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Op/Ed

Burn out might be a signal calling for your attention

(EDITORIAL) Many people face a burn out in their career, but what are the signs, and are you able to pivot into a new career, and is that a good idea?

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woman experiencing burn out

It’s not something they tell you when growing up that you may experience burn out and to be honest, it almost feels like our society raises us to march in a straight line and be careful not to ask too many questions (i.e. Go in to business or engineering to get a job but there are PLENTY of people with Liberal Arts degrees working too). As a former marketer on big name brands like McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, NAVTEQ, for example, my path was pretty fascinating and not anything I can pretend like I manifested into existence while sitting in my dorm room, sorority house or apartment senior year of college.

I chose a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from a Big 10 University, I moved to the big city after graduation (Chicago) and worked my way through agencies and corporate environments. My parents were teachers – amazing and award-winning – and I felt they didn’t get paid enough for how hard they worked which is why I ignored my 8-year old self who REALLY wanted to be a teacher.

I found a thrill in it all – the constant stream of “problems” from our clients or internal departments and I felt lucky to be on teams who were always up for the challenge of finding “solutions”. I am not super sure what I was chasing other than it seemed to be totally normal to climb the corporate ladder and want more responsibilities and higher pay. I did decide to pursue an MBA in 2008 as a personal goal to achieve a graduate degree (I also had an Education grant from doing an AmeriCorps program that I wanted to use) and yes, I utilized that degree to request higher pay. By the way, at every job, I really loved my coworkers. Some of the most fascinating, amazing and talented people I have ever met (they tell you it’s about the people you work with and I’m not sure really believe it until you’ve experienced it.)

Check out this list of intelligent reasonings behind a burn out from Frank Chimero. Do any of them strike true for you?

His #2 and #4 really resonated with me:

2. Achievement culture: believing that identity and safety are only available through high achievement
4. Visibility leading to hyperactive comparison: passivity and visibility locking together to invite comparison and create a debilitating scarcity mindset. Comparisons leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, or fear of failure. Constant self-reproach and self-aggression.

I was completely caught up in the above – constantly trying to improve, be better, move into the next company or position. I also tripled my salary in ten years and finally was like “is this enough?” I’m not sure my mentality could keep up with going from not much money after taxes to plenty.

I’ve started to question a lot of the things I thought I knew to be true. The research articles that say the magic salary number of $75,000 annually is what will make you happy. There is no more happiness beyond that point and hell, you must be crazy if you’re happy making less than that. That’s what marketing and advertising tell you. Don Draper establishes himself as an Advertising genius when he states in Mad Men, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.”

Look, please don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my 12+ years working from Assistant Account Executive to Senior Manager, Digital. I am grateful for my 10-month AmeriCorps Service Leader position with City Year Chicago right out of college. I am grateful that when I reached burn out in 2012, when I realized that I didn’t give a schhhh if anyone bought more of my client’s product (sorry), I was part of a lay-off of 5% of the staff and forced to take a step back and figure out what I wanted to do. What I did learn is you cannot imagine the amount of research, passion and intelligence that goes into marketing when you are 19 years old or if you’ve never worked in it. There are so many incredible things that come from marketers and I do believe they help make the world go around.

I will say thanks to my burn out, I made a career transition and now I’m a big believer in that. I became a Creative & Marketing recruiter and I loved it. I also became an Adjunct Instructor and I loved that. Those two combined is what lead me to my ultimate career switch where I work in Career Services in Higher Education (which I could not have the job I have without a Master’s degree).

That burn out from what I refer to as “Marketing & Advertising world” lead to a beautiful new career where I feel fulfilled and excited and engaged. But for transparency sake, I took a pretty significant pay cut to switch in to Higher Ed, and this has angered me a bit about the values in our country as it relates to education. I know they say money doesn’t buy happiness, but I will say that I think it’s ok when it allows you to buy experiences and do things that make you happy and share that with your friends, family and community.

