6 Ways To Beat IT Career Burnout
"With the state of the economy, and IT departments having to do more with less, we have seen an uptick in the number of IT professionals getting fatigued," noted Rachel Russell, a director at TEKsystems, a provider of IT staffing solutions and IT services. "In some cases, they're even a little resentful because of the amount of work they have to take on in order to keep the lights on in their organization. They're tired."
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Fortunately, career burnout doesn't have to lead to server room temper tantrums and a one-way ticket to unemployment. Russell offers six tips for IT career rejuvenation and getting yourself back in tip-top shape. Let the healing begin.
1. Ask yourself if you're simply stressed or honestly burned out.
Every IT employee has a bad day or two, or three. But the occasional fit isn't cause for concern. Rather, it's important to determine whether the negative feelings you're harboring are a temporary glitch or a constant companion. "One indicator is how long the stress has been carried around," said Russell. "Everyone goes through moments of high stress, but if it's been a consistent type of anxiety that the employee has been carrying around, or gets to a point of real negativity, then it's likely burnout."
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2. Know thyself.
Like it or not, there are some personalities that are simply more prone to career burnout. So before you blame a demanding IT manager or a disastrous deployment for feelings of burnout, you may want to look deeper inside. "The personality of wanting to please, not being good at saying no, or not being able to push back in a diplomatic way--these people tend to get hammered," warned Russell. "There is so much work to be done out there and if you don't know how to push back effectively or handle your priorities, you'll get overwhelmed. Also, people with more of a cynical bent to their personality can achieve burnout. This lack of positivity can be draining and lead to burnout faster."
3. Explore your company.
When you're suffering from career burnout, it's easy to feel as if there's no escape. However, oftentimes the answer is right under your nose. "It's important for employees to network beyond their IT department so they know what opportunities exist outside of that group and team," said Russell. "That way they'll know if the frustrations they're running into are really prevalent across the enterprise or unique to that department or area."
4. Reignite your passion.
Are you overwhelmed by a recent ERP project? Or are you no longer inspired by what you do for a living? If your day-to-day duties are starting to feel soul-destroying, it may be time to switch careers altogether. "When IT professionals start feeling the passion putter out and can't think of new ways to innovate, or they've tried to innovate many times to no avail, then it's time to look outside of what you're currently doing," advised Russell.
5. Go back to school.
Career burnout can sometimes be a case of arrested development. For this reason, Russell recommends that IT professionals keep their skills fresh. "You have to stay passionate and a lot of that passion comes from being invigorated and feeling like you're learning," she said. "There are so many different training and learning certifications out there--you can take things online, you can register for community college courses. IT changes so fast, just keeping pace and feeling like you're fresh is an excellent option."
6. Take a week off. Seriously.
"By off, I mean off," says Russell. No smartphone, no email, no telephone calls.
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Cindy Waxer is a Toronto-based freelance writer and content strategist who covers small business, technology, finance, and careers for publications including Technology Review, The Economist, TIME, Fortune Small Business, and CNNMoney.com.