Author Topic: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?  (Read 1827 times)

newgirl

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How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« on: May 15, 2018, 12:44:45 PM »
Hi all -

Apologies for somewhat rambling post. Really interested to hear from others who have found themselves in a similar spot and how you got out of it and what you took into consideration when making your decisions...

I am 35, have a DH, one toddler and another baby on the way in a couple of months. Both DH and I are high earners, me @ $120k a year and DH @ $90k a year. DH has more room for advancement in his line of work than I do, I am about as far up the career ladder as I am likely to get without making an (unwanted) jump to the VP/C-suite level positions.

Problem is that I've experienced intermittent burn out through my 10 years in this career and I'm in the middle of it again. My line of work involves heavy work loads that are driven by external deadlines (i.e. deadlines that I cannot ignore, influence, change, or manage). Additionally, my current work place is bogged down by ridiculous processes and bad technology that makes everything a hundred times more difficult than it needs to be. Every day I'm miserable when I turn on my computer.

I want to pull a mid-career, mid-life gear switch. I've stuck with this career for a decade and it's never been particularly rewarding. It's financially rewarding, but it's exhausting and frustrating and I really don't do a damn thing to make the world or my community a better place, so there's no real intrinsic reward or motivation to it either.

Biggest trouble is... this is what I've done for the last 10 years... what do I want to do instead? What WOULD be rewarding? I have no idea. My job sucks up enough of my time and energy that I really don't have hobbies or activities outside of my job and family that I could look to for some inspiration. The closest thing I have is from about 5 years ago when I burned out the first time, I switched my career into a training role for about a year. And that was relaxing and enjoyable, and rewarding too - I do like helping people learn things. But at this point, switching gears into that role would likely mean working towards a MS degree, which would mean more time and debt, to eventually land in a job that would pay less money.

I'm not sure how much time and money I want to invest into more education for a new career track... honestly I just want to switch into something different without having to start completely over at the bottom. If I had a clear sense of what I *would* enjoy doing for a second career it might be an easier decision but I don't even know where or how to start figuring that out.

Does anyone have advice or words of wisdom?

panda

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2018, 01:19:05 PM »
Biggest trouble is... this is what I've done for the last 10 years... what do I want to do instead? What WOULD be rewarding? I have no idea. My job sucks up enough of my time and energy that I really don't have hobbies or activities outside of my job and family that I could look to for some inspiration. The closest thing I have is from about 5 years ago when I burned out the first time, I switched my career into a training role for about a year. And that was relaxing and enjoyable, and rewarding too - I do like helping people learn things. But at this point, switching gears into that role would likely mean working towards a MS degree, which would mean more time and debt, to eventually land in a job that would pay less money.
Sounds like you need downtime to really think about you want to do. Can you take a sabbatical or do you have enough money saved that you can force a sabbatical?

Quote
I'm not sure how much time and money I want to invest into more education for a new career track... honestly I just want to switch into something different without having to start completely over at the bottom. If I had a clear sense of what I *would* enjoy doing for a second career it might be an easier decision but I don't even know where or how to start figuring that out.

Does anyone have advice or words of wisdom?
Figure out the transferable skills you have, but you really need to figure out what you would rather be doing instead. It's difficult to jump into, say, chemical engineering if you don't have the relevant chemistry background after all. It sounds like you have some middle management experience which is good since you can potentially slide into a field you didn't climb the ladder in, but be prepared to need at least a Masters degree or some sort of certification to do so. Plan on spending some money for training if you want to change careers.

profnot

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2018, 01:46:06 PM »
I've found these books helpful:

The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention
Pamela Mitchell
(Great questions, exercises, and methods to discovering your new career.)

Drive
The surprising truth about what motivates us
by Daniel Pink

The War of Art
by Steven Pressfield
(surprisingly practical)

$100 Startup
by Chris Gillebeau
(If you want to start your own business, this book gives a good overview on what needs to be done.)

newgirl

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2018, 02:24:34 PM »
I've found these books helpful:

The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention
Pamela Mitchell
(Great questions, exercises, and methods to discovering your new career.)

