I’ll admit it: I’m stubborn. That means I am very willing to ignore little problems until they become BIG problems. So it’s probably not a surprise I ignored the career burnout symptoms I was experiencing for, well, years*.
Career burnout is an epidemic for professional women. Every single time I go to a party or a networking event and say I help professional women figure out how to recover from career burnout — especially burnout from BS jobs** — women ask for advice. Sadly, I meet very few who feel fulfilled at work.
Do you have the most common career burnout symptoms that professional women experience?
You have become cynical:
You want to be positive, but you think everyone you work with is an idiot. You feel like you have to do it all if it’s going to be done right. You generally think everything you do is stupid and pointless. You don’t see how any of this stuff matters.
You are not as efficient as you once were:
It seems to take forever to do anything. There simply are not enough hours in the day, so you work more and more hours. You never seem to cross anything off your to-do list. And, most days, you don’t really care (see item #1). Ironically, you also spend a good amount of time on social media.
Despite the fact you sleep all weekend and never go out with friends anymore, you still feel exhausted all the time. You have a limited ability to handle anything — traffic, the wrong coffee order, your family. All you want to do is take a nap.
I had all of those symptoms, and more (including 15 extra pounds and stress-related health issues). But I didn’t want to admit I was suffering from career burnout because that meant I would need to do something about it. I was scared of losing my salary, scared of starting over, scared that whatever change I made wouldn’t fix the problem.
But ultimately the fear of waking up in 20 years feeling the same way was stronger than my desire to stay safe in my comfort zone. Shortly after I made the decision to find work that would fill me with purpose, I saw this Steve Jobs quote:
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
I had spent YEARS, not days, saying No. That realization gave me more resolve to make a change. I learned how to recover from burnout, and it was actually easier than I thought.
I should probably warn you that recovering from career burnout probably means leaving the career you’re in behind. If that is so terrifying that you can’t imagine it, then stop reading right now. But if in your heart you know that’s true and you are READY, then these first steps will get the ball rolling for you.
Get in touch with your personal values and impact in life. I believe you can’t figure out what will drive you if you don’t know what these things are.
Explore all of the things you love and all the things you’re good at. This was fun! I spent a few days just making lists. That alone made me happier.
Take all those things you love and are good at, mix and match them and see what comes up. What you will find is that patterns emerge and pretty quickly and new career will pop up.
Create an action plan. Change can’t happen if you don’t plan for it. Make a list of things you need to do for your new career and when you’re going to do it.
Get some help. Find a mentor or coach that can work you through the transition. There is so much going on, and there is a reason you’re burnt out. If you could do it alone, you would have. Asking for help is one of the most powerful things you can do to change your life.
I want to leave you with a question:
How many days have you said No, this is NOT what you would do if today were the last day of your life?
It’s time to move from BS Career to Hell Yes Life!
*Yea, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit I hung onto my pain for as long as I did. But if I’m going to help you in any way, I have to be completely honest.
**Read “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory” by David Graeber. It talks about how many professionals believe what they do has no social importance and how that is slowly killing them. I think it is directly tied to career burnout.
Opening a small business. Being your own boss. That’s the dream. At least it is for about 80% of the women I speak to. I get it. I’ve been a business owner for a very long time and I love it! Women ask me how to be a successful business woman in middle age.
Good question. While women are opening businesses in droves, it seems they’re all really, really young. Do you even remember being 30? I do. In fact, I opened my first business when I was 36. Boy do I wish I knew now what I knew then. I opened this coaching business at the age of 51. Fifty One. 5-1. And it has been GREAT! You know what the best thing about it is? I know things. Us middle aged women have wisdom, and that means we have the potential to rock the world. Seriously, we can change things.
So, want to know how to be a successful business woman in middle age? Learn from those who have gone before you. Be as smart as I know you are. And follow my three tips for success: find your passion, invest, and get support. I think those are the keys for launching a business that will thrive without risking your life savings. About that support part, check out my Gutsy Femeprenuer program. I designed specifically for middle age women who are ready to take control of their work life. And watch these three YouTube videos. I did a whole series on this topic just for you.
