Navigating change in your career can sometimes feel like being lost in the wilderness. After all, at some point you likely were filled with excitement and optimism at the potential and opportunity that was set in front of you. But, as the dust settles and as time marches on, sometimes we find ourselves burnt out and disengaged at work.
By the nature of my day job, where I handle a fair bit of hiring as well as consulting with people on their careers, I frequently find myself in conversations with people who are in a moment of questioning whether they’re on the right path in their current jobs or considering what they want to do next in their careers.
Standing at a career crossroads can feel incredibly stressful. The longer you’re in a role that isn’t suited to you, the more likely you are to burnout completely.
Burnout is disheartening and has ripple effects on your entire life. People burnout for dozens of reasons, but in a broad sense, burnout happens when people are stretching themselves too much for too long in a job or environment for which they are not naturally wired, for any number of factors. When people are experiencing burnout at work, their stress is high, their ability to rest well is probably low and they are desperate for relief.
We spend a third of our lives at work, so it’s vital to seek to thrive at work. So, what do you do to address burnout? Here are a few places to begin:
When you’re experiencing burnout, the most important thing to figure out how to address it is perspective. But, a healthy perspective is only achieved when you have both space and rest. If you’re too close to the problem and too exhausted by the problem, your inclination will be to react and triage the situation.
Objectivity relies on your ability to step away from your emotions and take a look at the whole, not just the parts. You may find that you struggle to gain perspective on your own, so don’t hesitate to seek out a trusted friend, mentor, therapist, consultant or a coach to help you zoom out on the situation.
A huge part of gaining perspective on any situation is to have strong self understanding. Objectively assessing the problems means owning that you may be a part of the problem, even unintentionally. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, your natural abilities and deficits, and what you’re best suited for may require the aid of people who know you best, introspection and the help of science-based assessments that can provide data to help clarify your unique makeup.
Address the Pain
When things aren’t going well, it can feel like everything is a problem. But, often there are just a few pain points that need to be addressed. One of the best ways I’ve found to help figure out what’s going well and what’s not is to write down everything you love about your job and everything you hate about it. Then, see if there are categories to group the things you’ve written down and what trends emerge. When I’ve done this for myself, it became apparent that I hate managing the details of a project, that it drains me considerably, but I enjoy the high level strategy. Splitting out those roles allowed for me to have greater job satisfaction and made our entire company stronger.
Above all else, stay optimistic that your career and your satisfaction at work can improve. Whether it means you address a small problem, shift your role at your company, change jobs or begin a new career altogether, the pain you’re experiencing is meant to be purposeful in some way.
Pain is meant to shape you and invite you into a new chapter, and if you look back on your life, you will likely see many instances of the hard season opening the door to the better season.