I resigned from my job the day after I got back from annual leave, not because I hated it or my boss, but because I was burned out.
I’ve been going at full speed since I landed my first job at the age of 23, a year after graduating from university. As a young person with very little responsibilities, I was able to let my life revolve around work, with some time for family and friends.
I didn’t make much time to think about my career goals because I was too busy taking on new responsibilities as management trusted me. That led to a number of promotions, and it felt good because I was one of many successful millennials on my social media timelines and in business magazines that were considered as movers and shakers before the age of 30.
I put pressure on myself to be that because that was success, but it all came crushing down this year.
I had ignored the signs of burnout, which started around June last year. I would get into the office late because my body wouldn’t wake up on time, I would need more time on assignments and my ability to think logically and creatively seemed to decrease. My motivation for work decreased, and my colleagues irritated me for no reason.
While I was on my first December break in 3 years, I couldn’t bear to go back to work and face all the pressure and busyness. I began to wonder what all of it was for. In 5 years, I hadn’t stopped to think about my career and what I was working for because I was running after this thing called success.
I wanted nothing more to do with the job I worked so hard for and that I was good at, so I handed in my resignation letter and walked away from all of it.
I suffered from the horror that is millennial burnout syndrome. According to a study by McKinsey, more women than men suffer burnout by the age of 30. This burnout is mainly self-imposed because we are a career-obsessed generation that gets a bulk of our self –worth from making something great out of our lives.
Also, modern company culture is unrelenting when it comes to the expectation that you need to be “always on”. Work never sleeps, and having access to the internet means that you are expected to remain plugged into work.
Going through burnout is like being infected with a really bad flu that knocks you out physically, emotionally and mentally. I got to this point because of the pressure I put on myself to be the success that I saw it in my social circles and in media.
I felt like I would be thrown out and replaced if I didn’t make myself available at all hours. But more than that, I went with the fast flow and euphoria of task after task that I didn’t take time to think about my career goals and aligning everything I did to those goals.
Getting back on track has required a lot of career introspection and goal setting, and making sure that everything I do now aligns to those goals. I’ve learned about the importance of work/life balance, which has made me more strict and structured with my time.
So young person, know what you want out of your career and don’t chase the ideals of success. Life is to be enjoyed, not spent hunching over a computer slaving away at a bottomless pit.
*image from New Internationalist.