We are living in the era of ‘the great resignation’ – but many of us are still in our jobs, still motoring on. But how do you know the difference between a pinch of back to work fear and that niggling feeling that you need a new job? Moreso, how much work ‘fear’ is healthy at all? Susan Dwyer, founder of women’s networking and development platform Rise Up, sets the record straight …
Whenever I take a substantial break from work (such as Christmas or a summer holiday), and I’m focused on other things like family, friends or myself, I definitely feel nervous – and sometimes discontented – about the idea of returning to work. It’s worth noting that I have felt this while working at jobs that I have really enjoyed. This is normal and has never caused me huge concern. However, if you are someone who spends each Sunday night sitting on the couch riddled with overwhelm and anxiety, that is a different situation. Worse again, if you spend the entire weekend worrying about the work week ahead then you may want to start looking at other opportunities – no job is worth that.
There are a number of red flags that are non-negotiables for me in a workplace. Things such as unmotivated co-workers, bad management and a lack of recognition from employers. Ask yourself, are your boundaries being crossed? Do you have zero work-life balance? Look outside your own situation. Is there a high turnover of staff? Would you describe the culture as open and inviting, or are there cliques operating?
Generally, I don’t actually view a rut as a bad thing anymore. In fact, it usually happens at several stages of our careers – this is totally normal. Whenever I feel like I am in that place, it’s usually my unconscious mind trying to tell me that I need to make a change. We’re not meant to do one thing for our whole career: it is our duty to constantly make sure we are upskilling, developing, embracing change and becoming better humans so we can serve a higher purpose and be more fulfilled as a result.
You may be thinking, ‘how did I even get here?’ Generally speaking, if you are not honouring your core values through your work, there tends to be negative consequences lurking. In my case, whenever I feel like I’m not being challenged anymore, when the learning or growth stops, that’s when I know something has to change. Often people might feel like they are on this hamster wheel; doing the same thing day in, day out, at which stage boredom creeps in and that’s when you run the risk of becoming complacent – which is never a good place to be.
Ask yourself, are your boundaries being crossed? Do you have zero work-life balance? Look outside your own situation. Is there a high turnover of staff? Would you describe the culture as open and inviting, or are there cliques operating?
To discern how big the problem is you must get to the root of it first. Ask yourself, honestly, why you are feeling this way. Write it down on paper, say it aloud if it helps, write yourself an email. Think in terms of practicalities and check any assumptions you might be making. Your manager or colleagues may not be aware of the situation, so try to give them the benefit of the doubt: it’s only when you make your position clear to others that you can try to find a solution.
If you do think you need to leave, then there are some things to consider. Some people swear you should never leave your job before you have a new employer – I disagree. If you are at a crossroads and lacking clarity, or are suffering from burnout, my advice would be to save enough money to cover you for a minimum of three months, ideally six months. You could take some time out to reflect on where you are at, what’s important to you, what you are missing and where you want to be going forward. Don’t be scared of having gaps on your CV. Too many people leave unfulfilling jobs to join another one the following week and repeat the same cycle. It’s okay as long as you use your time wisely.
When looking for new opportunities I cannot emphasise enough the power of networking – reach out to people you know that may be in the industry or company you’d like to join. Look at people whose career you admire, connect with them and ask for their advice. Tap into your own network and also avail of other networks that can help you connect easily with other professionals and identify career growth opportunities. The main objective with Rise Up is creating a powerful network where we connect women together who can support and help one another. Because when women come together, great things can happen.
If you are feeling burned out or disillusioned, there is reason to be hopeful. 2021 was a crazy year for work. We faced numerous challenges such as burnout, remote work, and extremely high levels of turnover but employees also had a lot of time to reflect on their definition of success and what was actually important to them. With that many people started rethinking their priorities, careers and work life balance. Which of course caused a lot of people to move on from their employers and we will see this trend continuing to grow in 2022.
The next twelve months are going to be a very telling time for companies. It’s going to be a period that divides those who will thrive versus those who get left behind. Wage growth has accelerated dramatically since the pandemic and I believe companies will continue to focus on pay raises in order to retain talent in 2022. Flexibility, remote and hybrid work will continue to grow and companies who do not offer flexibility will find it extremely difficult to attract and retain talent. We will hopefully see the end of unnecessary office perks, traded instead for benefits that make sense. There will also be an increased focus on employee wellbeing and mental health.
To find out more about Rise Up, a free networking and development platform for women, go to Joinriseup.com.
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