and achieving them offers the satisfying feel of accomplishment. Set a date for re-evaluation. If you still feel the same way three months from now after evaluation and planning, a more substantial change may be necessary.

Avoid Professional Comfort Zones
It is easy to get burned out or lose interest in your job if you feel stagnant, unfulfilled or unrewarded. A common cause of restlessness is when your once dream job looses its challenge. Recognize whether you have fallen into a workplace comfort zone and – if you have – it’s time to do something about it. Take on a new project at work or, if you’re shy, challenge yourself to attend more networking events to build your confidence. Take a risk in the workplace by being an intrepreneur, and present new ideas and initiatives to your superiors and peers. Take a class on a new technology to expand your knowledge base and skillset, and stay up to speed with changing technologies and practices in your field.

If you are rewarded and recognized for your hard work, your job and workweek won’t seem as daunting. It’s a tough workplace out there and it seems the talent pool of driven, educated young professionals is limitless. It is therefore necessary to stand out. Bring fresh ideas to meetings and be a self-starter. If you are confident with your ability to manage your time, take on an extra project.  Arrive early and refreshed and don’t rush out every day the second the clock strikes 5pm. These things go noticed by superiors and put you in a better position for a promotion.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Know your limits and know when and how to say no. It is better to do a few things really well than many things subpar or merely satisfactory. It is always better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.  In short, stop trying to be a super hero.

Maintain an Active Social Life
No matter how stressful your job gets, or how many extra hours of overtime you are putting in, don’t forget about your friends and the power of an active social life on one’s overall well-being. Especially in times of stress or career burnout, it is crucial to have someone who you can vent to, confide in, laugh with and provide unbiased advice that is truly in your best interest. In addition to deep friendships, it is also important to hit the town and meet new people. Networking is increasingly a key component in many young professional careers of choice. Not to mention, if you are feeling that the burnout may be the byproduct of a deeper dissatisfaction, attending events and conferences provides the opportunity to network with people in different professions or with different companies. 

Have an Outlet
Having an outlet that allows you to blow off steam, escape your stresses and be completely focused on something other than work. For many YPs, this often involves physical fitness like a gym session, yoga class, playing a sport or taking a long bike ride. Ideally, an outlet should be something that you are passionate about and can include creative escapes like writing, painting or playing the guitar.

Be Selfish With Your Sundays
In an ideal world, Sundays should be a time to rest, reconnect, refresh and refocus for the week ahead. Take time on Sundays to unwind and do something just for you. Try not to do any work on Sundays, and if you do have to bring work home from the office, try to get it finished before Sunday morning. You may want to turn off your phone altogether, avoid the computer and spend the day holed up with your significant other. Try to sleep in and get to bed early.

Reward Yourself
What is the point of all that hard work if you can’t reap the benefits? Make sure you reward yourself and give yourself things to look forward to – whether it’s a vacation, new outfit or dinner at a new restaurant at the end of the day. Reward yourself daily, even if it is simply an hour of “me time.”

Keep Your Options Open
If you find your irritability, frustration and general dissatisfaction toward your job persists, maybe it is time to make bigger changes. Whatever the case, it is a good feeling to know that options do exist. Navigate job search sites so you know what other possibilities are out there and pay attention to new positions opening in your company.