Drive
The surprising truth about what motivates us
by Daniel Pink

The War of Art
by Steven Pressfield
(surprisingly practical)

$100 Startup
by Chris Gillebeau
(If you want to start your own business, this book gives a good overview on what needs to be done.)

Thank you for the recommendations :) I will check these out. There have been a couple of books that have given me good insights into myself (for example, The Four Tendencies revealed that I am squarely in the "rebel" category which really did go a long way towards explaining why I chafe so much at the routine aspects of my job that most people would find easy to do), but didn't really suggest any particular path - lacking in the practical advice aspect.

newgirl

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2018, 02:28:53 PM »
Biggest trouble is... this is what I've done for the last 10 years... what do I want to do instead? What WOULD be rewarding? I have no idea. My job sucks up enough of my time and energy that I really don't have hobbies or activities outside of my job and family that I could look to for some inspiration. The closest thing I have is from about 5 years ago when I burned out the first time, I switched my career into a training role for about a year. And that was relaxing and enjoyable, and rewarding too - I do like helping people learn things. But at this point, switching gears into that role would likely mean working towards a MS degree, which would mean more time and debt, to eventually land in a job that would pay less money.
Sounds like you need downtime to really think about you want to do. Can you take a sabbatical or do you have enough money saved that you can force a sabbatical?

Quote
I'm not sure how much time and money I want to invest into more education for a new career track... honestly I just want to switch into something different without having to start completely over at the bottom. If I had a clear sense of what I *would* enjoy doing for a second career it might be an easier decision but I don't even know where or how to start figuring that out.

Does anyone have advice or words of wisdom?
Figure out the transferable skills you have, but you really need to figure out what you would rather be doing instead. It's difficult to jump into, say, chemical engineering if you don't have the relevant chemistry background after all. It sounds like you have some middle management experience which is good since you can potentially slide into a field you didn't climb the ladder in, but be prepared to need at least a Masters degree or some sort of certification to do so. Plan on spending some money for training if you want to change careers.

Thanks Panda :) I will have a forced sabbatical of sorts when baby #2 arrives in November. Though if I remember the newborn days from #1 accurately it's mostly an exhausted, sobbing period of time and not necessarily great for self reflection. There is the possibility of a significant promotion for DH after his company recently merged with another. It's nowhere near concrete enough at this point that I would plan around it or rely on it, but DH did independently float the idea of me taking a year off after the baby is born if I wanted to, noting amongst his reasons that I hated my job and he would rather see me do nothing or volunteer at a park or something than be unhappy all the time. If he gets the promotion his salary would likely surpass my current salary and I would feel better about taking some time. Beyond that... no, sabbatical not realistically an option at this point.

I hear you on the education/degree piece of it. I think it will be a necessary evil, I'm just not sure how much time and money is reasonable to spend on a mid/late career change when the ROE is going to be lower than if I'd done it 10 years ago.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2018, 02:37:59 PM »
This would really depend on how close to financial independence you are. You guys make a lot of money, have been at it 10 years. Are you 5 years out? 10? 20?


newgirl

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2018, 02:48:37 PM »
This would really depend on how close to financial independence you are. You guys make a lot of money, have been at it 10 years. Are you 5 years out? 10? 20?

We're not close yet. We did not make good money for the last 10 years - I've been in this line of work for 10 years but it's only been the last 2 years that we've seen big salary growth thanks to some lucky breaks and job hopping (DH was horrifically underpaid as a state employee for almost 7 years before he made the switch to private sector two years ago and nearly tripled his salary). Also despite being a member on these boards and a fan of MMM I would not say that FI is a priority of ours at this point. I more hang out here for the consumption reduction culture than the FI culture. Certainly we can scale back enough to absorb a salary cut on my end if I decided to switch into a slower career lane as we'd just kind of go back to where we were about 5 years ago.

Dicey

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2018, 03:15:15 PM »
Okay, so not FI, but what about FU Money?

