As a kid, it was often easy to give an answer when an adult asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As an adult, the question is a lot harder to answer. That’s in part because you’re already on the job market and see for yourself that just about every job has drawbacks. When you were a kid, it was easy to say, “I want to be a meteorologist” or “I want to be a doctor,” because you knew no one was going to say, “OK, great, you start tomorrow!” But a kid’s dream job is not the same as an adult’s. You may have wanted to live in a big city as a kid, but now, as an adult, you live in Washington, D.C. and feel stressed out all the time.
Here’s how to recognize and manage career burnout in the nation’s capital.
Signs of burnout
One of the biggest and most obvious signs of burnout is not caring anymore. Maybe last year you looked forward to attending a big work conference in another city, but this year, it just seems pointless. Or you might make a mistake at work and get scolded by your boss. Before, you would have been embarrassed and vowed to fix it. Now, you just shrug and think, “I really don’t care what he thinks.” If work constantly makes you feel numb inside, that means you’re on the fast road to burnout, if you aren’t there already.
When you’re suffering from burnout, the little things that bothered you at the office suddenly feel big. Let’s say you have a coworker who loves to take naps on the break room couch. Before, that seemed almost endearing, or at least like a harmless enough quirk. But now you can’t walk into the breakroom for coffee without hearing your coworker’s snoring, and that bothers you a lot. You also can’t stop thinking about how dirty and gross that couch must be.
You can’t ignore these symptoms. You have to find a way to address the problem, ideally with a professional who is experienced in this sort of thing. You need to start researching career counselors in DC.
What career counselors do
When you hear the word “career counselor,” don’t think of that academic adviser in high school who made you take a quiz that determined you’d be an excellent short-order cook. That’s not what professional career counselors in D.C. do. These people are usually psychologists with a specialty in helping people struggling with their careers. They’re not going to hand you a bunch of quizzes and send you on your way. If you wanted that, you could visit Buzzfeed and be done with it.
Career counselors will instead work with you to look at your life both inside and outside of your work. A stressful home life plus a job you hate is a recipe for disaster. While millennials are sometimes referred to as the burnout generation, there’s no age limit for feeling tired of your job. It can happen if you’re 55 or 25.
Your career counselor can also work with you to figure out if you’re dealing with any underlying conditions. For instance, a lot of people feel bummed out when their alarm clock goes off Monday morning. But the ringing of your alarm should not send you into a panic attack. If it does, you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder.
Finally, there are some people who don’t want to see a career counselor because they’re afraid they’ll be told to quit their job right away, and they don’t want to do that. Maybe they need health insurance, or maybe their spouse just lost their job and money is tight. Your counselor can work with you to figure out both a short-term and long-term plan.