A Way out of Career Burnout

Have you ever found yourself sun bathing on the beach thinking about…WORK? No wants to think about work especially while on vacation but all too often we do find ourselves reflecting on our lives when we finally have a moment of quiet.  This year if you find yourself laying on beach reflecting on your career make sure you take some advice from our friend Rachelle Canter:

The 2lst century is the era of doing more with less. Virtually every employee and employer must contend with more work and less time, support, and resources to do it. Working smarter not harder is a common motto, but much harder to put into practice. For many people the result is burnout: exhaustion, irritation, despair, powerlessness. The widespread experience of feeling burned out and trapped in demanding and unrewarding work seems to have no answer.

For most people who feel burned out and trapped, the future looks grim because they see nothing but job search obstacles all around them: the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, the decline of certain industries, a poor economy, a personal network that has shrunk due to the time demands of work and family.

What is the solution to this seemingly-unsolvable problem? The answer lies in getting rid of the primary obstacles that block us from achieving our dreams by blocking our dreams in the first place: the stories we tell about our careers and our career options. The solution? Change your beliefs about what is possible in your career to change your future.

The stories we tell are varied but their common theme is that there’s a good reason why we ended up where we are, why we are stuck there, and why satisfying work is beyond our reach. For example, Kendra’s story is that without a degree in the industry she finds interesting, she feels jobs are closed to her. Jason’s story is that he needs to work twice as hard as everyone else because he lacks the same amount of training as his colleagues, an extra effort that has burned him out and left him no time to seek another job. And Linda’s story is that the demands of her home life and work life leave little time to look for more a more interesting job.

None of these stories have been tested by a job search but they exert a powerful influence on Kendra, Jason, Linda, and the millions of employees like them, keeping them from looking beyond their burned out jobs and perceptions of their limited career options. They are stuck in their stories, not looking beyond to consider or identify more satisfying work, and certainly not pursuing alternatives.

How does a burned out employee with limited time and energy do this?

Here are some simple questions to ask to help you find career inspiration and get you into action, pursuing personally fulfilling work:

  • What are your greatest and most enjoyable skills?
  • What work interests you most and makes best use of your skills?
  • What kinds of results/rewards are most meaningful to you?
  • What roles do you enjoy most?

Let’s take them one by one to help you identify important components of your dream job:

Skills – Looking back over your jobs and extracurricular activities, what are your greatest and most enjoyable skills? Managing projects? Managing leadership teams? Debugging software? Negotiating deals? Hiring staff? Proofreading manuscripts? Developing and monitoring budgets? Solving customer problems? Think carefully about each job to determine the things you did best and enjoyed most. These skills are critical to identifying personally inspiring work.

Work – What activities or projects have been the greatest source of satisfaction? When was the last time you worked on something that lit you up, energized you, gave you a sense of satisfaction and achievement? Even if it was several years ago or just a small project, look for these examples of satisfying work. They will help you define an inspiring job to motivate you out of burnout and into action.

Rewards – Think back over the rewards you have received from work and extracurricular activities. Don’t think only of compensation: research shows that the greatest sources of satisfaction are not financial for most of us. Which rewards have been meant most to you? Creating something from scratch, like a new system or program or strategy? Being recognized as an expert in your field? Helping someone in need? Mentoring junior employees into new roles? Adding to knowledge in a substantial way? Attaining executive perks? What matters most to you?

Roles – What roles have you enjoyed most? Leader? Team member? Project manager? People manager? Independent contributor? Consultant? Outside expert? Consider the different roles you have played and those you found most satisfying; these roles are also part of determining your ideal job.

Taking the time to answer these important questions for yourself helps you take an important step away from the trap of burnout and onto a path to find work you love. This vision of personally satisfying work can help you rediscover a source of joy and excitement in your work. The vision motivates the steps you can then take to reach fulfilling work. At every step of the way, when work pressures and old stories about the past and the hopelessness of the future threaten to overwhelm you, you can return to this source of inspiration and then look for small, but meaningful steps to make progress toward your goal of work you love. Take the first steps toward your exciting new career.

About the Author:

Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D. provides leadership/executive, career, organization, and team development as well as selection assessment services to client organizations. These services have helped hundreds of executives, attorneys, and professionals manage their careers and organizations, develop their skills, attain leadership positions, address performance issues and conflicts, and increase their personal, team, and organization’s effectiveness.  Shelley earned her Ph.D. in Social-Personality Psychology from the University of Colorado with a specialty in achievement and productivity, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University with a B.A. in Psychology. She has spoken and written widely on career, executive, and organizational development issues.

About JustinBradley  

JustinBradley delivers exceptional financial talent. Our three business lines—Recruiting and Interim Staffing; Project Solutions; and Executive Search—provide the right talent for our clients’ finance, accounting, financial systems and business requirements. For more information call 202-457-8400 or visit our website www.justinbradley.com


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