How To Burn Out By The Time You're 30

burnout at workBy Ben Fanning

Think professionals don't hit job burnout until mid-to-late career?

And that the typical professional with burnout already has a couple of kids and a massive mortgage before "the grind" finally gets them?

Actually, burned-out careerists come in all ages and management levels.With the demands of the global economy, conference calls with co-workers around the globe, and the endless stream of emails, it's even more likely you'll hit job burnout early on in your career.

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The good news is that by understanding a few simple warning signs of job burnout, you can either avoid burnout entirely or reignite your career so you'll achieve a higher level of satisfaction and performance.

And by understanding the paths to burnout, you'll reap benefits like:
  • Ease – You'll know which opportunities to follow and which to avoid when headhunters or other professional contacts get in touch

  • Freedom – You'll have freedom to live your career on your own terms versus someone else's

  • Savings – When you recognize burnout early on, you'll be less likely to make costly decisions on b-school, trainings and even relocation when they're not right ones for you

  • Better Health – You'll feel better physically when you're not burned out. Your head will be clearer, and you'll have more energy to address the needs of each day

  • Stronger Relationships – Your relationships will be more plentiful and deeper because you'll be more open to connecting with others

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Here are the most common causes for early-career burnout, so you can avoid them:

1. Do exactly what your parents told you
Your parents made decisions on your behalf for a long, long time. They probably have the best of intentions for you, but realize that they make these decision based on their own assessments about life and work... not yours. While their perspective is useful, it may not be grounded in who you actually are. If you blindly follow the instruction book they've handed over, you'll end up down a career path doing someone else work (not based on your own passion).

2. Do exactly what your degree qualifies you for
I was an international finance major in college, and now I'm a burnout specialist and executive coach. It's extremely limiting to believe that whatever you studied intensely in your teens and early 20s has set you on a career path for the rest of your life.

By simply using that learning as foundation and not your blueprint, you'll be able to build in new directions that interest you and thus avoid burnout.

3. Believe you're done with your education
To avoid burnout, you've got to develop a passion for life-long learning and exploring; otherwise, you'll stagnate. This means learning to love the question "Why?" and actively exploring many answers, rather than just the obvious one.

4. Do exactly what your boss or Human Resources says
Just like with your parents, HR and your boss have their own agenda. Even if they have the best intentions, their feedback and incentives are coming from their own history and assessments about their own future. If you follow too closely, you'll find your day set by someone else's clock and goals and never develop your own.

5. Be afraid to make a left-hand turn in your career
Left-hand turns on a busy street can cause a traffic jam, with plenty of uncomfortable yelling. Making a turn off of your career path isn't much different; it will disrupt the natural flow of things, so don't make it unless you really have to.

If you realize your career is on the path to burnout, slow down. Over the long haul, addressing the job that's keeping you in burnout will be more beneficial than dealing with discomfort of making the turn.

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6. Work hard for someone else's dream
I once heard that when you work hard for something you believe in, it's called passion, and when you work hard for something you don't, it's called stress.

It's not a bad thing to work hard for your boss or company, but if you continue for a long duration without feeling clear on why you're working in the first place and what your own passion is, the stress will eat your career alive.

Work hard for your boss, but keep your own ambitions in check along the way.

7. Choose a job for status, title, insurance or money
Sounds obvious, right? But too many of us make this mistake.

If you choose a job for one of the reasons, you will burnout eventually. Your career is not sustainable with these as primary drivers.

What's Next?
Any of these apply to you?

If so, your initial reaction might be to consider quitting your job.

While this might be the best direction for some, you'll probably find it more beneficial to first reflect on the source of your burnout. Then plan your next steps based on that source; it may or may not be your current job.

By taking these initial steps, you'll find clarity on whether to stay and rejuvenate in your current role at work, make changes within your current company or plan your exit to reignite your career.

Ben Fanning, The Burnout Specialist, helps frustrated, burned out professionals reignite their careers and rediscover their passion for work. Download his free Burnout Manifesto, 7 Easy Way to Reignite Your Career from Job Burnout (without quitting).

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