Do you feel like the energy and passion for your work is starting to fade? Are you irritable toward others and struggling to come to work every day, only to perform tasks that seem routine and mind-numbing?
If your job has become more of a burden, filled with stress, frustration, and questions of why you or what you do matters, you're probably dealing with the signs of burnout. Burnout can leave an otherwise energetic and engaged individual stuck looking for meaning in their work and their life. It can impact your productivity and creates tension with your relationships both at work and at home. When you're facing potential career burnout, the good news is that you can turn things around and find a way out of what feels like an overwhelming situation.
If you feel stuck in a rut, you need to take a mental step outside of yourself. This means that you create distance between your feelings of burnout and your need to rebuild. If you believe you can seriously address burnout in parallel with existing stressful duties, you won't make progress.
Start with changing your regular routine. When you grab lunch or take a snack break, use that time to catch your breath, close your eyes, and visualize making a change. Mental snapshots of desired states help to prepare you for future planning.
Inventory your essential career highlights. This isn't a resume, but a personal profile of key moments you are proud of that combine achievements with core professional skills. For example, if you were a project manager and successfully got a critical product to market, how did you feel? Was it satisfying? What did it take to make that happen? Think about who you communicated with to make sure all the moving parts were aligned. Write down the things that are the moments that defined you professionally. These moments and associated competencies will most likely revive your sense of purpose or pave the way to moving you forward into a new career path. Also take a look at your workload; maybe you're overloaded, not necessarily in the wrong job or career. See what flexibility your boss has in delegating tasks or creating a plan to lessen the amount of tasks that fall on your plate. Career assessments can provide you with possible avenues to take, or how to enhance the strong skill sets you already have.
Nothing is worse than feeling like you're all alone dealing with the stress and anxiety of career burnout. That's why it's important to orient yourself towards people who can help you, either with tips and advice to get you back on track, or to remind you of your worth. Distance yourself immediately from people who emphasize the "you should, if I were you", "I told you so", and "be happy you have a jobs". All these sentiments do is make you more confused, anxious, or angry, which are all the things that cloud your judgment. If it's coming from family or close friends, acknowledge their efforts on your behalf, but walk away. Look for mentors; tap your external professional network as well as your informal company network. Get with people who are excited, successful, and winning. Enough time with this group of people will positively influence your ability to get control of how to deal with your blockers.
Remember that burnout symptoms evolve over time, before you simply breakdown in terms of handling all the of pressures around you. Aim for small victories. Looking at your list of accomplishments, write down how you prefer the situation to be. This process doesn't mean you end up happy with your current job, it might mean you are happy doing something else, somewhere else. The goals you feel ready to tackle should flow from your desired state, which is both personally and professionally rewarding. You can then prioritize small efforts that show progress in the direction you want to go. Be patient and slowly regain your drive and passion to meet objectives you and only you want to achieve.
When you feel frustrated, disengaged, stressed out, or anxious, it seems like the world is against you. Your internal thoughts can be negative, highlighting only those areas based on fear (e.g. too old, there are no prospects, need to get over it, etc.) that in turn, cloud potential possibilities. Remind yourself that the situation is temporary, and that it requires time to think about what you should do next. The trap is getting into self-destructive behaviors that are not based on reality. Simply asking for clarification on duties, delegating certain tasks, or other simple measures might be enough to give you a chance to regroup. The more you believe that something is wrong with you, the more likely you will be to witness the self-fulfilling prophecy that you have hit a wall and there is no way around it. You always have options!
Keeping your morale high is an important part of designing the next steps in your career future. External items like the economy, job outlook, and global competition are factors that exist, but remember they are not sole deterrents or roadblocks in your ability to build a plan of action. Issues at home or at your current job can also rob you of energy and focus. Remember that it's ok to fail a bit as you gather your confidence, just appreciate the changes you are making. This also means staying mindful of environmental factors on your overall health in terms of rest and nutrition. Always keep your mental and physical energy levels in check. Ultimately, despite all the methods out there to push you off track, when you stick to your personal plan you will be less distracted about where you are headed.
Focusing only on the outcome invalidates the journey to get there. Create a series of small personal challenges that guide you to larger paths to success. Reward yourself for personal milestones that matter to you and infuse some levity and fun to the process as much as possible. Sometimes thinking about the outcome and force-fitting an agenda backwards from that point isn't helpful. You may need to prove to yourself in unrelated ways why you are valuable. For instance, although you feel miserable, you could mentor a junior coworker on a tough task. The guidance you gave was easy to you, but could mean the world to your coworker. Such a gesture reinforces who you are and what you know. Helping others is a great way to get confidence early in how you approach larger objectives and redesign your career path.
When you gain direction, you might have ups and downs. As you learn to change your behavior and attitude around refining your job duties or career path, you will tweak various aspects of your plan as needed. This helps keep your perspective honed as you track goals against your personal plan. It also defines your boundaries in terms of adjusting your schedule, commitments, and priorities so you don't fall backwards into feelings of burnout. Be creative about how you move through your plan. You might have a conversation, take a class, or experience a personal insight that drives "ah-ha" moments and invigorates your process.
No career or job is perfect, and there will always be challenges to face. It's perfectly normal to re-evaluate where you are in your professional life. The more open-minded you are, the easier it will be to find people and things that help revitalize your point-of-view towards your job or career. Differentiating your needs over time is at the heart of redefining your goals and it can be a powerful stepping stone to a new and exciting life journey.
If you feel the burden of your work situation is more daunting than you can handle, don't discount reaching out for help either through a career coach, or if necessary, through therapy. The main thing you want to do is be aware that something is or has changed for you in relation to your job or career. Awareness of the need to change is a critical milestone to ensuring you take note of where you are and where you know you can be.
More expert advice about Managing Your Career as an Employee
Photo Credits: IMG_5302 3 by Flickr: Millicent_bystander; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com