As a Career Coach and talking to hundreds of people about what they want to do professionally…honestly, we have a lot more in common than you would think. We want to do work that we feel passionate about, interested in, constantly learn and contributing to a bigger picture – while be compensated fairly for what we do and able to afford lifestyles that matter to us.

In these new times, where many have lost their jobs or been forced to work remotely and/or work while also taking care of family members, I’m just going to say it. Are we finally going to realize the value of skilled and/or tenured employees, our teachers, healthcare workers, grocery store clerks/stockers/managers and restaurant/hospitality folks, local artist and makers (to name a few)? Because they may be wondering about the $75K/year thing. And as for small business owners and entrepreneurs, they give us their passion and craft and many that I have met don’t go touting around their financials.

Whatever the case may be for you, I hope your journey is bringing you to what really makes you happy and that you don’t feel that happiness has been unjustly sold to you. If you’re experiencing a burn out, I’d like to think it could it be a signal calling out for your attention.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

Op/Ed

Working from home? Watch out for these taxes this year

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Thinking you’ll save money on taxes this year due to working from home? Think again.

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Taxes and paperwork zoomed in on pen and papers.

With what seems like everybody working from home—for what seems like the last decade—you would be well within your rights to question the tax implications for employees this year. While logic would dictate that taxes would skew to the lower side due to fewer commuters overall, several states have different plans for their at-home workers.

Even though you’re probably working from home, the office in which you work still has bills and costs associated with it. That same statement goes for the public transportation system you might use to reach that office, the roads on which you would travel, and other public amenities that support a commuter model and the basic infrastructure on which we depended pre-COVID.

As such, you may need to anticipate some related taxes this year.

Primarily, many states plan to tax workers based on their employment location, not their residential address. For some, this may not make much of a difference (I live less than a mile from my place of work); however, anyone hoping to avoid a city-based tax by working at home in the suburbs is in for a rude awakening.

This isn’t actually a new concept. The process, known as “convenience of the employer”, relies on the understanding that these large, city-based businesses need the support that taxes offer, and anyone responsible for working in those locations is also responsible for maintaining them in that context.

If you think that sounds contrived, buckle up—some states are also looking into a 5% tax for public transportation. Since public transit options aren’t getting the same level of use that they were pre-pandemic, they aren’t receiving the level of TLC needed to maintain them; this carries serious implications for the safety and convenience of those public transportation options once lockdown ends.

As mentioned previously, the roads which public transportation uses and things like lighting, demarcation, and sidewalks also need upkeep—something they aren’t receiving with the same level of funding they did prior to last March. The same can be said of highways and the like.

It’s easy for people making these recommendations to justify them; if you’re still employed and you haven’t had to take a pay cut at all, your expenses have probably decreased. However, this is clearly a time in which people need to save every penny possible—something for which these tax proposals clearly don’t account.

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Op/Ed

5 fun and easy ideas for a remote holiday office party

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) As with many things in 2020, the holiday office party is going to look a little different this year. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

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Remote holiday office party at home around laptop with festive decorations.

In many companies, the holiday office party is something to look forward to. But as with most things in 2020, holiday office parties are changing. And if you want to continue the tradition, you may have to pivot and go virtual!

Try these remote holiday party tips:

At first glance, a virtual holiday party sounds pretty suspect. But it’s 2020, so what else do you expect? And the truth is that a virtual holiday party can actually be a lot of fun when everyone has the right mindset. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Plan ahead

We all know how busy the holiday season can get. And even in the midst of a pandemic, it’s amazing how many events and gatherings there are. You’ll also find a lot of families making new traditions. All of that to say: You need to plan ahead.

The sooner you get your holiday office party on the calendar, the more likely it is that people will show up. And the good thing about doing a virtual event is that you can be flexible with your dates. Want to host it on a random Wednesday night? Go for it!

2. Create a detailed agenda

Why do you need an agenda for a Zoom holiday party, you might be wondering? Because things can get pretty awkward if you don’t.

While it’s possible that your team is close enough to spend an hour or two politely chatting while sipping on eggnog, an unstructured free-for-all event can get messy. People will talk over each other, there will be awkward silences, and you’ll start losing people as the event stretches on.