Seems like the birth of baby #2 would be a perfect reason to take some extended time off and do a little self-exploration and future mapping. The great Amy Dacyczyn of The Tightwad Gazette fame has lots of rock-solid tips on how to kill being a SAHM for as long as you want/need to. Overall, it's still a incredibly valuable resource, even though [small] parts of it have failed the test of time. Buy the one with the blue cover, as it's the master book. Yup, buy it. You'll want to read it again and again.

PS - To further answer your question, yes, my career was chunked into three major segments. Best takeaway from my personal experience: build on what you know. Starting fresh isn't always the best way.

Maenad

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2018, 03:17:44 PM »
Are you sure you need a career change, or could you just change your employer? Can you do the same work at a place that isn't so dysfunctional?

newgirl

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2018, 03:27:55 PM »
Are you sure you need a career change, or could you just change your employer? Can you do the same work at a place that isn't so dysfunctional?

I actually have worked for several different employers in this same line of work over the last 10 years :) What I have found is that the workload pressures and burnout are an industrywide problem that is not particular to any given company. Now, granted, some do a better job than others of managing it and providing technology solutions, but I've now experienced this burnout at two separate times in my career at two different employers, and it's basically the same forces driving it every time.

So, I have come to the conclusion that a change of venue/employer without a change of career is likely to just result in the same thing happening again down the line.

newgirl

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2018, 03:29:12 PM »
Okay, so not FI, but what about FU Money?

Seems like the birth of baby #2 would be a perfect reason to take some extended time off and do a little self-exploration and future mapping. The great Amy Dacyczyn of The Tightwad Gazette fame has lots of rock-solid tips on how to kill being a SAHM for as long as you want/need to. Overall, it's still a incredibly valuable resource, even though [small] parts of it have failed the test of time. Buy the one with the blue cover, as it's the master book. Yup, buy it. You'll want to read it again and again.

PS - To further answer your question, yes, my career was chunked into three major segments. Best takeaway from my personal experience: build on what you know. Starting fresh isn't always the best way.

This is highly tempting :) I've always been too afraid to *not* work, but I know that DH would be supportive and maybe there is a way to make it work financially if we dig deep. I will check out her book!

Cwadda

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2018, 04:51:52 PM »
Are you sure you need a career change, or could you just change your employer? Can you do the same work at a place that isn't so dysfunctional?

My exact thoughts. Is it your line of work that's miserable, or is it your company? If you can find another job that pays less but treats you better, it's completely worth it in my eyes.

newgirl

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2018, 05:17:47 PM »
Are you sure you need a career change, or could you just change your employer? Can you do the same work at a place that isn't so dysfunctional?

My exact thoughts. Is it your line of work that's miserable, or is it your company? If you can find another job that pays less but treats you better, it's completely worth it in my eyes.

See my reply to Maenad a post or two above :) Short answer is, it's the line of work, not the company.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2018, 03:21:55 AM »
I'm also a burn-out-erer. I've realised that it's not the job, it's me. I get too emotionally invested and I can't switch off. I take it home. You're probably the same. You have to learn not to take things home.

Dances With Fire

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2018, 03:51:53 AM »
newgirl, sounds like you have hit "the 10 year milestone." Many high achievers feel this way every 10 years or so and many seek a new role in the company or start to consider moving on to something new.

I have experienced this several times in a long career (a forced sabbatical more than once) and what worked for me was taking some time off for myself. If you are able to, do what others have suggested and take a sabbatical to recharge and focus on what is important to you. This may include returning to the same position with a new outlook and renewed energy. Best of Luck to you.

