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Heed the warning signs of career burnout

published February 05, 2007

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You might tell that to the next person you see headed toward career burnout.

When it comes to our careers, too many of us fail to see it coming. Even with warning signs flashing all around us, we sprint into the wall, fall down and then wonder why it hurts so much.

It hurts because careers are important to us. Whether we have jobs that we happened into or we spent years getting training for specific tasks, work is one of the key components of our life. It consumes a lot of time and energy if we want to do well in those jobs.

Like it or not, our work spills over into every aspect of our lives and can often spell the difference between happiness or a daily dose of misery.

And, unfortunately, too many of us still leave our happiness to the luck of a good job.

Janice Real Ellig and William J. Morin, authors of the new book "Driving the Career Highway" (Nelson Business, $25), put the burden of career management on each of us.

"Today's companies are too busy merging, acquiring, reverse acquiring, going bankrupt and downsizing to pay attention to employees' career plans. Individual career development is being defrauded by constantly changing expectations, sabotaged by 'other' priorities or simply ignored," they say.

Instead of letting circumstances create burnout or career fatigue, they recommend some basic assessments by everyone.

First, they ask that you look at the organization that employs you.

Do you dread the day ahead at work? At the end of the day, do you feel your accomplishments are in line with what others around you are doing? Do you find those around you supportive and do you feel that your work is valued? And, do you ever feel the need to take a "mental health day" to escape your frustration or fatigue?

Second, look specifically at your current job.

Are you doing work that you truly enjoy? Do you feel invigorated by your work at the end of the day? When you talk about your work with others, do you feel proud of what you do? Is your work an accurate reflection of who you are? And, when you are alone, do you think you are doing exactly the kind of work you should be doing?

Third, take a close look at yourself.

Do you know what to focus on at work as well as your personal life? Do you feel physically well? Do you feel down? Do you take time to think, meditate or exercise?

Ellig and Morin don't expect these assessments to solve all your career issues. But they do think this introspection will give you a sense of where you are, how fulfilled you feel and give you an indication of how healthy your work life is for you.

That hard work of change is still to be done, but hopefully this assessment can warn of impending burnout and give you a chance to plan a strategy to avoid it.

© Copley News Service