As we emerge from the great pandemic, a lot of predictions and “buzz phrases” are being thrown around. One that recently captured my attention is “the great resignation.” Texas A&M professor Anthony Klotz is credited for coining the term, and Bloomberg Business Week recently interviewed Klotz as part of an article titled: How to Quit Your Job in the Great Post-Pandemic Resignation Boom. According to the article:
“The great resignation is coming,” says Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University who’s studied the exits of hundreds of workers. “When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year.” The numbers are multiplied, he says, by the many pandemic-related epiphanies—about family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, life and death, and what it all means—that can make people turn their back on the 9-to-5 office grind.
While Klotz doesn’t explicitly use the term “burnout,” It is an underlying factor when people suddenly resign or change careers. Let’s face it. We all hit the wall occasionally when it comes to generating the energy and enthusiasm that make us great professionals. In most cases, the lull is short-lived, and we soon find the motivation and energy to once again be happy and productive at our work. But, what if we find ourselves in career doldrums that are more prolonged or severe? What should we do if we dread the thought of going to work day after day, week after week?
Change is inherent to business, and the best professionals lead and embrace change. In my mind, this constant flux and imagine-the-possibilities outlook is what makes the great professions exhilarating. At the same time, many organizations constantly pressure their employees to stay at the top on their game, in dynamic conditions, and with constrained resources Such an environment can create challenges and stress that leads to burnout.
This can be particularly true if you have been in your role for several years. Going through the motions or falling into the perceived safety of a dull routine can imperil not just your organization but your career, as well. I am a firm believer that the enemy of sustained excellence is complacency.
Be cognizant about the factors that sap your energies, recognize the symptoms of burnout, and be aware of the resources that can help reinvigorate your career. Here are five important tips that I first offered to the internal audit profession in 2017 to help avoid burnout and re-energize a career.
It is easy to lose your edge and not even recognize it. For the most part, routine is what makes life tolerable. Knowing you have a steady income and a stable home environment provides comfort. But it can also mask dissatisfaction at work. The Mayo Clinic offers a list of questions that can help.
If you answer yes to any of the foregoing, you may be burned out in your job, and the remaining tips on this post become even more critical.
Getting away from work can help you clear your head. I recommend a minimum of two weeks. In an article for Inc. online, J.T. O’Donnell, founder and CEO of WorkItDaily.com, suggests science supports this theory.
According to O’Donnell, “Research shows that getting out of your routine, and in particular, going on an excursion is a powerful way to wake up your brain. In fact, these studies show new sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain.”
In simplest terms, a career vision gap analysis looks at the differences between the competencies needed to achieve your career goals versus your current skills. Part of your job frustrations may relate to not getting ahead. But if you don’t know where your weaknesses lie, how will you ever know if job competency is what is holding you back?
Yogi Berra, the New York Yankee Hall-of-Fame catcher and master of clever quotes, put this into perspective when he said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”
Once you’ve determined where you stand in terms of your skills, make a plan. Your plan may include going back to school, gaining a professional certification, moving into a specialized area of your profession that interests you, or even (gulp) leaving your profession. Before finalizing your plan, seek out a trusted mentor or co-worker who can provide a fresh perspective.
Whatever direction you decide to go, make sure you have a strategy that is well-informed and realistic.
Taking an honest, critical look at your career is a daunting exercise. As I mentioned earlier, there is comfort in routine and job security. But you ultimately are in charge of your career, not your current employer. O’Donnell offers an important insight in her Inc. article when she writes, “Satisfaction is a state of mind, and the person with the mind is the one with the ability to improve it.”
People by nature are afraid of change, but don’t let that stop you from being courageous, even audacious, in your career plans. This may require that your feet do the talking. Sometimes, walking away from a job, even a high-paying, high-profile one, can be the right career move. I made such a decision one year ago this month when I announced plans to step down as The IIA’s President and CEO. After months of reflection and careful consideration, I made the decision that a change was in order for me and The IIA. As I wrote in an earlier blog, sometimes you may just need a change of scenery to avoid career burnout.
As always, I look forward to your comments.