How to Avoid Burnout When You Feel Overworked
Advice from PBS NewsHour's Ask the Headhunter columnist
(This article originally appeared on the PBS NewsHour site.)
In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
Question: I’m in a position where I am extremely valuable to my employer. I work 55 to 60 hours per week and I’m too close to burnout for comfort. I want to find out what else is out there, but I obviously don’t have time to do the networking necessary to accomplish that successfully.
In spite of being overworked, I really don’t want to leave, but am fearful that as more gets piled on my plate, I won’t be able to meet my boss’s expectations and will burn out trying — a very bad combination. In brief, I have 12 years’ experience in production control and program management in a high-tech industry. I have an MBA, have been with my current company for over three years, working up from financial analyst to finance director. It’s a tough business — contract services on a national scale. I revolutionized our budgeting process, saving thousands of man-hours while generating budgets that were fair, challenging and achievable, resulting in excellent annual growth in earnings.
How would I be able to find out how marketable I am without taking time away from my current responsibilities? Thanks so much for your feedback.
Nick Corcodilos: I commend you for recognizing your problem, but there’s no excuse for not taking time to find out what other opportunities are out there. When it comes to career development, complacency is professional suicide.
My advice is to diversify your career investment and make time to start an earnest job search. Withdraw a little time from your job and put it into your future. You can meet all sorts of people in your industry through your job.
- Attend industry conferences
- Take advanced education courses
- Volunteer to help with professional events
- Meet with more vendors and customers
Each of these venues will expose you to new people who can lead you to new job opportunities. To make time to do this, delegate more tasks to others and start turning down some projects. This article may help you start doing the kind of networking that will give you the options you need: “Please! Stop Networking!”
At the risk of alarming you, I have to tell you that I’ve met many people who share the “fly high-crash and burn” syndrome. They all crash.
Here’s how it goes: You use all your skills and talents to benefit your employer. You do more and more for recognition. When you hit the wall (that is, run out of skills and resources), you make up for it by working harder and longer. Impressed (or just taking advantage), your employer gives you more responsibility. You feel blessed. To prove yourself worthy, you accept it. To handle it, you work even harder. Finally, you burn yourself out, or you start making mistakes because there’s too much on your plate and you don’t know how to say No!
Meanwhile, you have trained your employer to keep expecting more. Suddenly, you are not meeting expectations (ridiculous though they have become). You either quit in frustration and anger, or you get fired. You might brag to your friends that four people were hired to replace you, but that doesn’t change your situation.
Start managing your employer. Stop aiming for quantity and quality at the same time. You can’t grow both forever. Invest some time in your future. Yours is the classic cry for help — hear yourself making it and listen. Your well-being depends on it.
I’ll point out one more problem people in your situation sometimes exhibit: They don’t know how to quit their job. When the time comes, this may be helpful: “Parting Company: How to leave your job.”