A detailed agenda sets the expectations for the event and creates a sense of “flow.” It helps people know what to expect and gives you clear next steps when things feel like they’re boring or stale.

When creating your agenda, leave room for things like “happy hour” and other casual buffers of time. Too much formal structure will make this feel like a meeting and not a party. But not enough structure leaves people confused. Do your best with this balancing act.

3. Get everyone involved

The best way to get people excited about the holiday party (and to increase attendance) is to involve as many people as possible.

Consider giving different people responsibilities for the event. One person might be in charge of music, another in charge of games, and another in charge of making sure the technology works. When people have a stake in the event, they’re less likely to tune out.

4. Plan games and activities

There are a lot of unique ways to get groups of people involved on a Zoom party. Games and activities are especially fun. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • If you’ve ever played the game “Werewolf,” you know how much fun it can be. It’s a social game that involves everyone and creates a sense of mystery, suspense, and fun. And with a little planning, you can play Werewolf over Zoom! (If your team is open to online gaming, the game Among Us plays very similarly for free on mobile or $5 on Steam!)
  • Sign up for a virtual cookie decorating class and have your team decorate cookies via Zoom. (You might even consider sending each individual a care package with all of the ingredients they need ahead of time.)

You know your team best, so choose something that will fit their interests and personalities!

5. Build anticipation and excitement

You never want your holiday office party to be something your team sees as an event they “have to” attend. You want it to be one of the highlights of the year. But in a year like 2020 where you’re relegated to virtual gatherings, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

One of the keys is to begin building anticipation and excitement early on. Talk about the party frequently and often. Make it a priority rather than something that you’re doing just to go through the motions.

Celebrate the Holidays in (Unique) Style

What better way to cap off what has been a strange and unique year than by having a virtual holiday celebration where you can all relax in the comfort and safety of your own homes? The key to making this work is to plan ahead, have fun, and laugh at the weirdness of it all. This isn’t going to be a black-tie event. Relax and roll with the glitches. If you do it right, this will be something you look back on in the years to come with great fondness.

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Op/Ed

Top 5 reasons resilience is key in the workplace and the hiring room

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) While it matters all the time, 2020 has especially shown resilience is important as an employee or employer to hold their own in the workplace.

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Open workspace, where resilience will be key to success.

If there is ever a time that demonstrates the value of resilience in the workplace, that time is 2020. Challenges, complexities, and change in our personal and professional spheres are inevitable and required for growth.

Brent Gleeson, author of the book Embrace the Suck: The Navy SEAL Way to an Extraordinary Life breaks down the components of resilience into three dimensions: challenge, commitment, and control. Resilient people see difficulty as challenge and a learning opportunity. They are committed and take ownership over their lives and goals. They spend their energy on that which they have control.

In the context of the workplace, employees and leaders will inevitably face setbacks, critical feedback and change- positive or negative. Managing engagement through this while working remotely can add an additional layer to this. Gleeson highlights five important reasons organizations should understand and work to build resilience in their workforce as part of their culture strategy.

  1. The first is that resilience skills directly benefit the psychological wellbeing of employees. Happy, healthy employees are good for business and the bottom line as well.
  2. Change is bound to happen and adaptability is key. Organizations need leaders, managers, and employees that have the resilience to navigate whatever comes up, as it happens.
  3. Learning and innovation is required to make it in today’s business environment. Even capable and motivated employees need to constantly maintain and hone their skills in a culture where they are allowed to continue to grow and improve.
  4. Resilience can be put to the test in organizations when interpersonal relationships are strained. Teamwork, when lead by intentional leaders, can help employees to frame interactions in a way that reduces negative feeling and improves group dynamics.
  5. Managers who can lead with resilience can help employees with career development and coaching in a way that develops their skills.

Some of the key characteristics that drive heightened levels of mental fortitude as shared by Gleeson are optimism, giving back, values and morals, humor, mentors, support networks, embracing fear, purpose, and intentional training. These contribute to resilience in employees, and in an environment where the only constant is change, the ability to meet the challenges of 2020 and beyond.

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