Find Your Passion
First, I want you to know that when you ask “how to start my own business,” you will get a ton of great advice. But having now started six business—some that succeeded and some that failed—I can tell you being a successful business woman in middle age starts with passion.
Think about it: you are switching careers to do this. You’ve spent your whole career doing work you may have only sort of cared about, right? Or you loved it once, but now are burnt out. Why do that again? If you are not passionate about what you are doing in your business, finding the energy to do all the little things that make a business woman successful will be downright impossible. This video provides a simple suggestion for how to get in touch with your work passion.
Having now started six business—some that succeeded and some that failed—I can tell you being a successful business woman in middle age involves a financial investment. Period.
And the amount matters. I built my graphic design agency with only a minimal financial investment (we each put in $3,000 and then had a $20,000 line of credit), but that business never really really grew. I did invest in the massage center and my coaching business and boy what a difference!
Here is the truth: building a business versus having a hobby is about investment, both financial and personal development. You WILL hit hurdles you don’t expect, and if you aren’t ready to face them head on, you’ll give up. Watch the video to learn more about the importance of investing for success.
Being a successful business woman in middle age involves asking for help and learning how to receive that help.
The truth is, you cannot do it alone. Having mentors and people to mastermind with is invaluable. They’ll share tips and tricks, they’ll help figure out challenges, and they’ll be there for you on the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship.
Building a business versus having a hobby is about finding passion, investment, and seeking help. You WILL hit hurdles you don’t expect, and if you aren’t ready to face them head on, you’ll give up. Watch the video to learn more about the importance of asking for help.
How will you be successful?
If you’re dreaming of starting a business, or perhaps just launched, where do you most need help? Drop down in the comments and let me know.
Watch my video The Warning Signs of Burnout (and what to do about it) if you are wondering if the symptoms you’re feeling are, indeed, career burnout. In this video, I share the top three signs of career burnout—things that you may not realize mean that you suffer from unfulfilling career syndrome (chronic exhaustion, lack of motivation, and not taking care of yourself). I also share a very simple exercise you can do to assess whether you simply need a new job or you need an entirely new career.
The first warning sign of burnout is that you feel tired all the time. I mean bone crushing, can’t open your eyes tired. You just can’t muster any energy for anything—emotionally, mentally or physically. When I was burnout in my corporate job, I slept all weekend even though I had a ton I really wanted to do. I just couldn’t find the energy.
When you are burnt out, it depletes your energy. While this could be the sign of a health issue, but more often it really a sign of burnout.
Warning sign number 2 is a lack of motivation. I was talking to a client the other day who said she just rolls her eyes and gets annoyed when someone asks her to do a project—projects that are literally her job to do.
When you don’t feel enthusiastic about what you’re doing and you no longer have an internal motivation to give your work your best effort, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing burnout.
Lack of motivation also manifests as having a hard time getting going in the morning, resistance to going to work, missing deadlines, not responding to messages. These are all signs of burnout.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
My body always knew when I was burnt out before I did—I’d stop exercising and eating well. I’d gain weight.
If you realize you are drinking too much, smoking, being too sedentary, eating too much junk food, not eating enough in general or not getting enough sleep, and self-medicating with anything then career burnout may be behind it. A need to “de-stress” with any of these things is a sign of something else going on.
It makes sense: if you’re burnt out at work, you won’t have the energy to take care of yourself.
What to do about it
Okay, so now you realize you do, in fact, are burnt out. So what do you do about it?
The first step is to figure out WHY: is it the job you’re in specifically, the career path or something else in your life? You can start to figure it out by making two simple lists:
list everything you love about your job or career
list everything you hate about it
If there is more you love than you hate, it may just be your job. If there is more you hate than you love, it may be time to contemplate a career change.
Once you know, you can either start a job search or start the search for a new career. The one you choose will dictate the next steps to take from there. But this will give you some clarity!
I help women navigate the warning signs of burnout every day, and help them make the massive mindset shifts to transform their lives from blah to beautiful. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to get weekly videos, follow me on LinkedIn (@susanrose002), and like my Facebook page @GutsyHappiness.