Originally posted on Forbes.
“I already feel ready for retirement, and I’m only 30!” a recent client, Erin, recently told me on the phone. She had been working at a research center since graduation and was feeling lethargic and unenthused walking into the lab each day. “My brain is so foggy, I feel like my grandparents trying to remember colleagues’ names, let alone focus on all my work…”
Although she wasn’t aware of it just yet, Erin was hitting burnout in her career. Unfortunately, she isn’t alone in this: a Gallup study found that two-thirds of people experience burnout at some point in their careers and it’s especially prevalent amongst Millennials, who, according to the American Psychology Association, are the most burnout and stressed generation in the workforce. And ladies, I am sorry to inform you that, based on research from Montreal University, workplace burnout is more common among women than men.
Not only was Erin sluggish and uninspired at work, she was also struggling to sleep at night, experiencing high levels of anxiety and a lack of appetite. Even her favorite latte was no longer an enjoyable pick me up. While I am no healthcare expert, it was clear to me that these were all indicators of burnout, the result of a slew of causes such as, lack of control, dysfunctional workplace dynamics and extremes of imbalance, just to name a few.
If you are looking to transition into a career where burnout isn’t as common, or you are in a field now wondering whether the industry is the cause of your burnout, here are 3 industries infamous for workplace burnout.
A career in the medical world is not for the faint of heart, especially looking into the future of Covid-19 where the “front lines” were filled with medical workers fighting to protect and save lives, including their own. An easy day in the office is probably difficult to come by as a nurse or doctor, given that 34% of emergency department staff and 33% of nurses in the US are burnt out due to excessive workloads and high demands.
This is especially true with emergency respondents working long sporadic hours resulting in a disrupted circadian rhythm and lack of sleep. This unnatural sleeping pattern causes chronic depletion of energy stores and activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the part of the body that acts as the stress response system. Simply put, a crazy sleep cycle is a recipe for burnout.
Consider this: Explore more stationary roles within the medical industry.
If you have your heart set on a career in medicine, but don’t know if you can handle the stress of an ER environment, consider something with consistent working hours and review the various specialist roles. Specialists like cardiologists and oncologists aren’t as likely to burn out compared to family or emergency physicians. It may be worth looking into other areas within the medical world such as dermatology, radiology or being a physicians assistant. You can also explore a career in telehealth, an industry that is expected to see a 64% increase over the remainder of the year and beyond. Telemedicine offers the flexibility to work for multiple companies and even determine the number of hours you work, while still interacting with patients and providing healthcare guidance.
Lawyers are known for working long and strenuous hours, in a fast paced competitive environment. When data revealed that 73% of lawyers express feeling burnout, it wasn’t too much of a surprise. Part of this burnout comes down to the demands of the job itself, the tough culture and the personality types that are naturally enticed by a career in law.
According to research, the most common personality type of a lawyer under Myers-Briggs is an ISFJ, a person who, when not operating in their strengths, is prone to overloading themselves and suppressing emotions. This personality type in a competitive demanding work environment can lead to high stress and burnout.
Consider this: Take inventory on your values.
While law is a field you may be deeply passionate about, take inventory of what you find valuable. And question whether your moral compass has shifted since starting your career. If you work in law and relate to the 73% of burnt out lawyers, spend an evening listing out what you value and believe in. This can be anything from valuing time with your family, fighting for a cause you believe in or the freedom wealth provides…jot it down. Place this list somewhere you can turn to daily to see whether the majority of your time is spent building upon your values.
From here, put your findings into action, if you deeply value nights home with your family yet find your career as a lawyer in mergers and acquisitions keeps you up all night in the office, consider pivoting into a legal role such as family law, for example, which can have a more predictable schedule. It is all about finding the career, or a version of your current profession, that gives you the life you want.
3. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)
The hurdles to gaining a career in STEM are fierce, and it all starts with school. According to USA Today, approximately 40% of students who enter into science, technology, engineering, or math will leave those programs within four years. One reason being that these programs have intentionally bred a “sink-or-swim” mentality with the aim to make students feel certain of their career choice. Once you graduate, it isn’t much different… In order to stay relevant in your field education cannot stop.
All this upfront effort does pay off, literally, since STEM workers earn a nice 26% pay advantage over their non-STEM workers with a similar education, and even if they don’t have a career in STEM, their STEM education grants them higher pay regardless of the occupation.
While a pay bump is nice, STEM is especially difficult for women, who are more likely to face a lack of support, as well as a sense of isolation in their career; coincidentally, these are leading causes of workplace burnout. This isolating work environment may be largely due to statistical prevalence in the field. Although women make up almost 50% of the labor force, only 28% of the roles in STEM are women, with only 5% of these jobs being held by women of color.
Consider this: Create a community for support.
Working in a career where you feel isolated or boxed out, especially due to your gender, race or other minority demographic takes a toll. Foster a community of like-minded individuals and meet on a regular basis to support one another. If there are other women in your company that have roles in STEM, start a monthly coffee hour to talk through struggles or offer ideas and solutions to the problems you face. Consider looking outside of your organization and creating a meetup group, or joining a networking organization specific to your field and demographic. American Psychology Association notes that burnout is less likely to occur within a community that offers positivity and support. While your office may not offer that up, you can seek it out. Who knows, your next STEM job could come from all this networking and relationship building! This isn’t far fetched when you consider that 70-80% of jobs are never posted online but are rather filled through referrals and networking.
I evaluated Erin’s career, work-life balance and the relationships and found that like so many people who come to me for career advice, what Erin really needed was to reconnect with herself in order to get more clear on her next step forward. Erin had been working as a research assistant that catered directly to hospitals who worked under a tight timeline. The stress of getting results to hospitals quickly ended up being a huge factor to her stress and anxiety, while the solitude left her feeling isolated. Even through all this, she always had a love for research.
We worked together to create a plan, starting with joining a Women-in-STEM networking group where she was able to find a role in research that was no longer tied to the fast paced clients she worked with previously. Now, she is back to enjoying her work life, and her lattes.
If you have felt yourself approach burnout early in your career, studies show that this doesn’t have long-term effects, but, later in your career…it does. So take your time and learn from this lesson. Protect yourself from burnout and don’t repeat it later on down the road.
Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.