All of us have experienced positions that left us regularly feeling stressed, frazzled, and drained at the end of the day. Unfortunately, continuously feeling this way can take a toll on our health and happiness and lead to burnout. Luckily, there are strategies you can employ to have more exciting and energized work days. By choosing your next job based on your interests, skills, and work values, you’ll leave each day feeling engaged rather than exhausted.
It's often difficult to pinpoint which aspects of your job are causing you to feel drained (and in turn, how to make changes to fix it). Try a different approach and work your way backwards: start by reflecting upon your interests, rather than what's not working. Your interests are the tasks and activities that leave you feeling positive. In the world of career advising, these are your "life enhancing" skills and tasks.
A great way to define your interests is to reflect on your current (and prior paid and unpaid positions) and examine the activities associated with these positions. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What activities did you really enjoy?
- Which tasks or activities brought a smile to your face or gave you a sense of satisfaction or excitement?
- What activities made you feel valued?
- Which tasks did you dislike?
- Which led you to feel tired or drained?
Begin searching for common themes in these activities. Start a list and pay attention to when you've had a good day at work or during other activities. Why? Did you help someone solve a problem? Did you feel a sense of accomplishment after successfully completing a big project?
Also, keep track of the days you go home and feel especially drained. Why? What skill or task caused you to feel this way?
The tasks you record as "life enhancing" may seem wildly different and unrelated at first glance. Look closer: is there a common thread to each task that links them together? Maybe you feel energized after getting the opportunity to implement a new idea, build something from scratch, or help others. Whatever that link may be, it's likely a life enhancing one for you.
Use the same process to determine a link between the tasks that drain you. In some cases, you may discover that it's the environment, and not the tasks themselves, that cause you dissatisfaction.
To find careers that align with your interests, you also need to take a close look at your skills and how they match up with things you enjoy. Your skills are your personal areas of competency, i.e. the things you're good at either through repetition or innate ability.
You can start by creating a list of things you excel at such as writing, process and procedure, organization, computer coding, etc. and then begin to compare these skills against your list of things that interest you. Is there a match? Are you excited and passionate about the things you’re good at, or do you find that you're good at things that don’t interest you?
Generally, the following is true about interests and skills:
- The tasks you're highly skilled at, but have no interest in, will be draining and will lead to burnout, i.e. just because you’re really good at something doesn’t mean you enjoy it!
- Tasks in which you are both skilled and interested leave you feeling energized.
- Tasks that you’re interested in, but have little skill, are likely those you don’t get to complete that often.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Identifying these broad mismatches in your skills and interests can help you transition to a position that you find satisfying and energizing. Look for the areas where you have a high degree of ability and a high degree of interest. This is where your greatest satisfaction or passions will lie and positions that overlap two or three of these areas are best.
Sometimes, however, you’ll have a high degree of interest in an area where you don’t have a lot of skill. This is okay, too! This can often mean that you have an area of opportunity or a place where you can build your skills to meet your interests so that you can pursue more activities in this area.
Your Work Values
The final information that can help you determine what’s burning you out are your work values. Learning more about what you value at work will help you ensure that you find positions that align with what matters to you.
Begin thinking about your values at work through the following questions:
- Do you need to have a pleasant work environment and co-workers?
- Do you enjoy innovating creative new solutions to problems?
- Do you need to feel a sense of accomplishment from finishing a project?
- Do you look for prestige in your positions or a feeling that others look up to you?
- Is your paycheck very important to you?
Create a Plan and Update your Resume
Your goal now is to plan ways to add more life enhancing skills and tasks to your day. This plan may include looking for that next job or work environment that features many life enhancing elements.
You’ll also want to update your resume with life enhancing skills and remove those that burn you out. Having this new information is powerful because you’ll have a better grasp on how to present yourself on your resume to land positions that include your life enhancing skills.
Having a solid understanding of the intersection of your interests, skills, and work values will help you proactively plan your career so that you can find positions that leave you engaged and fulfilled each day.