Moonwaves

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2018, 04:38:32 AM »
In my experience, if you are really burning out the only thing that will help is time and distance (from the job and/or company and/or working at all). And the amount of time might be significantly longer than you anticipate. In my case, I had five months of unemployment (although I was starting a side-gig and spent a lot of time on that in the first two months) followed by 10 months of only working 20 hours a week (plus side-gig) and then another five months of working 30 hours a week (plus side-gig) before moving to full-time (plus side-gig) again. And honestly, I really wish I'd had another few months of unemployment or could have afforded to keep working part-time. I never really got to wind down completely and working full-time again now, I can feel a lot of the old stresses coming back. So if you can at all afford it, I can only echo the others who say take a sabbatical. By the way, you say you're not really interested in FI but what you actually want from life would seem to indicate otherwise so it might be worth thinking about it again.
 
... honestly I just want to switch into something different without having to start completely over at the bottom.
I think this statement might also be worth some thought. Why do you not want to have to start completely over at the bottom? Is it because you don't want to earn a low amount of money? Is it because you want the prestige/recognition? Is it because you want to be managing people? Is it because you don't want to be "managed" yourself? It might be a useful exercise to determine exactly what this means to you and figure what exactly it is that you want and need and whether there is some other way to get that.

Linda_Norway

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2018, 05:21:53 AM »
Is your line of work something you could do as a consultant? After you have taken a longer time off when the baby is born, could you start your own consultancy company and sell your knowledge on your own conditions?

mak1277

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2018, 07:06:34 AM »
I'm also a burn-out-erer. I've realised that it's not the job, it's me. I get too emotionally invested and I can't switch off. I take it home. You're probably the same. You have to learn not to take things home.

I think this is an important question to ask yourself.  My wife is an extremely dedicated worker and a perfectionist.  She burns out in every job she's ever had.  I, on the other hand, and mostly lazy, and I've never felt job burnout.  Before switching jobs/employers/careers, it would be worth your time to figure out if you're going to burn out at anything you do, or if it really is just your current position.

MishMash

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2018, 09:23:22 AM »
I was in the same spot and exactly one year ago today, I quit.  Granted my company was an ever-loving shit show and a toxic workplace wrought with harassment of all sorts but I also didn't like what I did. It was the best thing I've ever done. 

Now my initial plan was take three months off, decompress, then look for a job (I could have been FIRE according to some on the forums but there are still some goals DH and I have set that we need to meet).  Well, life threw a couple of curveballs like spinal surgery at me.  I had been putting off getting a twinge looked at because I worked so much, twinge turned into what the neurosurgeon said was a set of the worst disc herniations he's ever seen on a human in 40 years and the worst on someone my age. He was amazed I could stand somewhat, and by somewhat I mean I looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame, without bawling. We are still waiting to see if the nerve damage is permanent.  And my toxic POS father in law moved in (still dealing with that).  DHs PTSD was also a bitch this year. It's been a suck ass year, but I can honestly say I would take dealing with ALL of the above over going back to that workplace again.  Even a year later the mention of the name gets my blood pressure up.

This past year has allowed me to focus on me, what I want, and who I want to be (as well as focus on all the bullshit that came flowing downhill).  I KNOW I don't want to get back into my field, I hate sitting in an office all day so I recently started attending some small business association classes.  I have a couple of ideas that I came up with over the past year once I could think clearly that we are going to try and pursue that are low cost overhead.  I've met with some of the folks I worked with about marketing strategy etc.

Stay until the baby is born, spend these months cutting all the expenses you can and stash as much money as you can.  Start living off of DHs salary alone.  Once you are out of the baby fog, you can use these resources to determine if you want to switch or start a consulting business etc.

RedmondStash

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Re: How do you switch career gears after repeated burnouts?
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2018, 09:51:24 AM »
I recommend the book "I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was." Just read it recently on a recommendation from other folks here, and it's really useful.

I burned out hard in a high-tech job many years ago, after a lot of management, job, and reorg churn. I ended up in a management job I was good at but didn't enjoy. So I left that job, took some time off, fretted and mulled, and finally went back to work as an individual contributor, even though the career path and money were much more limited. I enjoyed it much more.

My best advice is to figure out what you really want to do, what would make you feel good. I made a big career switch into a different but related industry, and have had no regrets.

It's hard to leave good money for lesser money, because money = freedom. But in some cases, money = chains instead.

Good luck.