How to recover from burnout without changing careers

Feeling stressed? Is your career letting you down? Are you feeling trapped or living a life of quiet desperation, paralyzed by the thought that there are no options for you? In a poll conducted by the Roper Organization, 45% of those surveyed said they would choose a different career if they could. And many said they would choose a career that is more personally rewarding.

How about you? It often starts with a general sense of dissatisfaction that simmers over a period of time. Sometimes these vague feelings don't come to the surface until a precipitating event brings them to the forefront. Often this awakening occurs because of a traumatic situation. For example, a doctor tells you your lifestyle must change, or you're laid off, or your spouse gives you an ultimatum about your workaholic lifestyle, or maybe your new boss is intolerable. These events can make you come to terms with what has been nagging you for years.

The simple answer is to start only have one career and it's up to you to make the most of it. But, that answer can be a joke if you decide it's not practical to turn your life upside down. But does that mean you're trapped?

Short of throwing out your old career and starting over with a new one, here are some steps you can take to establish some balance and satisfaction in your life:

·        Mesh your hobby with your career. Perhaps you love sports but you're an accountant stuck in a job with a manufacturing firm. Why not look for an accounting job with a company in the sporting goods industry, a sports medicine clinic, sports magazines, or a sports facility?

·        Move to a smaller or larger firm. If you are longing for more variety and a sense of ownership without the risk of starting your own business, consider a move to a smaller company. On the other hand, you may want more structure and specialization, so a larger company may be the change you need.

·        Look for a job where you can have an impact on society. If you feel the need for a greater sense of purpose, consider working for a non-profit organization that fits into your personal values. For some, contributing to solutions that help the greater good can give work a whole new sense of meaning and satisfaction. It may mean reordering your financial priorities but the change may be worth it.

·        Turn your avocation into a vocation. If you are spending much of your off-work time on a hobby or special interest, consider turning it into your career either on a full or part-time basis. If you don't want to turn it into a career, use it as a way to channel your interests and provide satisfaction in your life. For instance, teaching evening classes may be a just the outlet you need or it may lead to a new career.

·        Look at your job as a way to finance your outside interests. If you don't particularly like your job, but it pays enough money to buy the things you enjoy outside of the job, perhaps the solution is a shift in mindset.

·        Find a job with less stress. If you like your work but find that it is killing you, look for ways to reduce your hours. Work for an organization with a slower pace or in a different industry. For example, a working mother who has good clerical skills may opt to work for a temporary agency, work out of her home or cut back to part-time hours. Another example is an attorney who decides to move her practice to a small town.

·        Re-define success. Stop listening to what everyone else thinks. Who cares if they think you're crazy? The important thing is knowing what you need. If it means getting some career counseling, go get it. The key is discovering what will bring you more satisfaction and balance and then tailoring your lifestyle to get it.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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