The hustle is real. It is getting more difficult to get ahead in a career, to move up the ladder, to earn more money. Your colleagues are raising their game and you have to work harder and harder to get ahead. But as long as you have the motivation to do it, you can stay in front of the pack. It’s not always that easy though.

What happens when that motivation fades? Early mornings, late nights, working lunches. It all adds up and if you lose that sense of drive, of purpose, you’re done. Welcome to career burnout.

What exactly is career burnout?

No alt text provided for this image

Sometimes the stress of work adds up. You’re constantly tired, unmotivated and it seems like every day is a bad day. If that sounds familiar, you might just be experiencing burnout.

Everyone has off days. There might be a piece of work or project that is causing us anxiety and stress. That’s normal. Sometimes work is hard and we just have to deal with it. 

While stress can often lead to burnout, they are not the same thing. You are often able to identify what is stressing you out. You can see a stress-free future once you can solve those issues. Stress is about being overly engaged emotionally with work. Burnout is the opposite. It is about being disengaged, unmotivated, distant from your work and your colleagues.

Learning how to identify burnout is the first step to overcoming it. Common symptoms include:

  • A constant sense of tiredness
  • A feeling of self-doubt
  • Work is no longer satisfying
  • Procrastination
  • Looking for any excuse not to go to work

While burnout puts a heavy toll on your emotions, there can also be physical side effects. Your immune system might not work as well, and illnesses hit you harder and more often. Headaches and muscle pain may also be a bigger part of your life.

No alt text provided for this image

So, what can you do if are burnt out?

The easiest answer is to take some time off. That may help initially, letting you escape the pressures of work, but what happens when your vacation is over? You’ll go right back into the same situation and be none the better.

Another easily repeated piece of advice is to change jobs. That may help as well, but if you are in a poor mental and emotional state it will be hard to motivate yourself in the evenings to go job hunting. And you might not interview well in such a state either.

The most powerful thing you can do is admit you are burnt out. Then you can start working on a solution. Being truthful to yourself allows you to be truthful to others. Reach out to your friends or family and tell them about your anxieties. Getting it off your chest can make you feel better. You will feel less alone with the problem and be able to build a platform to reengage with your work.

Try to find a purpose in your job. This is an extension of being truthful to yourself. Burnout will make you feel like what you do doesn’t matter. That’s a lie. Every job has meaning. Find it. Even if it’s just about what your job enables to do outside of the office, that is a purpose. It might support your family, pay for your hobbies or allow you new and exotic experiences.

Say “No” more often. Some of the lies that lead to burnout are the ones that say ‘I don’t need help, I can take on more’ or ‘If I just make through this month, it’ll all be fine’. Engage with your manager and tell them that you need help. Say that you can’t add more items to your to-do list. Be honest. Doing fewer things is better.

No alt text provided for this image

Finally, exercise helps. Sitting at a desk all day and then in front of a screen all evening is not what humans are designed to do. Exercise boosts energy levels, sharpens your focus and relaxes you. Your brain will also reward you with those happy little chemicals that make you feel happy. Get up and move!

Hard work pays off. But it is not the be-all and end-all. We have to live lives with purpose. Career burnout can take that purpose away from you. By being truthful with yourself you will find your purpose again. Once you do, your productivity, performance, and satisfaction with your career will return. And that feels much better than burnout. 


  • Mark Danaher

    Career, Life and Leadership Coach, Virtual Speaker and Trainer

    Careers by Design LLC

    Mark Danaher is a career/life/leadership coach and certified career counselor who helps leaders elevate their careers and life to one they will love.  He helps his clients make the best of tough situations so they can be their best professionally and personally.   Mark uses coaching along with his extensive career development knowledge and expertise to offer his clients a uniquely holistic approach to making career and life pivots.  He helps his clients manage burnout, stress, and anxiety, integrate balance into their lives so they can make a meaningful change in their lives. He uses a holistic narrative career approach to help people tell their stories and learn from their careers and life.  Mark completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut in Economics and History and went on to earn his Masters at the University of Connecticut in Counseling Psychology.   Mark was the President of the National Career Development Association in 2014-2015 and continues to volunteer for the organization.   He is certified as a Certified Professional Coach, Certified Career Counselor, Holistic Narrative Career Professional, Retirement Options Coach, 2 Young to Retire Coach, Job, and Career Development Coach, Job and Career Transition Coach, and a Certified Career Service Provider.  Mark is a Master Trainer for the Facilitating Career Development Certificate and School Career Development Advisor certificate is actively coaching training, and teaching throughout the year.  He is now a Master Practioner of the Energy Leadership Index which is a great assessment to understand how you use your energy in your everyday life and under stress.  It gives you a great insight into how you can improve your everyday interactions and connections with colleagues, employees, family, and beyond.